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The Markers

National Science Foundation (NSF) Antarctic Artist and Writers Program awardee Xavier Cortada marks the passage of time by exploring important world events that have moved the world forward during the past 50 years.



The South Pole

On December 14, 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen was first to reach the South Pole. The geographic South Pole is located near the center of the Antarctic ice sheet at an altitude of 2800 meters. The ice sheet covering the Pole is moving at about 10 m per year toward the Weddell Sea (along the 60 degree West meridian).  Each year, staff at the South Pole station reposition the South Pole marker to compensate for the movement of the ice.

On October 31, 1956, Lt. Shinn landed the first plane, "Que Sera Sera," at the South Pole.  Three weeks later, on November 20, 1956, the first South Pole station construction crew arrived.

On January 4, 1957, the Navt Seabees crew turned the completed station over to a team of nine scientists, nine support professionals (e.g.: a doctor, a cook) and a dog who wintered over and officially opened the base to scientific exploration.


The Installation

On January 4, 2007, on  the 50th anniversary of the opening of the South Pole station, Miami artist Xavier Cortada arrived at the South Pole and planted 51 differently-colored flags along a 500-meter stretch of a moving ice sheet. The last flag was planted where South Pole stood in 1956, when the Pole became permanently inhabited. The first, where the South Pole stands fifty years later.

Each flag is marked with its respective year, and with the coordinates of a place on Earth the artist selected as important in "moving the world forward" during that year (e.g.: 1957 is Sputnik, 1963 is the March on Washington, 1969 is the Lunar Landing, 1997 is the Kyoto Accord)
while scientists worked in the South Pole.

The Marker flags were exhibited at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium prior to being installed in the South Pole .
For more information visit http://www.miamisci.org/www/exhibits/markers/


Cortada's Markers

Xavier Cortada selected the following events to mark how the world has moved forward in the past fifty years:

1956 90S


  Antarctica Construction crews arrive at the South Pole
1957 4750'N 6603'E 4750'N
  Soviet Union
Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit Earth, is launched into space from Baikonur, USSR
1958 4852'N 0220'E 4852'N
  France Pan Am's transatlantic 707 flight lands in Paris, jet age begins
1959 3247'N 9648'W 3247'N
  United States
Microchip is invented
1960 1121'N 14212'E 1121'N
  Pacific Ocean Trieste dives to the bottom of the Mariana Trench: 35,813 feet
1961 4750'N 6603'E 4750'N
  Soviet Union
Yuri Gagarin is first man in space (launched from Baikonur)
1962 4222'N
  United States Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is published
1963 3853'N 7702'W 3853'N
  United States March on Washington for Civil Rights
1964 4043'N 7400'W 4043'N
  United States Beatlemania sweeps America
1965 2308'N 8222'W 2308'N
  Cuba Freedom Flights for Cuban refugees begin
1966 2840'N 7713'E 2840'N
  India Indira Gandhi elected first woman prime minister of India, the world's largest democracy
1967 3355'S 1822'E 3355'S
  South Africa First human heart transplant
1968 5545'N
  Soviet Union Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in Moscow, London and Washington, D.C.
1969 2824'N 8036'W 2824'N
  United States
The Eagle lands on the moon
(launched from Cape Canaveral)
1970 1306'N 5937'W 1306'N
  Barbados Ra II crosses Atlantic in 57 days
1971 3721'N 12116'W 3721'N
  United States Microprocessor is invented
1972 3955'N 11625'E 3955'N
  China Nixon visits China
1973 3386'S 15122'E 3386'S
  Australia Sydney Opera House is built
1974 0859'N 4010'E 0859'N
  Ethiopia Skeleton of "Lucy," our 3.2 million year old ancestor, is discovered
1975 1924'N 9909'W 1924'N
  Mexico United Nations convenes First World Conference on Women
1976 2824'N 8036'W 2824'N
  United States Viking I and II land on Mars
(launched from Cape Canaveral)
1977 0143'N 4453'E 0143'N
  Somalia Smallpox eradicated from Earth
1978 5333N 0207'W 5333N
  England First test tube baby born
1979 4001'N 10516'W 4001'N
  United States Ten independent living centers were founded across the US for persons with disabilities
1980 5423'N 1840'E 5423'N
  Poland Solidarity strikes across Poland
1981 4108N 7342'W 4108N
  United States IBM launches personal computer
1982 5050'N 008'W 5050'N
  England Whale hunting moratorium enacted
1983 4154'N 1227'E 4154'N
  Vatican City Pope John Paul II retracts the ban on Galileo
1984 3719'N 12202'W 3719'N
United States Apple Macintosh launched
1985 0902'N 3842'E 0902'N
  Ethiopia Live Aid concerts raise millions to reduce famine
1986 1437'N
  Philippines Corazon Aquino leads People Power to end Marcos regime in the Philippines
1987 3946'N 8609'W 3946'N
  United States Anti-depressant Prozac is introduced
1988 3327'S
  Chile Chile plebiscite ends dictatorship, ushers in democracy across South America
1989 5230'N
  Germany Berlin Wall is knocked down
1990 5104'N
English Channel Tunnel links UK and Europe
1991 5545'N
  Russia Russia becomes "independent" as the Soviet Union collapses
1992 2253'S 4306'W 2253'S
  Brazil First Earth Summit's Rio Declaration has 153 countries focus on sustainable development
1993 4011'N 8826'W 4011'N
  United States World Wide Web browser is created, distributed
1994 2545'S 2810'E 2545'S
  South Africa Apartheid ends in South Africa, Mandela elected president
1995 4440'N 11106'W 4440'N
United States Grey wolves return to the American West
1996 7643'S 15940'E 7643'S
  Antarctica NASA announces that the Antarctic's ALH 84001meteorite points to existence of life on Mars
1997 3500'N 13545'E 3500'N
  Japan Kyoto Protocol enacted
1998 0310'N 10142'E 0310'N
Malaysia Petronas Towers topped at 1483 ft., the tallest building at that time
1999 0932'N 2172'E 0932'N
  Egypt Breitling Orbiter 3 hot air balloon sails non-stop around the world
2000 3352'S 15113'E 3352'S
  Australia Cathy Freeman, the Aboriginal runner, wins Olympic gold
2001 1203'S 7703'W 1203'S
  Peru A 4,000-year-old site yielded the remains of the oldest known city in the New World
2002 1546'S 4755'W 1546'S
  Brazil Brazil Soccer wins 5th World Cup
2003 5213N 0008'W 5213N
  England Human Genome Project completed
2004 3723'N 12205'W 3723'N
  United States Google, digital music, wireless technologies and blogs boomed
2005 2024'N 0341'W 2024'N
  Spain Spain ends all discrimination based on sexual orientation
2006 TBA 00'N
Easter Island
Scientists discover new species

The beginning of a 150,000-year Journey

At the location of the 2007 Geographic South Pole marker, the artist planted a mangrove seedling from Miami's Biscayne Bay, 2546'N 8012'W.  ( Cortada's "150,000-year Journey" project also addresses the passage of time, asking us to see time in geologic instead of human time frames. To learn more about the 150,000-year Journey, please visit http://www.cortada.com/antarctica/journey. )  

About the Installation


Xavier Cortada's installation highlights events that have moved our world forward in the time it has taken the Antarctic ice sheet to move about 500 meters. Cortada chronicles the passage of time by depicting those events on flags he placed at the South Pole on January 4, 2007. To accomplish this, the artist:

  1. Created 51differently colored flags, ranging from violet to red, each sequentially representing years from 1956 to 2006.

  2. Marked each flag with the coordinates of a place where an event took place that moved the world forward during that given year (e.g., 1963's March on Washington, 1989's Fall of the Berlin Wall).
  3. Planted each year's flag in the location on the ice where all the meridians converged during that flag's respective year;  that is, where the South Pole stood during that given year. (Since the South Pole, 90S, sits on a glacier that is in constant motion, its location on the ice above changes every year).  

When the flags were planted they created a spectrum of color on the white surface of the ice.  The first flag was planted at the location of the 2006 Geographic South Pole, with each subsequent flag spaced 9.9 meters apart and aligned in the direction of the Weddell Sea.  Since the glacier below is moving everything in the same direction at 9.9 meters annually, the flags "mark" where the South Pole stood in any given year-- few places on Earth can so dramatically mark the passage of time.

Left:  The Markers' flags on display at the Miami Museum of Science before being installed by the artist in the South Pole.

Please click here to read artist's blog from Antarctica



xavier cortada
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Xavier Cortada's work has been shown across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Antarctica and locally in the Miami Art Museum, the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium and the Bass Museum of Art. The Miami artist has been commissioned to create art for the White House, the Florida Supreme Court, Miami City Hall, the Museum of Florida History and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Cortada's work is also in the permanent collection of The World Bank.

For more information, please visit

Copyright 1997-2007 by Xavier Cortada.
All rights reserved.