The Pole pet puppy debacle

Before I explain what was going on in 1975, I must point out to sensitive readers of this site that this episode ranked at the time among such more recent unfortunate Antarctic events such as Christmas Eve punchups, jello wrestling and flame throwers, not that I know anything about any of these subjects :) That said, remember that during the early years at Old Pole there was very often a pet Husky...perhaps the most famous of these was Bravo, who shared the place with the first winterover team in 1957.

A bit later, two huskies left behind by Hillary's trip to Pole, Blizzard and Beauty, apparently had free run of the station, including the glaciology tunnel/snow mine. Sid Tolchin, the 1959 winter OIC/physician, determined that the dogs had left their calling cards amongst the snow that was being mined, and thus the arriving 1959 w/o crew suffered from significant diarrhea caused by this contamination of the water source and snow melter. Interestingly, the previous 1958 winterovers had apparently developed immunity to this ailment. After cleaning everything, the crew switched to collection of clean snow from the surface, but the tradition of dog pets continued. Not always successfully. In the mid 60s one of these pets became a bit too aggressive to visitors and the OIC eventually had him put down.

Okay, jump to January 1975:

dog it

Above (photo from 1975 station manager and good friend Dick Wolak) is one of two Husky pups that were delivered to Pole in January 1975, pet gifts from the assistant manager of Scott Base.

So far so good, right? No.

I must describe the communications protocol of the day before I present the actual communications on this issue. In the pre-Internet days, all Pole communication traveled via Navy teletype messages. The rule was that all outgoing messages had to be approved by either the station manager or the senior science leader as appropriate, except for "routine data messages" which were always cc'd to NSF. Below I present the four relevant messages on this issue, beginning with the original innocent data message from one of the winterover USGS folks. And I include commentary from friend Billy-Ace Baker, who happened to be the winter comms chief in McMurdo in 1975. I have edited his comments slightly for general audiences. Here goes, starting with an apparently routine data message:

innocent message

The guy who sent this first message was not very popular with the winter-over crew at South Pole after the below message was received. [From Bill: a bit more info about Naval messages: After the first few lines in the above message which guided automatic message routing is the line: R 120200Z FEB 75. 12002Z FEB 75 represents the time the message was sent: 0200 Z (UTC) on 12 February 1975. The R represents the message priority. There were four priorities: R meant "routine," P meant "priority" which meant maybe this might be important, O meant "operation immediate" which meant "wake up the Admiral, he needs to see this now," while Z meant "flash" which might have meant "Japanese aircraft are 10 miles west of Pearl Harbor" in December 1941.]

op immediate

And now the stuff hits the fan. For the radiomen in the group, can you believe that the COMMCEN serving NSF Polar let them send this as an Operation Immediate precedence message? RUEVDEE is/was a GSA operated COMMCEN, go figure! And then they had the balls to turn around and tell CNSFA to take action using Priority dual-precedence.

Everyone on the ice [well, at least a few people--Bill] knew about the dogs going out there and there was no harm done, but I guess NSF Polar had to exercise their authority in this grave matter.

the place is going to the dogs

Now the precedence has been downgraded to Routine and the heavy guns are headed to South Pole to make sure that the onerous task is completed. Can't send a peon to do a man's job. Neither will admit knowing anything about it.

[Well, actually it was to be the closing flight, and it was a traditional gesture for some of the senior folks on the ice to visit Pole anyway--Bill.]

the terrorists have been ousted

The last of the dog story. There ain't no more.

[Note that the escorts included CAPT Eugene Van Reeth (NSFA commander), Jerry Huffman (NSF representative), and Elena and Jerry Marty--Bill.]

Well, not quite, perhaps, the rest of the caption of this message included the name of the Polie who made arrangements to get the dogs to Pole, but I'd better skip that. Along with a slight redux, in February 1977 one of the BAS Twin Otter flights transiting back to the Peninsula offered us 1977 Pole Souls a puppy. The offer wasn't accepted. And the station manager didn't hear about that until later.