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    Re: Reaching the pole.
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2002 Jul 4, 09:50 +1000

    George Huxtable wrote:
    
    > Does anyone know of an analysis of how this longitude navigation was done by
    > Amundsen?
    
    Not quite an analysis, but I remember from readings of Mawson's expeditions
    that they carried a theodolite and used it, when they were able, to fix
    positions. With the sun's bearing at either 90� or 270� the resulting LOP
    would indicate the longitude. With a clear sky the sun was visible all day but
    only too often they found themselves in blizzard conditions. As the winds came
    from the direction of the pole and formed corrugations in the ice (sastrugi?)
    even in white out conditions they had a rough (in more ways than one)
    indication of direction. Also the ground sloped up towards the south,
    Antarctica is mostly a great elevated plateau. I am particularly impressed
    that Amundsen and Scott were so meticulous with their calculations that they
    both found themselves at precisely the same place, Amundsen's tent.
    
    Its a vast and mostly featureless place. These days the Americans have a well
    equipped base there in the form of a great dome but unfortunately they don't
    encourage uninvited guests. A bloke called Dick Smith was the first (and
    perhaps the only one so far?) to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter (How
    did he cross oceans? Hired ships to wait for him with av. gas and helicopter
    pad - easy!). He also went to the South Pole but was denied even weather
    information for the flight. Another recent adventurer passed through on foot,
    saying 'hello' to someone outside at the time, but putting up his tent some
    distance away. Talk about a chilly reception.
    
    'To me, the whole business was a tragic exercise in futility. That such
    teams should devote their energies, and for some, their lives, to being the
    first to reach an otherwise undistinguished spot in a barren wasteland,
    seems such a waste of human endeavour.'
    
    Its a legitimate comment, but you never know in advance where so many human
    endeavours that may seem futile might lead. A good example is our system of
    navigation, a useful application of the age-old study of astronomy. I can just
    imagine stone age women busy, as always, grinding meal, hacking beasts apart
    with lumps of once sharp flint, while their menfolk, as always, occupied
    themselves with contemplation of the star studded evening.
    'Why don't you lot do something useful for once - you could at least invent a
    proper knife!'
    Antarctica, especially in summer, is infested with scientists who find it a
    place of endless fascination. The current applications of interest include
    research into global warming and climate change - the past is interred there
    in thick layers of ice, also the hole in the ozone layer, and I remember that
    the meteorite that was thought for a time to contain evidence of life on Mars
    was found down there.
    
    In any case it seems part of our nature to push at whatever boundaries there
    are. Scott put a modest classified ad. in 'The Times' calling for volunteers
    for his expedition, promising no pay and much hardship and danger. He was
    flooded with applications.
    
    
    

       
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