Thinking of ice.

Mountains and Ice are on our doorstep.

We often talk about the cold temps and winds in Antarctica, but it is really a land (and ocean) of ice.  We are lucky enough to have some of the rare mountains that rise above the ice on our doorsteps. The Royal Society Range sits right across the McMurdo sound which is on the continent (for real… we are on an island… but it is frozen to the continent so its kinda like part of it).

Here is the current view from McMurdo and we can see ice of a few different colors…well colors of white.  The smoother white to the bottom left is about 5 ft (1.7m) thick which is plenty thick for us to work on.  Off to the right side the rougher patch is only a couple week old and there are some pretty significant cracks there that if it continues to freeze may form up into solid ice.  And if not, we don’t cross them. Good news. It is -42 C right now and that is good ice forming weather! Whoo Hoo.

It is the ice that dictates our paths and activities and we spend a significant amount of time on the ice.  It is a cruel mistress that we love and …sometimes like a lot less.  This is a strange year, to say the least, and it has gotten off to a slow start.  Over the past (as long as anyone here can remember) there is solid ice in front of the station going at least up to a feature about an hour north, and usually, ~100 miles north that sets in by July at the latest.  This year, it was a short 2 weeks ago that the ice began to actually freeze us in and this has and will lead to some interesting days ahead of us.

This is a pretty significant crack just off Hut Point. It all depends on how thick it is and whether or not it is moving. The shape of this crack makes it look like a working crack, so one to pay attention to.

Now cracks are a thing too.  We spend a lot of time monitoring and tracking cracks to make sure we can get over them.  We have sea ice training to make sure we can do this safely and work with the field safety team (Field Support and Training or FS&P) to monitor and track the cracks. However, our vehicles are designed to both cross cracks as well as have the most gentle pressure on the ice. 

The view north from Hut Point.

Looking north, there are many different features in the ice and we hope that in coming weeks the ice will solidify enough for us to head this way to our main site.

Here you can see McMurdo Station in the background, Scott’s hut in the foreground and Rowan and Lila, braving the brisk late winter’s day to peer at the ice (and hour-long sunsets)

To look north and see what the ice looks like up there, we hiked over to the Hut point where Scott’s hut, from 1902 sits still unchanged for more than a hundered years.

Vince’s Cross marks the overlook at Hut point.
Another day… Success!

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