Building the Dome
material is from Southpolestation.Com
The photos are still linked there - when you click you'll get a larger photo from that
Preliminary site prep began during the 1970-71 season, as you see here (right) a Peter
Snow Miller is doing well at processing the dome and utilidor foundations. Unfortunately,
these machines couldn't handle the Pole altitude and snow conditions over the long term,
and much of the foundations were compacted by running the D8's over them. photo from Gary Brougham
Here is a view of the early construction of the dome base ring from the 1971-72 season (Navy
photo, Antarctic Journal (AJ) 3/72). The dome snow foundation was complete on 19
January, and by the 22nd the base ring erection had begun. Very little of the ring
actually got built during the first season. However, 80% of the 720' utilidor was
This diagram from the TEMCOR dome erection manual shows the details of the foundation
base ring. The differential settlement of the timber pads underneath this foundation
caused some of the aluminum nodes and base ring beams to break eventually, these were
repaired in 1989-90.
The photo at left (this and the next 2 photos courtesy Bob Nyden from a 72-73
cruisebook) shows early construction of the dome ring, while excavation for the utilidor
is also proceeding.
The lower portion of the ring is mostly in place
Seabees assemble the lower portions of the dome.
Erection of the dome required scaffold towers around the edges to support the lower
portion of the dome ring until the entire geodesic structure was completed. The central
portion was erected on the surface, and slowly raised on a central scaffold tower. At left
you see the tower being erected (Navy photo, AJ 7/73)
This page from the TEMCOR manual shows the central tower and the initial assembly of the
upper portion of the dome. The 5-legged tower had 10 winches which attached to the upper
portion, after each ring was added the assembly was pulled up and the next ring installed.
This view from outside the dome shows the central tower supporting the skeleton of the
upper portion of the dome, behind the lower portion which has some of the skin panels
installed. (this and the next photo from NSF courtesy Jerry Marty)
At left, a closer view of the tower, as the raising of the central portion of the dome is
At right, later in the season (Navy photo, AJ 7/73) the dome upper portion assembly
has been completed, with its outer edge resting on the snow surface. Here the central
tower is being dismantled; portions of it will be erected at 10 equally spaced points
around the edges of the upper section, to lift it up to join the lower portion of the dome
ring, which is visible in the background.
This page from the TEMCOR manual shows how the sheet aluminum dome panels are installed.
As you can see, removing the panels is rather difficult (as we found out in 1989-90; also
all of the fasteners which connect the nodes (circular pieces) to the beams, are
"Huck" fasteners, or aluminum rivet-like connectors which must be ground off to
remove. Some of the reasons why nondestructive removal of the dome for reuse elsewhere
might be a bit labor intensive.
Putting in the rest of the node fasteners (NSF photo courtesy Jerry Marty)
The last dome beam was installed on 4 January 1973. At left, the dome is fully erected,
with panels being installed. The machine parked in the right foreground is one of those
Peter Snow Millers (photo from Bob Nyden).
At right is a closeup view of the dome exterior frame with the panel installation
underway. (NSF photo courtesy Jerry Marty)
Meanwhile, the arches were happening too....This view from 1972-73 is looking southwest
with the construction camp in the distance. (from the Pole Soul mystery negatives we found
This unique view shows the dome and power plant arch near the end of the 72-73 season.
When the dome was designed, NSF didn't know how large the modular sections of the main
station structures would be, so the dome design included provisions to remove a portion of
the dome wall to get the "vans" inside. This proved unncessary; all of the
components for the interior structures were brought in through this entrance. US Navy
photo courtesy Billy-Ace Baker
Here is a construction Jamesway west of the newly completed dome. The emergency exit is
visible to the right. US Navy photo, AJ 7/73
At right, the partially complete power plant and garage arches at the end of the 1972-73
season, boarded up for the winter (this and the next two pictures from Bob Nyden).
Another view of the 2 partially completed arches at the end of the season.
At right is a back view of the dome at the end of the station, taken on 25 January, 1973.
Caption: "The new geodesic dome at the South Pole Station, Antarctica. This dome will
be used to cover and protect most of the buildings at the South Pole." Photographer
EA3 D. Nelson.
At right, early in the 1973-74 season, the back part of Biomed is being assembled along
with the biomed arch. NSF photo from Jerry Marty
At left is a much more distant view looking through the arches towards the beginning of
the Biomed construction. NSF photo by Rolf Bionert
A bit later, the Biomed structure and arch are being completed...based on events of the
last few years this clinic is rather famous these days. NSF photo from Jerry Marty
During 1973-74, the Navy (NMCB-71) continued construction on the arches and
above-surface structures, while Holmes and Narver (H&N) worked on utilities in the
utilidor and elsewhere, as well as the fuel system.
At left, at the other end of the arches, the floor panels in the garage/carpenter
shop/gym are being installed. NSF photo from Jerry Marty
assembling the carpenter shop/gym building panels. The opening in the side of the garage
arch will be the passage to the helium arch. NSF photo from Jerry Marty
A bit further down the arches, here (left) is the power plant being assembled, the 353
engines are visible through the doors. Caption: "19 Nov 73, View showing van being
constructed under arch at South Pole Station, Antarctica, Official U.S. Navy Photograph by
PH2 Frank J. Mitchell, USN." photo from Bob Nyden
All of the construction cargo had to fit inside of an LC-130...the station structures were
designed and built by ATCO (the Alberta Trailer Company, whose camps were later used to
build the Alaska Pipeline as well as the permanent runway at Rothera). Some ground floor
portions of the buildings such as this one were delivered assembled; the upper floors and
interior sections were shipped prefabricated and knocked down. This is another mystery
photo from the Pole Souls darkroom archive; EO3 Jim Burke of NMCB-71 is driving the 955.
Left, another crate being unloaded. VXE-6 delivered more than 50 crates or modules to
Pole. AJ 3/75
Here is what was going on under the dome. At right, looking from the emergency exit
towards the galley, in the foreground is a stack of doors. NSF photo, AJ 1/74
And at left is the comms building, shown here with the temporary stack from the oil
heater inside the first floor. These heaters (and lots of stovepipe) were furnished for
construction heat as well as for emergency service if permanent power went down. The
heaters were poor substitutes for Preways and fortunately disappeared quickly. Some of the
round openings for the stacks are still evident on walls of the station buildings. US
Navy photo, AJ 3/75
A bit later in the 1973-74 season, here's the helium arch being erected. The garage
arch has been completed, with the end wall installed. Not in the right place, it was
discovered recently. It seems that the new garage and power plant arches were designed to
align with the end of the original garage arch; when these were built it was discovered
that they didn't line up, one ring had been left off of the original garage arch. So a
piece was added from the demo'd helium/cargo arch to make things right. NSF photo (and
trivia) from Jerry Marty
The station from the east, here is the fuel arch. This U.S. Navy photo was taken on 4
February 1974 by PH1 K. Thorneley.
This view (right) of the garage/helium arch end of the station was taken at the very
beginning of the 74-75 season, before significant landscaping or construction had started.
The radome on top of BIT was moved over from Old Pole a few weeks after this photo was
taken. from Bob Nyden
A unique low aerial view of the new station in the 1974-75 summer. At left, attached to
the power plant arch, is the original snow harvesting system, a conveyer belt that was
supposed to keep the stainless steel tank in the power plant full of water. Not. NSF
photo from Elena Marty
This photo is from the cover of the March/April 1975 Antarctic Journal which included
the feature article on what we knew as the "new South Pole Station." You can
read the article and see more pictures here as a part
of Jeff Kietzmann's "save the dome"