The helium we used came from gas cylinders which lined the walls of the helium arch below--that was the sole original design purpose of the helium arch, which was actually a late addition to the station design after it was decided to use helium instead of a hydrogen generator. Since there was lots of room, we kept the trash sled there during the winter. (The photo at right was taken in 1978 by Kevin Bisset, hence no trash sled.) The gas bottles required many cargo flights to supply (and send back the empties) so NSF and NSFA kept looking for alternatives. At some point during the design of our station they purchased a hydrogen generator system, which included an enclosure with insulated steel building panels. No one knows what actually happened to the hydrogen generator itself, but we found the building panels on the berm and our 76-77 construction crew turned them into the first half of the weight room. During 1892-83 a different hydrogen generator actually was installed at Pole (eventually the back half of BIT was walled off and rewired with explosion proof electrical wiring to accommodate it). It worked well for a short while during that winter, but then it became a lost cause despite much time and effort by me and the O&M folks. Eventually we made it disappear. Meanwhile, the astronomy projects at Pole required that the station develop the capability to handle liquid helium, so that source is commonly used for weather balloons too.
At some point after our winter, the cargo operation got too big for our supply office in the annex. They moved to the helium arch, and renamed it. Now in 1999 it's all been displaced by the new garage arch.Back to 1977, here's Lloyd launching a balloon. The white box is a "radiosonde" which contains a instruments and a radio transmitter to relay the temperature, humidity, pressure (altitude) etc. Plus, the upper air wind speed and direction could be measured by tracking the position of the radiosonde, which is what the "GMD" in the radome on top of BIT was for. Balloons were launched about 1030 local time every day all year; the intent was to have them at or near maximum altitude at 0000 UT or noon our time. During the summer and during flight operations, a second launch was done at 2230 local time.
There was an intercom system between the BIT deck and the met office. When Lloyd launched a balloon, he would call out the azimuth and elevation angles so that Simon could aim the tracking antenna and capture the radio signal.
Somewhere downwind of here there must be thousands of dead balloons and white boxes buried in the snow. I've heard stories about field parties finding one. Pole was still using these boxes in the late 1980's; I wonder about nowadays.
On another day, here's Stu's picture of the action from the ground. This may be from early spring, note the drifts around the buried D8 and the closed doors on the helium arch.