Mactown Lanes – McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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Rating: 7.6/10 (5 votes cast)

We’ve heard of bowling alleys in remote locations, but never quite like this.

Yes, as you surely saw in the title of this post, we’re talking about bowling in Antarctica!

For those of you who didn’t believe this existed, we had to read it a few times too. It seems improbable but the world’s southernmost bowling alley did indeed reside on the cold icy continent.

Mactown Lanes was located at McMurdo Station on McMurdo Sound, the location of the largest US research station in Antarctica. The sound is located on the southern part of Ross Island, and the area’s population grows to over 1,000 during the marginally more inhabitable summer months.

For many years the bowling alley, a modest 2-lane outfit, sat inside one of two Seabee Quonset huts in the area.

Unfortunately, the Mactown Lanes are no more. The lanes were “expensive and heavy” and there was not enough money available to restore them when they were deteriorating (source). In most places an increase in customers can help finance such renovations, but in Antarctica there is obviously a limit to the number of visitors a bowling alley can hope to attract. (We’re told penguins aren’t big spenders.)

But for decades up until its dismantling in 2009-10, it was quite a popular spot. The alley had a Brunswick manual pinset system, one of the last in operation in the world. That means that they hired people to serve as pinsetters to clear fallen pins and put the remaining ones in their proper places after each roll.

The lanes were put in my US Navy Seabees in 1961, and during the grand opening ceremony they used stuffed penguins as bowling pins, which you can see in this image.

One recent pinsetter in the 2000s is a woman who goes by the nickname of “Sandwich Girl.” She has written much about the lanes on the web:

She even created a short film about her experiences:

Entertainment is important for those at the station, and it’s reported that a curling rink has replaced the bowling lanes (source).

It seems unlikely, but perhaps some day the pins will fall once again on this isolated Antarctic island.

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Rating: 7.6/10 (5 votes cast)
Mactown Lanes - McMurdo Station, Antarctica, 7.6 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

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