Cape Evans, Antarctica Part 1

Howdy everyone… As a prize for winning the Halloween costume contest a bunch of us got the opportunity to snowmobile to Cape Evans. This is where Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova hut was built for his failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole. The hut was completed in 1911 and was also used by Shackleton during his failed attempt to be the first to traverse across Antarctica. The history and stories of this hut are truly amazing. The courage, and strength of the men that stayed here is like no other on earth. They had to endure unbelievable hardships. To learn more about some of these men I suggest that you read the book “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men”. Just stepping foot in this hut you could feel the history and stories seep into you. The hut is preserved and maintained by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. They try to ensure that the artifacts are in the places that they were found. To walk around inside is like going back in time. There is no glass to separate you from the artifacts, just time itself. I feel so very lucky to experience it first hand and have really enjoyed reading books about these determined and hearty souls. Because this place has so much history, and I took over 250 pictures, I will post several entries dedicated to it. Enjoy the pictures and descriptions. Please know that I would love to tell you all more about this place in person (along with many pictures) when I get back to the states.

The Barne glacier.  This glacier flows down from Mt. Erebus and into the frozen Ross Sea.  The size of things in Antarctica can be deceiving... the flanks of this glacier are several hundred feet straight up.  It's a very dangerous place as you never know when the massive chunks of the glacier will calve off.  Some of the broken pieces are larger than several houses.

The Barne glacier. This glacier flows down from Mt. Erebus and into the frozen Ross Sea. The size of things in Antarctica can be deceiving… the flanks of this glacier are several hundred feet straight up. It’s a very dangerous place as you never know when the massive chunks of the glacier will calve off. Some of the broken pieces are larger than several houses.

R.F. Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  This hut was built for Scott's failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole.  He made it to the pole, but was beat there by Amundsen.  Scott and his men died on their return from the pole.  Behind the hut is a flank of the active volcano Mt. Erebus.

R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica. This hut was built for Scott’s failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole. He made it to the pole, but was beat there by Amundsen. Scott and his men died on their return from the pole. Behind the hut is a flank of the active volcano Mt. Erebus.

Hundreds of dead starfish outside Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  The starfish appeared earlier this season and nobody knows why.  It's been a big mystery down here.  My guess is that there was a very high tide during the "supermoon" and the starfish flowed through the tidal cracks in the ice and became stranded along the shore.

Hundreds of dead starfish outside Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica. The starfish appeared earlier this season and nobody knows why. It’s been a big mystery down here. My guess is that there was a very high tide during the “supermoon” and the starfish flowed through the tidal cracks in the ice and became stranded along the shore.

R.W. Richards writings on the wall of his bunk in Scott's Cape Evans Hut.   He was a member of Shackleton's unsuccessful Trans Antarctic Expedition when Shackleton  attempted to be the first to traverse across the continent.  Richards was keeping track of the men who died.  He was part of the expedition that setup food depots on the second half of the continent for over two years, not knowing that Shackleton would never even start the traverse.  The story is even more amazing than Shackleton's Endurance story.  I highly recommend reading the book "Shackleton's Forgotten Men"  Two of the men listed in the picture were Haywood, and Macintosh, who both died trying to get back to Cape Evans from Hut Point.  They were stranded at Hut Point in the Discovery Hut and were waiting for the sea ice to be safe enough to cross.  They didn't listen to their comrades and decided to have a go at it.  They ended up on unsafe ice that flowed out to sea and were never seen again.

R.W. Richards writings on the wall of his bunk in Scott’s Cape Evans Hut. He was a member of Shackleton’s unsuccessful Trans Antarctic Expedition when Shackleton attempted to be the first to traverse across the continent. Richards was keeping track of the men who died. He was part of the expedition that setup food depots on the second half of the continent for over two years, not knowing that Shackleton would never even start the traverse. The story is even more amazing than Shackleton’s Endurance story. I highly recommend reading the book “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men” Two of the men listed in the picture were Haywood, and Macintosh, who both died trying to get back to Cape Evans from Hut Point. They were stranded at Hut Point in the Discovery Hut and were waiting for the sea ice to be safe enough to cross. They didn’t listen to their comrades and decided to have a go at it. They ended up on unsafe ice that flowed out to sea and were never seen again.

RW Richards bunk at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  His writings were on the boards just left of his pillows.

RW Richards bunk at Cape Evans, Antarctica. His writings were on the boards just left of his pillows.

Bunks and eating area inside R.F. Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Bunks and eating area inside R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Emperor Penguin on a desk in Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Hut.  Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Emperor Penguin on a desk in Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Hut. Cape Evans, Antarctica.

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Air transportation in Antarctica

Transportation in and around Antarctica can be challenging and very dangerous.  Ice covers nearly all of the continent and it’s average depth is over 7000 feet thick with some areas up to 15,000 feet thick!!  There are both alpine and continental glaciers with massive crevasses scattered though out Antarctica.  Many of the crevasses have snow bridges covering them so they appear to be solid snow, but in reality they are like giant traps that you can very easily fall into.  As a member of the Joint Antarctic Search and Rescue team we are doing crevasse training to learn how to self rescue ourselves, and also others who might fall into crevasses.  I will have more on that topic later.  In addition to the crevasses, there is bitter cold, very high winds, vast terrain, no infrastructure or roads, impassible mountains, etc. Because of the challenges, air transportation is often the easiest method to get people and cargo into the field.  (I hate to say easy as there have been many accidents involving planes and helicopters too.)

Flight operations in Antarctica are going on nonstop in the austral summer.  We have airfields on the ice shelf, annual sea ice, and a heliport right next to the building I work in.  A lot of the ATVs and snowmobiles I maintain get flown throughout the continent.  There are helicopters going everywhere, even to the top of the active volcano Mt. Erebus.  LC-130 Hercules planes take off from the sea ice runway and bring people, cargo, and fuel to the deep field camps and South Pole.  There are also smaller planes such as the Twin Otter, and Basler (DC3) which can land on really small snowfields.  I am hoping to fly in some of these aircraft soon as more and more field projects get underway.

A National Science Foundation Bell 212 Helicopter in Antarctica.

A National Science Foundation Bell 212 Helicopter in Antarctica.

An "A Star" helicopter flying one of my ATVs out to the Dry Valleys in Antarctica.

An “A Star” helicopter flying one of my ATVs out to the Dry Valleys in Antarctica.

Some of the LC-130 Hercules planes that are used to get larger cargo into the deep field camps and the South Pole.  They are equipped with skis so they can land on snow.

Some of the LC-130 Hercules planes that are used to get larger cargo into the deep field camps and the South Pole. They are equipped with skis so they can land on snow.

A bulldozer that fell into a crevasse in Antarctica.  Luckily it wasn't a really deep one!

A bulldozer that fell into a crevasse in Antarctica. Luckily it wasn’t a really deep one!

The annual sea ice runway at McMurdo Station Antarctica as seen from the Arrival Heights ridge.  In the foreground is the ice road to the runway.

The annual sea ice runway at McMurdo Station Antarctica as seen from the Arrival Heights ridge. In the foreground is the ice road to the runway.

 

The taste of victory!

Howdy everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. It’s been really busy here as the scientists (beekers) are now rolling in and the station population is up to about 800 people. A lot of projects are moving forward so I have had a lot of equipment to roll out and training classes on snowmobiling. More on that later!

The standard work week down here in Antarctica is 54 hours per week, so we work hard. Plus there is a lot of time that you donate towards other things to make the community and life down here better. For example, I volunteer time in the craft room, and doing tours of the historic Huts of Robert Falcon Scott, and Earnest Shackleton. Nice, Huh? : ) But what I was trying to communicate was that because we work hard and have to support and rely upon each other, we also have a lot of fun community activities.

Earlier this season I went to Scott Base, which is the New Zealand Antarctic station just a short distance away. My friends Dave, Tyler, Rich, Cary, and myself entered the Antarctic Flip Cup competition. Needless to say, I had never played Flip Cup before, so I was a bit nervous. In the game you have 3 cups of varying size filled with an alcoholic beverage. In this case it was Hard Cider that the Kiwi’s wanted to get rid of. You start by drinking the first cup and then standing it on the edge of the table. You flip it upside down and then move on to your second cup, then the third. When you are done, your teammate then goes until your team is complete. We ended up being quite good at this game as we smashed the competition in the team games and set the speed record as well! We then competed individually and a fuelie named Jamie won.

Playing flip cup at Scott Base, Antarctica.  The players from left to right are: Cary, Rich, Me, Tyler.

Playing flip cup at Scott Base, Antarctica. The players from left to right are: Cary, Rich, Me, Tyler.

Me holding the trophy and Tyler making funny faces.

Me holding the trophy and Tyler making funny faces.

Tyler, Cary, Me, Rich, and Dave... The team champions of Antarctic Flip Cup!

Tyler, Cary, Me, Rich, and Dave… The team champions of Antarctic Flip Cup!

We also recently celebrated Halloween… which is quite the fun event down here. A lot of people participate and have some absolutely amazing costumes! During the Halloween party there was a “Group Competition”. Some friends and I went as professional wrestlers. Our friend Tad was Hulk Hogan and had been prepping for this day for quite some time. His costume was awesome!  We actually staged a “WrestleMania” on stage and I got put in the Camel Clutch by the Iron Sheik.  Hulk came to rescue me and smashed a chair over the Sheik!  The winner was decided by the crowd and you guessed it.. We Won the overall!

The wrestling crew: Nacho Libre (me), The Iron Sheik, The Manager, Hulk Hogan, Brooke Hogan, Randy Macho Man Savage, and Jimmy Superfly Snuka.

The wrestling crew: Nacho Libre (me), The Iron Sheik, The Manager, Hulk Hogan, Brooke Hogan, Randy Macho Man Savage, and Jimmy Superfly Snuka.

Me as Nacho Libre.  Too bad you can't see my cool pants and knee pads!

Me as Nacho Libre. Too bad you can’t see my cool pants and knee pads!

Tad as Hulk Hogan standing on the top of Observation Hill in Antarctica.

Tad as Hulk Hogan standing on the top of Observation Hill in Antarctica.

In addition to all this excitement, I was a member of the champion Dodgeball team… I just don’t have any pics of that yet.  I really feel fortunate to be here and be a part of this fun community.  I am also thankful for the friends that I have met down here.  They are great people!

Antarctic Search & Rescue

I applied to be on the Antarctic Search and Rescue team (SAR) and I was accepted!  I am so excited!  I have participated in searches and rescues in Colorado, but never as part of an actual SAR team.  Most of the others on the team have much higher skill sets with regard to SARs, so I am looking forward to learning a lot from them throughout the season.

We will be meeting on Thursdays to do training instead of our normal job functions.  In fact we will be doing about 100+ hours of training with opportunities to do much of it outdoors.  Some of the things we are doing are crevasse training and rescues, mountaineering, high angle rescues, roping, belaying, and so much more.

The SAR team is actually a joint team with the Kiwi station, so a lot of the training will be working with them too.  We can be called up anytime there is an accident anywhere on the continent.  This is an incredible opportunity and I will keep you all posted on the things we will training for.