What is S2?

 man standing next to antenna and wooden structure
S2 glaciology site in 1959 behind Casey (Photo: A. Campbell-Drury)
The Amery S2 campS2 base campS2 access hatch

S2 Campsite is approximately 80 km inland from Casey located on the expansive ice plateau, Law Dome. In 1957, S2 was established by the United States in the International Geophysical Year (IGY) as a glaciological research site to measure the movement of ice below the surface.  

As a result of intensive glaciological and geophysical surveys undertaken by Australia since 1962, the presence and nature of Law Dome was revealed. Law Dome is a small ice sheet attached to the edge of the main East Antarctic ice sheet with an independent ice flow. The bedrock of Law Dome is an underground island separated from the bedrock of East Antarctica by a deep trench. 

In the 1960s, the S2 Campsite consisted of a 'Jamesway' hut, generator, storage, and snow laboratory - all dug into the snow. It was joined by a roofed trench and then covered over with snow. Within the snow pit, a shaft was dug down 36 metres deep to measure ice movement.

Each year, ANARE scientists would return and dig out the campsite to undertake glaciological experiments and collect ice samples. Due to snowdrift, scientists often lived in an underground ice cave with huts completely buried by snow and connected by tunnels. With frequent snowstorms, sound doesn't carry more than a few metres at Law Dome, and the temperature regularly sits at −18 degrees.

When S2 was closed in 1966, snow reclaimed the entire campsite.  The site is now considered too dangerous to visit, as it becomes more deeply buried each year.

Visiting S2 some years ago, one expeditioner described the site:

Everything has been crushed and distorted by the immense weight of snow above. The hut has bowed in the middle, so the floor rises and the roof drops, to touch in the middle. The kitchen table still stands but the roof now rests on it.

A tilley lamp lies crushed and distorted between. The passage sides are lined with stacked boxes, side on as shelves, and still full of tins of food. Cans of fruit salad, probably still edible, date back to 1963. There are even bags of flour, and oats, all the old wiring and switches still hang from the walls of the snow tunnel.