Old Dome Charlie, 1974-1977

"Cold /adj./ When your dog sticks to the fire hydrant."
On this page:

The text about the drilling recalls the first summer campaign at Dome C (1975), called Dome Charlie at the time, and is extracted from a book by famed glaciologist Claude Lorius: "Buy at Amazon.comGlaces de l'Antarctique: une mémoire, des passions" ed. Odile Jacob. It describes the crash of two C-130 airplanes.

The images showing the second summer campaign in Dome C (1977) were provided by Thierry Cappelle of Grenoble. He also sent me some images of South Pole.


Looking for old pictures I'm currently looking for images, in particular anything related to the C-130 crashes and subsequent repairs. So if you have pictures of the first Dome Charlie missions, please contact me.

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The plane just landed us on the sastrugi. The snow shovels were of course forgotten in McMurdo. Fortunately there isn't too much snow and we can reach those of the tents.

3 years later, the drilling

By Claude Lorius

And so it came to be: on november 18th 1977 a C130 lands at Dome C, bringing a team of 5 frenchmen led by Daniel Donnou, in charge of the deep drilling.

During two summer campaigns the americans succeeded with a fantastic technological operation: bring snow equipment to prepare the airstrip, build a camp of tents for the mechanics of the US Navy and the Lockheed specialists, use inflatables domes as hangars, bring in and change the engines, wings, skids and finally recover the damaged planes tat will fly to McMurdo and then onward to the US where they'll be overhauled. They left a camp in the heart of Antarctica; and that's what the french scientists used for their project. Our installation took 6 flight to bring in the 30 tons of gear and fuel necessary.

Left: The plane just landed us on the sastrugi. The snow shovels were of course forgotten in McMurdo. Fortunately there isn't too much snow and we can reach those of the tents.


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Main street before cleaning up the snow.

Right: Main street before cleaning up the snow.


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General view.

Left: General view.


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Plowing the snow.

Right: Plowing the snow.


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Starting the preparation of the airstrip.

Left: Starting the preparation of the airstrip.


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Anchor chain for the finishing touch of the airstrip.

Right: Anchor chain for the finishing touch of the airstrip.


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The test: first landing of a fully loaded plane.

Left: The test: first landing of a fully loaded plane.


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Unloading the D6 cat.

Right: Unloading the D6 cat.


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A little push of JATO rockets to help liftoff.

Left: A little push of JATO rockets to help liftoff.


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Team and equipment all together: we start setting up the drilling platform. Hard work at -35C and 3200m altitude.

Right: Team and equipment all together: we start setting up the drilling platform. Hard work at -35C and 3200m altitude.


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Once the foundations are ready, we lay the ground.

Left: Once the foundations are ready, we lay the ground.


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Serge and Claude recover an ice core.

Right: Serge and Claude recover an ice core.


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Arrival of the core into the cold lab.

Left: Arrival of the core into the cold lab.


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Lit in polarized light, a monocrystalline slab of ice reveals the size of the ice crystals.

Right: Lit in polarized light, a monocrystalline slab of ice reveals the size of the ice crystals.


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The restaurant.

Left: The restaurant.


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Dome Charlie News.

Right: Dome Charlie News.


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The birthday of the Swiss.

Left: The birthday of the Swiss.


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Best cook in Antarctica: Michel Dumerchat.

Right: Best cook in Antarctica: Michel Dumerchat.


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Lorius lost a filling; Serge, the doctor, prepared the equipment used by Guy Ricou, known for his precision.

Left: Lorius lost a filling; Serge, the doctor, prepared the equipment used by Guy Ricou, known for his precision.


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Filling of the tanks of each tent.

Right: Filling of the tanks of each tent.


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Installing the generators within the power plant tent.

Left: Installing the generators within the power plant tent.


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The heater allows for almost comfortable work.

Right: The heater allows for almost comfortable work.


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Installing the mast of the ice drill.

Left: Installing the mast of the ice drill.


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Claude Rado concentrating on the installation of the drill.

Right: Claude Rado concentrating on the installation of the drill.


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The garage: a simple parachute under which blows the exhaust of the generators. Allows for immediate start of vehicles.

Left: The garage: a simple parachute under which blows the exhaust of the generators. Allows for immediate start of vehicles.


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The D6 in the warmth of the parachute.

Right: The D6 in the warmth of the parachute.


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The end of the airstrip. The camp is 4 miles away.

Left: The end of the airstrip. The camp is 4 miles away.


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Makeshift work on a broken part.

Left: Makeshift work on a broken part.


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Nice sastrugi.

Right: Nice sastrugi.


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Claude Rado looking for a nice sastrugi to photograph.

Left: Claude Rado looking for a nice sastrugi to photograph.


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The wind leaves its mark.

Right: The wind leaves its mark.


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Crystals grow at -25C with a solid state inverse sublimation process.

Left: Crystals grow at -25C with a solid state inverse sublimation process.


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We expect a visitor: Mr Bloch of the TAAF.

Left: We expect a visitor: Mr Bloch of the TAAF.


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All is ready for our hosts.

Right: All is ready for our hosts.


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Ice crystals on window.

Left: Ice crystals on window.


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Hike around the camp.

Right: Hike around the camp.


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Main Street.

Right: Main Street.


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Dome C seen from the top of the ice drill.

Left: Dome C seen from the top of the ice drill.


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The other side of Main Street.

Left: The other side of Main Street.


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Do beards and mustaches keep the author warm ?

Right: Do beards and mustaches keep the author warm ?


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We begin to pack up.

Left: We begin to pack up.


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Packing up. In the back is the pile of snow plowed off the camp.

Right: Packing up. In the back is the pile of snow plowed off the camp.


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Precious cargo: the boxes of ice cores destined for French laboratories.

Left: Precious cargo: the boxes of ice cores destined for French laboratories.


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