Winters are bleak in the South Pole.
The ominous foreboding that comes with the phrase, "Winter is coming", may well be used to describe the bleak, frosty and dark winters that the South Pole is infamous for. Scientists that hole up in the South Pole during the eight-month-long winter are well aware of the sort of cabin fever that can set in from the isolation and oppressive darkness prevailing at the geographic end of the earth.
Activities like streaking naked from a 200 degree Fahrenheit (93°C) sauna to touch the South Pole in the snow, wearing nothing but bunny boots are the kinds of stunts that keep the few residents of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station amused. If you pull this feat off successfully, you gain admission into the hallowed 300 Club.
The name of the exclusive club borrows from the esteemed ritual of experiencing a temperature change of 300° Fahrenheit (148°C). The first step is to soak in a sauna cranked up to 200° Fahrenheit (93°C) for some time before running naked towards the Ceremonial South Pole, which is a red and white striped pole surrounded by flags of various nations.
The dash is about 100 yards away from the station in temperatures under -100° Fahrenheit (-73°C) wearing bunny boots, the white rubber boots that most wear in Antarctica. The rite takes on an almost festive feel with bystanders cheering and holding torches in the darkness to help participants locate the pole.
The ritual is not for the faint-hearted. Several challenges come with streaking naked in the Antarctic region especially after a toasty sauna.
The cold air and low pressure there create a physiological altitude exceeding a 10,000- foot physical altitude. It's hard to breathe in those conditions and several opt for neck garters to avoid the cold air from freezing in the lungs.
Several miss the mark in the darkness, making the strenuous run even scarier because of the extra yards that must be covered to reach the pole.
Frostbite to the delicate bits of our body, such as the tips of genitalia and nipples are a common issue since wearing underwear is discouraged.The perspiration in the genitalia from the sauna would instantly freeze in the sub-zero temperature, turning undies into the kind of spiky intimate clothing you'd never want to wear.
As Kris Perry, a resident in Alaska recounts to The Atlantic,
“[They] both suffered some minor frostbite—she on her nipples and he on the tip of his weenie. Fortunate for her, I had gone outside to do a weather observation and saw them heading from the pole back to the station. She was moving very slowly and had probably become mildly hypothermic. I gave her my parka and helped her get back inside. I think there might have been one or two other incidents of mild frostbite on some guys’ weenies that winter.”
The tradition can be traced to the winter of 1959 when a makeshift sauna was created in a large, empty packing crate for the run. The event is looked forward to with anticipation since temperature dips only occasionally below the -100° Fahrenheit mark in winter and when that happens, you'd best be ready to strip down for a run.
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