Sociopsychological Aspects of a Winter Vigil at South Pole Station

  1. E. K. Eric Gunderson
  1. Kirmach Natani1 and
  2. Jay T. Shurley2

Published Online: 21 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR022p0089

Human Adaptability to Antarctic Conditions

Human Adaptability to Antarctic Conditions

How to Cite

Natani, K. and Shurley, J. T. (1974) Sociopsychological Aspects of a Winter Vigil at South Pole Station, in Human Adaptability to Antarctic Conditions (ed E. K. E. Gunderson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR022p0089

Author Information

  1. 1

    Behavioral Sciences Laboratories, Veterans Administration Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73104

  2. 2

    Behavioral Sciences Laboratories, Veterans Administration Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73104, and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University Of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73190

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1974

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875901213

Online ISBN: 9781118664780



  • Cold adaptation;
  • Cold—Physiological effect


Human responses to life in the closed and isolated environment that exists for 8 months annually at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole station are presented, compared, and evaluated within the context of a review of previous studies at both South Pole station and other station sites in Antarctica. The investigators on one hand have the integrative perspective of those who are intimately familiar with the literature and on the other have actually experienced and observed the conditions in the field while they were conducting their studies. The findings both confirm and amplify previous reports of human behavior in a demanding environment characterized by extreme cold, markedly different light-dark cycles, hypobaric hypoxia, lack of novelty, and the social stresses encountered by a collection of heterogeneous strangers in developing a distinct microculture adapted to this unusual human situation. It is the unusual isolation of the group from the normal constraints of society and the simplicity of the physical conditions that suggest that the insights gained in this natural laboratory may have direct application to the problems of individuals isolated, stigmatized, or culturally distinct within the mundane routine of modern industrialized society. The authors interpret the negative aspects of life in Antarctica as the normal responses of healthy men to unusual and extreme stresses. Both the conditions and the responses remind us that here the major role and responsibility of the behavioral scientist are to assure the selection of healthy men for such endeavors and at the same time to remain alert to the existence and possible development of physical and social conditions that could produce pathological responses. They choose to emphasize the often neglected problem of measuring positive responses and assessing human well-being in the face of adversity. They have attempted to study responses to the social and psychological environment as well as physiological responses to the unique geophysical conditions and to define their total influence on human health on the South Polar Plateau. The preliminary findings summarized here suggest that the combined methodologies of the social psychologist and the psychophysiologist can be very productive in this type of field study. At the same time, they indicate that future investigations should employ the more global and integrative approach of the medical biometeorologist and should concentrate on psychophysiological and neuropsychological measures of responses to both the social and the physical aspects of the environment.