Cruising the Antarctic Isles


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September 22nd 2005
Published: October 20th 2005
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Blue Auroras and Discovery HutBlue Auroras and Discovery HutBlue Auroras and Discovery Hut

Here is a picture I tried to get all winter. The lighting was perfect - I recreated a portion of the mid-winter run to get to the hut before the auroras were done.
It was a beautiful day - The sun was shining brightly over the western slopes of Mt Erebus, there was no wind to speak of and the temperature was warm by Antarctic standards. We were cruising at between five and ten miles per hour towards the North. We had been underway for over an hour and we still had another half hour to go before we reached our destination. Our route took us to the west of the Erebus Glacier Ice Tongue, which is a large, narrow glacier flowing down from the frozen slopes of Mt. Erebus that extends off of the coast of Ross Island into Erebus Bay, and past several small islands - Tent Island and Inaccessible Island were to the left of our route and Big & Little Razorback where to the right. Our destination was Cape Evans and we were going there to go fishing with one of the scientists. The surface was very rough with many undulating waves and we were bouncing and swaying with the motion of the ‘boat’. I don’t know if the outing actually counted as boating though - We were off the coast, we were cruising between many islands, there were big
The Erebus Glacier Ice TongueThe Erebus Glacier Ice TongueThe Erebus Glacier Ice Tongue

The Erebus Glacier Ice Tongue extends way out into Erebus Bay. I took this picture on the way back into McMurdo during a water changing stop for the fish.
waves all around us and there was water below us, but we were not in a boat. We were in a piston bully cruising over the frozen surface of the sea. I posed the question in the yacht club meeting, “Does a piston bully count as a boat if we are on the sea ice?” We discussed the question for a few minutes: A piston bully would probably not float for very long in the ocean, but without pontoons, a pontoon boat won’t float either. Instead of pontoons we were using the sea ice as our flotation, therefore it should count as boating. I think many of the members of the yacht club accepted the idea of driving on the sea ice as boating, but only because we don’t have any other boats here. Before we got to Cape Evans, we stopped and picked up a few people who had gotten stranded when their snowmobile ran out of gas - I don’t quite know how you end up that far away from town with out enough fuel to get back, especially in these unforgiving latitudes, but, alas, it happened.

Cape Evans is the location of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra
Lots of CrevassesLots of CrevassesLots of Crevasses

This would not be the best approach for climbing Mt Erebus due to the crevasses.
Nova Hut from the 1910 - 1913 British Antarctic Expedition. It is from the Terra Nova Hut that Scott and his party set off on their doomed journey to the South Pole - They reached the pole a little over a month after the Norwegian expedition, lead by Roald Amundsen, became the first reach the South Pole, but Scott and his party perished before reaching the safety of the Terra Nova Hut on the return journey. The two of us in the group that had never been to Cape Evans walked out to the hut and took some pictures and then went to the top of Wind Vane Hill to see the cross that is dedicated to three members of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition who died there in 1916 - They were part of the Ross Shore party who sailed on the Aurora and were establishing supply depots that were to be used by the Endurance’s Crew on the crossing (The Endurance is the ship that was trapped and crushed in the sea ice in the Weddell Sea, forcing Shackleton and his men to undertake one of histories most epic journeys). From the top of the hill, we took in the
Inaccessible IslandInaccessible IslandInaccessible Island

This is one of the many islands we passed on the way to Cape Evans. The one in the distance is Tent Island.
scenery surrounding Cape Evans - The magnificent, sheer ice cliffs of the Barne Glacier extended along the coast to the North towards Cape Royds, the massive, glaciated slopes of Mt Erebus were to our East, to the South was Castle Rock and the many islands we passed on our way out there and to our West was the expansive plain of sea ice and, in the distance, the mountains of the mainland. We could have spent all day taking in the sights, but we were there to assist the science team with collecting fish - It was time to get the lines in the water. We were doing our fishing inside a heated fish hut with an opening in the floor and a large hole through the ice - The hut is necessary because the outside temperatures are too cold to keep ice from reforming (and it is more comfortable for the fishermen). The hole in the ice gave us access to the ocean, but it also gave us a viewing window to the bottom of the sea - The snow had all been scoured off of the surface of the sea ice by the wind, which allowed the sunlight
The RazorbacksThe RazorbacksThe Razorbacks

Aptly named Big and Little Razorback are the other main islands we passed on the way to Cape Evans. Castle Rock is in the distance over Little Razorback.
to seep in from above, illuminating the bottom of the ocean in a soft blue light. We could see the rocky bottom with starfish and giant worms and the occasional fish - It was a truly beautiful sight that is generally only seen by the lucky few who get to dive in these icy waters. We could see our fish hooks and we could watch the fish go after them making them easy to catch and after a couple of hours we had caught twelve fish - I didn’t have as much luck as the other fishermen, but I had a lot of fun bringing in my two fish (I thought it was a defective fish hook, but the guy I passed it off to proved me wrong!) We decided that we had enough fish, so we pulled up the traps that had been in the water for a few days and collected a few large fish from them - The traps also had dozens of starfish and giant worms all over them, which were cool to see. When we were done with the traps and had prepared the fish for the trip back, we loaded up into the piston
The Terra Nova HutThe Terra Nova HutThe Terra Nova Hut

This is the hut used by Scott during the Terra Nova expedition. It was also his starting point for his trip to the pole, from which he never returned.
bully and headed towards McMurdo. We stopped at another fish hut on the way back and pulled up two more traps along with a large Antarctic jellyfish. There were close to twenty fish in the cooler, which was filled with water to keep them alive until we could get them to the aquarium. The fish dirtied up their water fairly quickly, so we had to stop twice on the way back to town to exchange some of the dirty water with some clean water we brought with us. The ride back to town was as rough as it was going out, so we all had a nice salt water bath by the time we reached the aquarium and released the fish. Our day of fishing was over and after a few minutes looking at some of the other inhabitants of the aquarium we were off to dinner. The trip was a lot of fun - It allowed a few of us to get out and see some of the sights around Ross Island that are generally off limits to town folk and it allowed us to participate, in a small way, with some of the science that happens here. Plus,
The Terra Nova Hut's South WallThe Terra Nova Hut's South WallThe Terra Nova Hut's South Wall

This is the hut used by Scott during the Terra Nova expedition. There is a lot of snow currently covering Cape Evans and the hut.
now I can say I have gone fishing in the southern most fishable waters in the world!

My last post had a lot of negativity in it stemming mostly from the ending of the winter and the influx of many new people. Now I am fully at ease with the change of the seasons and all of my new neighbors. I am enjoying the science that is starting to happen all around us and the new opportunities that come along with it. The water plant construction is moving along in leaps and bounds as our newly energized crew rapidly moves towards the ultimate goal of finishing on time - My sluggish, winter over mind is struggling to keep up with them! There has been a lot of excitement here lately - I finally got to get out of town as mentioned above, we have had several excellent nights with some unbelievable auroras, we have had unusually nice weather and I had an iceberg land on my head.

The auroras came to us as the result of a large and extremely active sun-spot. The first night I got out, the auroras came in large bands and waves of green
The Terra Nova Hut's North WallThe Terra Nova Hut's North WallThe Terra Nova Hut's North Wall

This is the hut used by Scott during the Terra Nova expedition. The North wall of the hut doesn't have a lot of snow build up.
flowing across the sky above town. They were so bright that they could be easily seen in town despite the half moon and the street lights - I couldn’t see the auroras from town on most of the good nights during the winter! Several of the pictures from the first night captured a red glow coming from the crater of Mt Erebus, which was something that I had been trying to observe since I read accounts of a red glow on Erebus by Sackleton during his Nimrod expedition - Very cool! The second night I went out was amazing. I went to hut point and managed to get pictures of the hut with multiple bands of green and blue auroras streaming in large ribbons in the sky to the west of town. The lighting was just right to illuminate the hut in a nice moon glow and the horizon was lit by the setting sun making a surreal sight that I will not ever forget. Also, that night I captured a picture of the Southern Cross with green and purple auroras over it. Those auroras were likely the last of them that I will see on this trip since the
Left Over StoresLeft Over StoresLeft Over Stores

These are crates left from one of the expeditions that used the Terra Nova Hut. The Barne Glacier is in the distance.
night is leaving us quickly and the days are getting long, but I can’t think of a better way to say good by to them - I have been trying to get pictures of the Southern Cross and Discovery Hut with auroras all winter and I was finally successful on the last night and with some the best auroras I have seen all winter (I think the award for the best still goes to the auroras I saw on the Castle Rock Loop though). Good by Aurora Australis, I will miss your company!

Normally during Winfly the weather is very cold and stormy, but this year it has been nice and summer-like so far. The warmth has made the scenery amazing and it has allowed many clear nights to view the auroras. The warmth has also had some other unexpected effects. I was walking into the water plant following the same path I have followed hundreds of times this winter. Suddenly, BANG!!! I was on the ground. I laid on the ground for a while staring at the sky and watching the pretty blue tweedy birds circling my head, wondering if they were a new species - They certainly
Wind Vane HillWind Vane HillWind Vane Hill

The cross on Wind Vane Hill is a memorial to the three people from the crew of the Aurora who died here during Shackleton's failed Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
didn’t look like skuas and penguins can’t fly! After a few moments went by I started hearing a muffled noise which brought me back to reality and turned out to by one of my coworkers who had seen what happened and was trying to help me. I then realized that something large (an Iceberg) had landed on my head. I started going through the check list in my mind - Does my neck still work? “Check” Can I wiggle my toes? “Check” Can I get up? I sat up and immediately was back on my back, but not due to any spinal injury, my head was still spinning and it surprised me. The second time I tried to get up went better - I got up bent over and picked up my hard hat, which I thankfully was wearing when I got hit, and I walked back into the office. I noticed my hand was bleeding in a several places where my hand had struck something when I went down, so I washed it off with soap and water and then had a seat. My boss quickly assessed the situation and we were off to medical to see the doctor.
The Fish Hut and Our 'Boat'The Fish Hut and Our 'Boat'The Fish Hut and Our 'Boat'

This is the fish hut that we did our fishing from. There is a large hole in the floor that goes through the ice. Fishing in style!
In the end I had a minor concussion and a torn up, but not broken hand. It was a mildly humorous and uniquely Antarctic kind of injury - During the winter a large pile of snow had accumulated on a hood that goes over the walkway into the water plant. The sun had just started hitting that area a week before and had melted the snow into a large block of ice, which happened to slide off of the hood, at the exact moment in time that I was under it, and landed on my head. Both types of luck were present in the incident - It was good luck that I had my hardhat on and it was bad luck to have the giant iceberg hit me - After all what are the chances of that happening? I took the above as a sign that I should try my luck at BINGO that evening (plus the doctor forbid me from going hiking), but my luck had run out - I didn’t even get close to winning! Leave it to the engineer, who is only on the jobsite for an hour or so a day, to ruin the safety record
Window to the Bottom of the SeaWindow to the Bottom of the SeaWindow to the Bottom of the Sea

This is the hole we were fishing through. If you look closely you can see several shapes on the bottom of the sea including a starfish.
for everyone else!

Now we are a week and a half from the end of Winfly and the beginning of the summer season. Most of the remaining winter over crew will leave on the first flights of Mainbody and many hundreds of people will replace them. I have started taking part in discussions with my fellow winter-overs regarding our travel plans for when we leave here - At the yacht club meeting we listened to my friends Karl and Kitty’s plans to crew on a boat doing the Coconut Milk Run across the South Pacific next year, which is something I am planning to do as well in a few years. I am now down to less than six weeks before I say goodbye to this icy place and, while I am still having fun and I am still hoping for a cool field trip, I am ready to go. Science is starting to be the star of the show in town and the field camps will open all over the continent soon. My replacement will get here soon and I will start turning over my job to her, which hopefully means I will be able to free myself
The Barne GlacierThe Barne GlacierThe Barne Glacier

The Barne Glacier, with its shear ice cliffs, occupies the coast line all the way around to Cape Royds.
up for any boondoggles that may present themselves before it is time for me to leave. I have been on the road out to Cape Evans and Cape Royds and, while it does have dangers here and there (and one annoying crack right in the way), it seems to be in good enough shape to allow some trips to Cape Royds, so I will remain hopeful that I can get out there to see Shackleton’s hut and the penguin rookeries. I will also keep my eyes open for penguins closer to town - I still would like to see some emperor penguins!



Additional photos below
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The Barne GlacierThe Barne Glacier
The Barne Glacier

It would be neat to get up close to this formidable barrier. If I am able to get to Cape Royds I should get a better look.
The Sun Over the Frozen OceanThe Sun Over the Frozen Ocean
The Sun Over the Frozen Ocean

It almost looks like a sunset picture from a boat on the ocean.
The Hill is on Fire!The Hill is on Fire!
The Hill is on Fire!

Here are some of the auroras from the first night out.
Auroras and the Light of McMurdoAuroras and the Light of McMurdo
Auroras and the Light of McMurdo

The auroras were so bright that you could even see them in town!
A Green Cloud in Front of the MoonA Green Cloud in Front of the Moon
A Green Cloud in Front of the Moon

I can't believe how bright the auroras were.
A Red Glow on Mt ErebusA Red Glow on Mt Erebus
A Red Glow on Mt Erebus

If you look closely you can see a red glow coming from the summit crater of Mt. Erebus.
Auroras Over DiscoveryAuroras Over Discovery
Auroras Over Discovery

The auroras were so bright that even the setting sun didn't wash them out.
The Southern CrossThe Southern Cross
The Southern Cross

A purple and green aurora over the southern cross. The cross appears upside down in our sky because we are so far South.


24th September 2005

Pictures are beautiful!
24th September 2005

The Hardhat and the Fish
Bless the hardhat! As hard as your head is, I know the hat helped out!! PGFWABF! The fish is amazing. It's almost as if he was posing for the camera. Quite a cute little guy/girl. Blessings, Son.
25th September 2005

You are the luckiest blogger on this site. I'm so envious!
26th September 2005

views
Nice blog.I like this. Yahoo
27th September 2005

So glad you were not hurt any worse, your pictures are such a joy to see, I have enjoyed your journal very much,looking forward to other experiences your going to be involved in. Good luck and be safe. (so how warm is it now?)
14th February 2006

Wonderful photographs
These are beautiful, I especially love the auroras and sunsets - such vibrant colours. Would love to witness them in real life. I think top these, someone would need to write a travelblog from space! Good luck with your travels! :-)
25th December 2009

Amazing auroras
What fantastic photos of the Aurora Australis. I'm extremely envious. I would love to see this beautiful phenomenon, at either pole. I recently watched a tv show about Joanna Lumley's quest to see the Aurora Borealis and was fascinated by the movement in the curtain of colour and by its magnitude. You have captured it just as well and even have more colours than she saw. I really love the purple and green together. Congratulations on the lovely shots (and no there weren't too many as you stated) and enjoyable story. Very glad you were not permanently injured by your unexpected "drop-in". Good luck with the rest of your sightseeing.
11th May 2010
A Green Cloud in Front of the Moon

It looks like which powder of fairey dust thrown in the air. But its cool

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