A hundred years ago, in the months of December and January, the spirit of exploration and discovery manifested itself in the south polar expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen. On January 17, 1912, Scott arrived at the South Pole only to discover the flag of Norway planted there by Amundsen thirty-three days earlier. The so-called "race" had come to an end; Scott and his four expedition members perished shortly after. Amundsen continued his polar explorations until 1928 when he disappeared during a rescue mission.
Although both expeditions were motivated to be first to the pole, the Scott expedition is credited with having more scientific objectives. Scientific studies began in earnest in the last half of the 20th century to present and are at the core of human presence at the pole.
The first recorded south pole marker was placed in the 1959-60 season. In 1976-76, the US Geological Survey placed the second “permanent”
marker at the geographic south pole commemorating the Bicentennial of the
United States. The next known marker was set in 1986. Thus began a tradition of setting an annual marker--annual, because the geographic south pole is covered by an ice sheet which moves over 30 feet a year, thus carrying the marker away. Each year a new, unique USGS marker was designed and fabricated by the resident machinist. In 2004, the National Science Foundation began design competitions. Since then the markers have become increasingly sculptural and complex. Our medallions are inspired by these designs. For a collection of photos of these markers, visit our Facebook page.