The 1997 Pole Marker

1997 Pole marker
The 1997 Pole marker, created by Dave Pernic during the 1996-97 summer season

The above marker has acquired a bit of notoriety. Well...not because of the original one in the above photo...but because of one that was offered for sale on the History Channel show Pawn Stars.

Wells Fargo ATM receiptThe seller, Jim Yeatrakas, also offered an early receipt from the Wells Fargo ATM in building 155 at McMurdo...supposedly notable because of its date (11 January 1997) and its misspelling of "Antartica" which was corrected immediately afterward (photo at right grabbed from the video).

The marker was a duplicate, one of several that Dave created because there was a bit of a demand. Jim the seller later posted additional information on the Pawn Stars message board (no longer online):

I was working for ASA, Antarctic Support Associates, as one of two USAP MAPCON Administrators. I was the Admin for the Operations side which kept the Computerized Maintenance Management System - MAPCON - running. When I first hired on I was just the South Pole Admin, but by the time I got to the Ice for the first time I had been promoted to USAP - United States Antarctic Program - Admin. In 1996 I was sent to the Pole from McMurdo to update the CMMS. They send us there during the Christmas Holidays while the Station population is at its lowest. They hold a Christmas party and distribute gifts that are usually crafted at the pole. You can choose a wrapped gift or one that has already been opened. The person that made the marker, Dave Pernic, made three of them originally. One for the pole, one for a gift at that party and one he kept for himself. During the gift giving I acquired the marker he built for the party, but right away someone took it from me. I was lamenting the fact that that was one of the coolest things I had ever seen and marveled at how neat it would be to have one. I was tapped on the shoulder and asked if I would like one. Dave Pernic, sitting behind me, had heard me and appreciated how much I would like to have one. He said I had to pay for the material and get permission from the station manager, David Fisher (I am not sure of the spelling). [Actually he was referring to Dave Fischer, the South Pole area manager at the time--Bill.] I paid for the material and got permission. Next to me that night was one of the VIP executives who asked Dave if he could have one also, so Dave built two more. These two others were different from the first three in that I asked David if he would inscribe my name and his on the marker. He did that for me and the Sr Exec with me. He dated the marker 12/28/96, that is different from the original three as well.

As to their worth, people pay thousands of dollars just to fly there for an hour. I know there is a market for these, its just a matter of getting the word out. Pawn Stars is the vehicle for that.

You can look up Dave R Pernic on the internet.

[On the video, I couldn't see the date Jim mentioned, but he did get his name engraved on the back of his replica (photo grabbed from the video).]

In a separate post on the message board, Jim Yeatrakas also commented on the ATM receipt:

Well, if I was going to give more info on the marker I should have had more to say about the ATM receipt. They really didn't have the time to tell the whole story plus I update the Christmas story on the marker:

Re: the ATM, I know it was the only one because it was placed at McMurdo station, the largest base in the Antarctic. It was placed so they did not have to pay anyone to disburse cash. Cash was only used to buy liquor and stuff from the little store they had there. Meals were provided free, but snacks had to be purchased, plus soft drinks etc.

These memorabilia are so rare it is hard to know what they are worth. I only know that I won a $5000 prize from the Discovery Channels contest 'It takes a thief' to protect the Marker and the other items I have. Wells Fargo had the contract for the ATM machine at that time and the date of the receipt was 01/11/1997 at 05:24 pm. The ATM machine was # 56282 and the transaction number was 93. You could contact Wells Fargo about that.

The location printed on the receipt was misspelled ANTARTICA when it should have been ANTARCTICA. They corrected it that day so anything after 01/11/97 would have the correct spelling. The receipt is rare enough as there were no other ATMs on the Ice and so far as I know there are still no others unless they put one at Palmer station or South Pole. It would not surprise me if others kept receipts but even then it would be rare.

This originally appeared on Season 2 Episode 4 of Pawn Stars, it first aired on 7 December 2009 (and the online Polie discussion immediately followed). The video as of May 2023 is here on the History Channel site (although you will need to log in with one of the listed cable or streaming services). It is available on this Amazon Prime Video link, although you may have to pay. It may also be available on Hulu Plus. The episode is called Season 1 Episode 18 (the Pole stuff starts about halfway through), and the episode title is "A Shot and a Shave"--the title refers to an 1845 Harpers Ferry musket and an old barber chair. Jim left the marker and the ATM receipt at the pawnshop on consignment...I haven't heard if they were ever sold--the show hosts told Jim that without provenance, the marker was just another brass coin.

Back to the marker is not as elaborate as the ones created more recently...but remember that Dave didn't have all winter to work on it. He did winter in 1998, 2000, and much more recently in 2021, and he was also around for a number of summers. He did create other markers. We're friends, and we've met up at Pole more than once. There is an inscription around the circumference...about all that is visible in the photo is that strange traditional LGN notation which might be seen under "Hothem" at the bottom of the enlarged photo if you overlighten it. The names "Hothem-Starbuck-Smith" refer to USGS folks who have been involved with Antarctic geodetic surveys and other mapping operations. In particular, Bill Smith and Michael Starbuck (link to NSF reference) conducted the GPS survey to determine the location for this marker. Larry Hothem was not involved this season, but he has been in others...and I've met him at Pole.

The marker photo at the top of this page was taken by 2004 station manager Pete Koson during his winter, it is in the Antarctic Photo library here. When Pete took this photo, the marker was still ensconced in the glass case located in front of the station store on the second floor of the dome comms building. Nowadays these markers are displayed in a larger glass case on the first floor of B3 in the elevated station.