Scientists trekking across a little visited part of Antarctica have discovered a bizarre relic of the Soviet Union is dominating the South Pole of Inaccessibility.
In the middle of no-where – literally the point on Antarctica furthest from the sea – an imposing bust of revolutionary Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin peers out onto the polar emptiness.
A Norwegian-US Scientific Traverse met Lenin this week while nearly a thousand kilometres to the south another group were "moving" the South Pole – literally.
A barber's pole marks the actual spot but the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station sits on top of a moving ice-sheet - so the Pole moves.
The Inaccessibility Pole marks the point on Antarctica that is furthest from the ocean. At 3718 metres above sea-level it is in the Australian zone and seldom visited.
The Scientific Traverse this week made it to the Inaccessibility Pole for New Year's Day and found a one time Soviet Union base buried under the ice.
The group's website says Soviet scientists first visited the Pole in December 1958 and built a small cabin there.
After several weeks they left, putting the bust of Lenin on top of the chimney facing Moscow.
"Today the bust is clearly visible from many kilometres away, and remains as they left it on the chimney, although the cabin itself is buried under the snow," the explorers say.
The current expedition plans to leave something more substantial in the form of an automatic weather station. They will also drill a 90 metre ice core.
One of the drillers, Lou Albershardt, told an US website that they took six weeks to reach the pole, noticing Lenin from a long way out.
They all speculated on what the bust might have been made out of; marble or concrete.
“You wouldn’t believe it. He’s plastic,” he said.
Lenin died in 1924 and his corpse was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square.
The old Soviet base sits at 82 degrees six minute south, 54 degrees 58 minutes east. The pole's actual position is disputed around how to define the coast to the north.
The Inaccessibility Pole is around 878 kilometres from the South Pole.
At the South Pole a ceremony was held this week to move the Pole and put in a marker on the spot that the pole had been.
The US Antarctic Program said in a statement the new marker was designed by base machinist Derek Aboltins. His design has 54 grooves around the edge, one for each of the 2007 winter-over staff.
The diamond shaped emblem on top replicates an old sign that used to be displayed on the old gymnasium before it was torn down. The resulting marker resembles a gear, similar to those that turn the new South Pole Telescope.
The station sits on a glacier which moves about 10 metres per year, so every January 1 a brass marker designating exactly 90 degrees South is placed in the new location.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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