The Ceremonial Pole and that silvered ball

The Ceremonial Pole in 1976
Above...one of the first postcards created for the domed station...this depicts three of the 1976
winterovers behind the Ceremonial Pole...from left, Bernard (Bernie) Maguire, Mike Jefferson,
and Barry Potter. The men in yellow were weather observers from the New Zealand Met Service,
while Mike was a geophysics researcher (and SSL) from UCLA. They are standing in back of the
Ceremonial Pole which was then topped by a silvered glass globe...some accounts indicate that the
globe might have been a stolen and repurposed Christchurch street light globe, but I won't go there.
I no longer have the original postcard so I cannot rescan it.

On 30 October 1976, the opening day of the station (while the second flight was on deck) it seems that someone dislodged the fragile glass globe mounted on top of the ceremonial pole. The result was what you might expect. As if we didn't have enough to worry about with the fires and other early season disasters. I helped pick up the pieces of broken glass and throw them away (or so I thought).

the temporary Ceremonial Pole bowling ballBut...would you believe that one of my fellow Pole Souls saved some pieces of the broken glass ball, and presented them to me (well, in my historian role I guess) at our June 2006 reunion. I thought about how to getting the fragments repatriated to Pole in February 2008, but I couldn't figure out how to pack them in my baggage. An aside...here they are.

After cleaning up the broken glass, this problem called for ingenuity. Since there were no other silvered glass globes on the ice, the short-term solution was that someone at McM painted a bowling ball silver and Bruce Carter from the Navy public works department brought that down (photo at left from Brian Volman who who visited Pole at the time).

I'm receiving the new glass ball

The long-term solution was that a new glass globe was procured, and in the photo at right it is being presented to me by the CO of VXE-6, CDR D. A. Desko, while Robert Rutford, the NSF Director of Polar Programs, looks on.

The original glass globe was one of two that Paul Siple obtained in 1956 for use in all-sky photography. These globes were airdropped (as was 99% of the construction material for the original station) and the parachutes just barely opened in time. One of the globes was mounted atop the bamboo flagpole which you see in the above right photo. Paul Siple's glass ball in the Canterbury Museumand mounted on the garage as seen in one of the photos in Paul Siple's book "90 South" and seen at left in the Canterbury Museum where I took the photo at left in November 1977. In 1977 the pole had been considerably shortened but it still had the flagpole pulley attached to the square wood base under the glass ball.

A bit of that bamboo pole, no longer a flagpole, still exists as the Ceremonial Pole today.

After Paul's winter, he switched out the globes and brought the original home. His wife Ruth donated it to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, where I took this picture of it (at left) in November 1977. Oh yes, I've been told that after our ball broke, NSF explored the possibility of getting this one out of the museum and shipping it to Pole....

Nowadays modern industrial technology has triumphed again. The ceremonial pole was rebuilt at some time after 1990, but it still uses a piece of the original bamboo. The globe is metallic and unbreakable (although I understand it can get dislodged if you work at it). I wonder where the rest of the old bamboo pole went. In any case, we pole souls including yours truly securely anchored the ceremonial pole in place with Antarctic cement several times during the 1977 winter. Another mystery, I've been told that there was at least one 1960's era time capsule inside the top of the original bamboo pole....
2004 Canterbury Museum display of the original glass ball

Here at left is my January 2004 hero shot in front of the updated Pole exhibit at the Canterbury Museum.

The caption reads: "This 16 inch (405 cm) silvered glass ball was dropped by parachute at the South Pole 18 years ago [sic] during the construction of the first Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 1956. It was one of two bought from Bradley Bros. Ltd. by Dr Paul Siple, scientific leader of the team of 18 Americans who in 1957 were the first to live at the South Pole. Dr Siple arranged to have this ball mounted on a symbolic "South Pole" where it remained for 11 months, until he took it back to the United States as a memento.

"Presented to the Canterbury Museum Antarctic Centre by Mrs Ruth Siple, widow of Dr Paul Siple on January 7, 1975."

The late Ruth Siple was on the way to the South Pole for the dedication of the domed station when this presentation was made. My most recent visit to the Canterbury Museum was in December 2018, and this exhibit was still on display.

Oh...nowadays the Ceremonial Pole sphere is unbreakable plastic.