The final flight out of the South Pole was Friday, February 13—the last chance to leave until mid-November. Those 40 or so people staying the winter will have no way out of Antarctica for around nine months. They won’t even be able to venture more than a mile or two off the base, because all the facilities are in a condensed area, and there's no point in sightseeing during the four months of darkness and two more of twilight.
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is the southern-most of the three U.S. research stations down in Earth’s basement. It is located about a hundred meters from the pole itself. It houses around 150 people during the summer and 50 during the winter. The other stations are McMurdo Station, located on Ross Island, and Palmer Station, on Anvers Island. McMurdo is the most populous of the bunch, with 800 to 900 people residing there in the summer and nearly 150 during the winter. Winter on Antarctica’s Ross Island is slightly shorter than at the South Pole. This winter, planes will fly intermittently out of McMurdo, where winter begins on February 28, and the station’s summer crowd arrives on October 1.
The U.S. Antarctic Program doesn't fly over Antarctica during the winter, even between bases, because temperatures get below -50 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which gasoline freezes. In the depths of winter, around the beginning of July, temperatures can drop below -100 degrees Farenheit. Compounding the cold is the altitude—the South Pole station is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. In such conditions, even breathing can be painful. Many who attempt to join the 300 Club—a group that endures a 300-degree temperature change by heating themselves in a 200-degree sauna and then streaking naked to the pole and back in sub-negative-100-degree weather—will often wear a scarf, if nothing else.