If yesterday’s flag was battered, today’s is positively tattered. This wind-ravaged field marker is marvelously soft and delicate to the touch, a featherweight ghost of its former self. Much thanks to my friend Sharona Thompson, connoiseur of the worn and weathered, for this unique find from the windiest continent on Earth.
Ice drills are used for making the holes that support the field marker flags’ 10-foot bamboo poles. Placing flags and replacing worn ones are an ongoing, full-time activity.
The most notable marked trail extends between McMurdo Station and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Known as the South Pole Traverse, it covers 1,048 miles with 12 x 10 inch nylon banners staked every quarter mile for a total of 4,192 flags. The route is covered by tractor trains hauling heavy equipment, fuel, and, as mentioned in my third South Pole dispatch, around 100,000 pounds of solid waste annually.
For a thoroughly informative and entertaining account of establishing and flagging the Traverse, I recommend checking out ICE Letters by Tom Lyman, Safety Supervisor of the 2005-2006 South Pole Traverse Project.