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Published: January 28th 2005
Scott's Cross on Observation Hill
This cross was set to memorialize the deaths of Scott and his party on their return from successfully reaching the South Pole.
McMurdo Station is the largest US research station in Antarctica. It is located on Ross Island which some consider to be the one of the most beautiful parts of the continent with large barren stretches of shelf ice and large mountain ranges rising in several directions. McMurdo was built as part of Operation Deep Freeze back in the 50’s by the Navy and was run by the Navy until recently when the National Science Foundation took over. Now McMurdo’s main purpose is as a base for many different science projects including glaciology, biology, climatology, geology… the list goes on. Also, Mac Town, as some here call it, is the main hub for logistical support for many deep field science camps and for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which was named after Roald Amundsen, who was the first to reach the pole on December 14, 1911, and Robert F. Scott, who reached the pole just over a month after Amundsen on January 17, 1912 and who died on the return journey. The summer population here is around 1000 people, but it spikes up to around 1200 people this time of year and when the station closes at the end of February there
Four Ships in the Sea Ice
The Polar Star, Krasin, Nathanial B. Palmer and the Paul Buck - A first.
will only be around 200 of us left for the winter. The town is a haven for some of the most interesting people you could ever meet. Many of the people are contract workers who spend their off time traveling around the world, spending their money and generally having a good time. For most, working in Antarctica allows them six or more months off in the year to do as they please and it gives them a unique working environment when they have to work, but since I am on a winter contract I will only have a few months off, which is still good, if I decide to come back.
My first impression of this place was that of a small mining camp - the streets are dirty, the buildings are mostly weather beaten and very rundown looking on the outside and rugged hills of volcanic rock and Ice surround the place. At a second glance I was amazed by the extreme, harsh beauty and the remoteness of this place in a world that is getting smaller and smaller - This is a true wilderness! Sharing Ross Island with us is Scott Base, which is New Zealand’s Main
The Nathanial B. Palmer
The Ice Breaker Nathanial B. Palmer is one of the research vessels in the US Antarctic Program. It is named after an American sealer who was the first American to set foot here.
Research Station, and Mt. Erebus, the world’s Southern most active volcano. For the first few days Erebus was shrouded in clouds and couldn’t be seen, but recently it has been very visible and is putting on a big show with a large plume of smoke or steam coming out of the caldera on top. The mountain is very impressive rising from sea level up to over twelve thousand feet with large glaciers and huge crevasse fields covering its flanks - Oh how I would love to be able to climb it, but it is not meant to be this time around. There is a small field camp on top of Erebus, but Boondoggles, which are moral trips for the people who don’t normally get a chance to get into the field, to the top are virtually un-heard of, so my only chance of getting up there is to finance my own trip and climb it myself - Very expensive!
Right now the sun shines twenty four hours a day which is very nice, because you can go out hiking at any time of the day and it looks the same, the sun is coming from different directions though. McMurdo has
Mt. Erebus is the Southern most active volcano, which is about 20 miles away, and it is putting on a show.
many hiking trails of varying lengths - Observation hill is a very prominent land mark in the area rising around 700 feet above sea level and on top there is a cross that was set in place many years ago to memorialize Scott’s death at the end of his pole attempt. The climb is not difficult, taking only fifteen minutes to reach the top, but the view is great from the top and it is very peaceful - I have climbed it three times since I got here. My job is going well, but it has been very slow because the supply vessel has not arrived yet with all of our tools and materials. The vessel is at the edge of the sea ice waiting for the fuel tanker, which is currently at the ice pier, to finish filling the stations tanks. There are currently four ships in the sea ice in front of McMurdo, which is a first for the station. Three of the ships are icebreakers - the Nathanial B. Palmer, a US research ship, the Cost Guard ship Polar Star, one of the most powerful ice breakers in the world and the Krasin, a Russian ice breaker
All of the Tires Are Flat!
Many of the trucks here have flat tires on purpose - it helps with driving on the snow.
that has been contracted to assist in breaking the channel for the supply vessels. The fourth ship is the Paul Buck, which is a large fuel tanker. The reason that the three icebreakers are here is because the sea ice was further out than it normally is necessitating an eighty or so mile ice channel that needed to be broken up and maintained in order to get the supply vessels in. The next few weeks will be very hectic here because of the supply vessel offload, but the job must go on. I found out today that, even though Snow School AKA Happy Camper School is no longer required for winter-over people, I will be able to go anyway, thanks to a very thoughtful group of people that I am working with. Happy Camper school is scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday and should be a lot of fun.
Due to the slowness of the internet here I have not been able to load as many pictures as I would like on to this site, so keep checking the old posts for new pictures because in the winter the internet should speed up a lot. That’s all for now,
This is a view of McMurdo Station as seen from Observation Hill. The Nathanial B. Palmer is the ship at the Ice Pier.
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