Ben Pope: Antarctic Scout
Average temperatures at Antarctica's McMurdo Station range from -18.4ºF in August to 26.6ºF in January. Not surprisingly, it took Eagle Scout Ben Pope awhile to warm up to the idea of spending four months at the bottom of the world.
In the end, however, he applied for, and was accepted into, the BSA's Antarctic Scout Program, beating out more than 100 other applicants. As the latest Antarctic Scout, Pope joined a long line of Scouts stretching back to 1928, when Sea Scout Paul Siple accompanied Commander Richard Byrd on an 18-month journey to earth's wildest continent.
During Pope's time at McMurdo Station (from October 2005 through January 2006), he supported several ongoing research projects. Among other things, he helped with a Weddell seal census, studied the diving habits of Emperor penguins, and even worked on a project related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (Antarctica's Windless Bight is home to an infrasound sensor that can detect distant nuclear explosions.)
In an interview with Boys' Life magazine, Pope said he regularly relied on his Scouting background during his Antarctic adventure. "Ordinary tasks or knowledge that I take for granted, from being able to tie a square knot or a bowline to knowing to take your water bottle in your sleeping bag on a cold night so that it doesn't freeze, are things that are not necessarily common knowledge," he said. "Scouting skills make staying alive here fairly easy, and camping experience certainly comes in handy all the time. Plus, the work ethic and values that Scouting has grounded me in keep me focused on the task at hand and with a smile as often as possible."
Pope grew up in Newton, Mass., just outside Boston. His Scouting career began in Cub Scout Pack 219, and he later joined Boy Scout Troop 205, where he earned the Eagle Scout award and where he now serves as an assistant Scoutmaster. "My favorite activities in the Scouting program have always centered on the outdoors, especially orienteering, backpacking, and appropriately enough, cold-weather camping," he wrote in a blog entry from McMurdo Station. "The skills I learned in these activities, in addition to many of the other lessons I learned throughout Scouting, continue to serve me very well in each new situation I find myself."
After graduating from high school, Pope enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He expects to graduate in May 2008 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Outside the classroom, he has played on the MIT soccer team and been active in the Sigma Chi fraternity, where he has served in numerous leadership positions.