Local man spends winter at the South Pole

Published: Feb. 1, 2018 at 10:48 AM EST
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On September 21st 2017, the temperature soared to 93 degrees. While many of us were ready to beat the heat, a local explorer was battling the elements. On September 21st, 2017, Viktor Barricklow put on his parka and walked across a 9,000 foot thick sheet of ice. The temperature was 192 degrees colder than right here in northwest Ohio. Barricklow was one of 46 people in the world to spend the winter at the South Pole.

Barricklow said, “You look out the window and you just see a pole in the ground that says South Pole.” Barricklow grew up in Sylvania. He graduated from Northview High School. After college, he took a job in New Zealand. That is where he bumped into some Americans that had just returned from Antarctica. Barricklow asked dozens of questions about where and when to apply. Months later he got a job offer to be a service worker at the United States Antarctica research center. He spent the summer there. Then just as he was packing up to leave the frozen landscape, he got a shocking offer to spend the winter at the South Pole with just 45 other people from around the world.

After extensive medical testing, he was cleared and on his way to the very bottom of the earth. It was total isolation for 9 straight months. That caught the attention of NASA. Most of those living at the South Pole for the winter including Barricklow did a sleep and stress study that could help NASA prepare for a manned mission to Mars.

Living at the South Pole also means not seeing the sun for 5 straight months, and the cold is extreme! Barricklow said, “The coldest I saw with wind chill was negative 140 degrees, ambient I think the coldest we got down to was negative 110.” That extreme cold creates some challenges for even the most basic daily living. Ice tunnels have been carved out below the South Pole. They store and transport water, waste, and fuel where the temperature is a more tolerable 55 degrees below zero.

While the conditions are harsh, the sights are stunning. Astronomers use the area to do research on one of the darkest locations in the world. The only bright lights in the night sky were from the aurora. Barricklow said, “The ground was green with the lights, and you could see reds and purples in the sky which usually only cameras can capture, but it was so wild that you could see it with your naked eye, which I just laid on the ground and looked up at the sky.” Barricklow wants to go back to Antarctica, but this time the goal is to stay for the summer instead of the winter.