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Like No Other: The South Pole Christmas Tree

My new favorite thing in the whole universe is the Christmas tree at the South Pole:

The second I saw it…
…I fell in love with it.

As it’s been explained to me, the tree started a few years back when the night shift iron workers built it out of scraps and discarded metal parts. Each year since, members of the iron crew have added their own ornaments and adornments, resulting in a monstrous sculptural creation with more personality and character than any other Christmas tree I have ever seen. The ornaments are made from nuts and bolts, broken tools, saw blades, gears, and any sort of scrap that can be dug out of the recycling bins in the shops around the station. Limbs of the tree fall off and it requires repairs and adjustments every season.

Working on night shift often means missing most of the main social events of the holiday season. But one perk was that tonight I was able to go outside and watch this year’s contributions to the ironworker tree.

Boss Erik Nichols looks on as iron crew member Kate Allen cuts her ornament.
After the piece fell to the ground it immediately began to melt itself into the ice.
Erik’s ornament was an enormous snowflake made of nuts.
Josh Miller attaches his own contributions.

I’ve been working so much and I’m so far away from the regular holiday traditions back home that I’ve barely been aware of the season. But watching the night shift iron crew decorating their spectacular and bizarre holiday tree put me in the Christmas spirit. I love the creativity here and I feel so fortunate to be able to experience a little of it.

Happy holidays to everyone back home!

9 Responses »

  1. Kati – hey, greetings from your cousin Joe and family. Your mom told us about your work in SP. Very cool, the boys say. We’re going to look around the sight, but love the photos.
    Christmas tree is very cool. Take care!

    What’s the temp there??

  2. Hi– it’s great to hear that you’ve been keeping up with my dispatches on this site! I hope all of you are well.
    Re: the temperature, it is very, very cold. Today it’s -41 F (-41 C), with a wind chill of -65 F (-54 C). Soon it will be too cold for planes to fly in and out of here, so we will be heading back to the States while a hardy group of winter-overs stay for the long months of cold and dark.
    In the meantime, if you want an up-to-date account of current South Pole temperatures, you can check out NOAA’s weather website, which updates the current conditions hourly. You’ll find it at : Just don’t forget to come back for more updates and dispatches!

  3. Hi. I’m trying to get back in touch w/ Kate Allen (there can be only one in Antarctica)! Please let her know- I’m at the same old physical address, Craftsbury, VT-
    Jen Linck

  4. Just ran across this. I am so glad that you guys keep the spirit alive. May God bless and keep you.

  5. Hello! I love the “tree” and have blogged about it at our site:

    I have included a link and a small image. Please let me know if you would prefer I do not and I will remove it. Thank you so much for showing these pictures and the story with it. That snowflake is amazing! Very best wishes and stay warm!


  6. This spirit brought tears to my eyes ……….awesome job in the midst of isolation there is always positive and human spriit there when you reach for it and let it shine…like the tree……..LOVE from kimberley B.C. Canada…….Thank you for making my day………Bev

  7. Hi
    Just wanted to say how much we love your pictures of the Christmas Tree and would like to use two of them in our December issue of Reader’s Digest Magazine.
    Please let me know whom I should contact to obtain the high res images and for clearing the use of the material.

    Many thanks

    Roberta Mitchell, Picture Desk, Magazine Editorial, Reader’s Digest UK

  8. Do you receive any Federal funding ?? If you do be sure you will be sued by an atheist and forced to take down the tree. Maybe if you call it a “secular humanist tree” you’ll be able to keep it……………..

  9. i like the tree made of metal scraps very much. that snowflake reminds me of little trinkets i used to make for my fiance when i had a welding job, it was tons of fun