Traverse City Record-Eagle
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WINTER OF 2003-2004
South Pole Notebook
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Troy Wiles, stationed at the South Pole.


Troy Wiles is living at the bottom of the world — literally — for 13 months. Wiles, a 38-year-old physician’s assistant from Frankfort, is part of a two-member medical team caring for about 600 researchers and support staff at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during his tour. He is working for Raytheon Polar Services Company, which contracts with the National Science Foundation to support scientists whose research includes seismology, astronomy, climatology and biology. The father of two stays in touch with his daughters, Brooke and Jenna, and his wife, Kim, via satellite phone and e-mail. “We look at it as a positive experience,” Kim said before her husband departed for the South Pole in the fall of 2003. “Thirteen months is a long time and you could get sad about it if you let yourself, but we just don’t let ourselves go there. I think we can pull it off.” During his stay way down under, Troy is writing a journal for the Record-Eagle, describing life dozens of degrees below zero — often in around-the-clock darkness.

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Experience worthwhile Nov. 7, 2004
It is difficult to believe that a year has passed. I suppose life works in a similar manner. When looking back, it always seems to have gone by so quickly. My last day on the Ice was Nov. 1. One wonders if anything will be gained, other than the geographical experience, from such an adventure.

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Experiencing sunrise at the Pole Oct. 3, 2004
SOUTH POLE, Antarctica - Greetings from the South Pole, where the sun returned Sept. 22 with such a glorious approach. The heralds are truly singing. I feel fortunate to witness the beauty of sunrise here at the South Pole. I can say that I am one of only 1,060 people in the history of the world to witness such a natural phenomenon. It is a surreal experience that lingers for days.

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Survival hinges on power plant Aug. 29, 2004
SOUTH POLE, Antarctica - We made it through July with everyone intact. Some people are becoming sensitive and irritable, but for the most part, everyone is doing well.The Fourth of July passed quietly for us. It was a typical two-day weekend in that most of us laid low and relaxed.

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Midwinter is milestone at Pole July 11, 2004
SOUTH POLE, Antarctica - It's true. The temperature we were all waiting for finally arrived. The thermometer dipped just below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit at approximately 7 a.m. on June 6, just as my feet hit the floor. No, it's not a rumor. Yes, the 300 Club does exist. To become a club member, you must brave the elements - in your birthday suit.

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Learning to appreciate simple things May 23, 2004
SOUTH POLE, Antarctica - This has been a very busy place. The temperatures are still fluctuating between minus seventies and minus nineties Fahrenheit. The lowest of the year thus far is -96 degrees Fahrenheit. The storms still come and go, but, in between, it is crisp and clear. It is on these cold but clear days that you get a great view of our galaxy and all its beauty.

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Don’t grab that metal! April 18, 2004
It has been almost two months since the South Pole station throttled down for the winter. The sun finally disappeared below the horizon, and it is almost completely dark. The red and orange horizon is a mere memory. The temperatures have been in the minus 70s and 80s for the last few weeks. However, the temperature has shot up into the minus 30s, which is a prelude to a storm. Currently, we are in day five of a storm that has produced the strongest winds of the season — 35-plus mph. When a storm descends upon the station, the winds blow persistently for days.

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In the darkness, our station gets down to science March 14, 2004
SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica - Today, the 74th day of this Julian year, the sun will be 2.6 degrees above the horizon. The temperatures have suddenly plunged into the minus 60s. This month has been stormy and windswept, and I am certain there is more to come. In the last week of February, groups of volunteers braved the elements to establish flag lines that extend from the new station to the outlying science buildings, some of which are three-quarters of a mile away.

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Summer season coming to a close February 22, 2004
SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica - Last Sunday was the final day of the 2004 summer season. All of us had been waiting for this moment. Management returned to Denver with one of their most productive years under their belts. This year we had 329 Air National Guard LC-130 cargo flights into the Pole, breaking the old record by three flights.

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Summer fun is drawing to a close in Antarctica February 8, 2004
SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica - Things are speeding up on station in anticipation of summer’s end. We are gearing up to move the old Biomed (clinic), which is currently under the Dome, to the new station. The inspectors cleared the way, and I am back from R&R and ready to rock.

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I’m off for some rest and relaxation January 11, 2004
SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica - Hello, again. It’s another note from your South Pole correspondent. The weather is still pleasant, but the sun is slowly drifting northward and as it does the temperature will begin to drift south. It’s as busy as ever. The new station is progressing well. Scientists are fine-tuning and performing routine maintenance on their telescopes in preparation for winter.

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A balmy, -7 degrees Fahrenheit December 21, 2003
AMUNDSEN/SCOTT SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica - Greetings, my fellow Michiganians. It has been a beautiful couple weeks here at the South Pole with temperature ranging from -7 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest this year, to -14 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are quite nice, even with a moderate wind. We have had several days of spectacular atmospheric phenomena. The sundogs have been quite impressive which, alone, makes the sacrifices worthwhile. Several visitors throughout the summer have made the South Pole one of their destinations.

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A meal, rainbow like no other December 7, 2003
Hello, again, from the South Pole, where the weather has been beautiful all summer, and Thanksgiving was no exception. This Thanksgiving was the first to occur in the new elevated station, and a National Geographic film crew was there to capture the festivities. We had the traditional turkey, dressing, mash potatoes, brown gravy and apple pie. There was white and red wine aplenty for each of the three seating times and not a chair was empty. Calls for volunteers went out the week prior to help with food preparations, wine serving, and dishes. I volunteered to wash dishes.

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Breathless 'Polie' arrives at frosty station November 16, 2003
Hello from the sunny South Pole, where the temp is a balmy -27F. After twenty-six hours of air travel, three days in Christchurch, New Zealand, and three days at the U.S. Antarctic Program's McMurdo Station, Antarctica, I stepped out of the 109th Air National Guard's LC-130 cargo aircraft and onto the bottom of the Earth. The welcoming temperature on this bright, sunny Oct. 25, 2003 (Oct. 24 in Traverse City) was a nose-freezing minus 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The sight of the new station alongside the old geodesic dome was striking. It all seemed to fit so comfortably in the surrounding sea of white. With the roar of the C-130 in the background, heavily bundled objects on snowmobiles pulling sleds were everywhere to greet the first "Polies" seen since the last flight left some eight months ago.

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Man to spend 13 months at South Pole October 15, 2003
FRANKFORT - Troy Wiles set out to find a job down south - and ended up way down south. The Frankfort man packed his bags today for a 13-month stint as a physicians assistant in the Antarctic. "I'm very excited," said Wiles, who formerly worked at Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort. "Every man has a list of things he'd like to do and I think this is certainly one of them."

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