The Mighty Mac’s expanded Antarctic connection

ST. IGNACE, Mich. – When Brendan Fisher began his 13-month adventure as a heavy equipment mechanic for the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), he brought pieces of the Mackinac Bridge with him. When he returned, he brought a piece back, as well as stories to accompany it, that he presented this month to the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA). 

At the MBA’s April 5 meeting in Dimondale, Fisher presented the authority with a shadowbox containing a piece of the bridge’s original deck grating and photos from his time at the South Pole. A noticeable circular piece is absent, representing a disc that is now part of the ceremonial South Pole marker more than 9,000 miles away.

Fisher, whose assignment in Antarctica ran from October 2022 to November 2023, and fellow South Pole adventurer Hans Suedhoff brought the gift and a photo book documenting the Mackinac Bridge pieces that were incorporated into a sign, photo frame, and both the ceremonial and geographic South Pole markers. 

Fisher had previously built the sign from a 38-foot piece of the original deck grating he purchased through auction in November 2020, proclaiming the distance from the South Pole to the Mackinac Bridge (9,394 miles), which is on permanent display at the station.

There are two pole markers since the Antarctic 9,300-foot-thick ice sheet (roughly a third of the length of the Mackinac Bridge) moves about 10 meters per year. “There’s Mackinac Bridge in both of them now,” Fisher said. 

The Authority thanked Fisher and Suedhoff for the gift, which recognizes the bridge and the team in the Antarctic.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” said MBA Member Barbara Arens. “You’re very talented.”

Each year, the geographical South Pole is replaced on Jan. 1. Once the year’s marker is retired, it joins its predecessors in a display cabinet at the Antarctic station for 20-30 years until the cabinet fills to capacity. After that, the markers are sent to the Smithsonian, where they stay “until the end of eternity,” Fisher said.

The team also used pieces of round steel stock from the bridge to make four bolts that joined corners of a photo frame for a picture of last year’s “winterover” crew at the station, which included Fisher and Suedhoff.

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