It takes a lot of people to keep McMurdo Station running. Everyone’s job is critical in this process, no matter what they do. Humans are not meant to survive in this place so we need shelter, special clothing, power, drinkable water, reliable transportation, etc. We rely on each other to keep things working and to stay alive. A lot of these jobs are not glamorous, yet they are done by really awesome people. They say McMurdo has more graduate students doing dishes than any place on earth. Where am I going with this you ask? Well, most people never get to leave McMurdo in the course of their jobs… in fact some never leave their building! The NSF and station management have outings or “morale trips” to ensure people get a chance to get out and see something off the station.
One of these trips is via snowmobiles to a place called “Room with a View” which is located on the flank of Mt Erebus. Since I am the Snowmobile Instructor, I had the pleasure of leading these trips and training the other guides. This is something I take very seriously as Antarctica can be extremely dangerous and conditions can change in a moments. Whiteouts can blind you and you can’t even tell which way is up. Crevasses can swallow you. Temperatures can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and death very quickly if you can’t seek shelter. Normally we don’t go outside if conditions are really bad, but sometimes weather moves in before you can get back to station. Because of that we keep “survival bags” with us at all times when off base. We also have very strict checkout procedures so that a search team can be called upon even if someone misses a check-in by a few minutes. I’m happy to say that I kept all my students safe all season.
Looking down the Erebus Glacier Tongue in the frozen Ross Sea. The glacier tongue is where the glacier leaves land and is literally floating in the sea. The tongue floats out into the Ross Sea about 7+ miles. A couple years ago a 2 mile section of the tongue broke off and floated away when the annual ice melted. In the background you can see the Royal Society Mountain Range. The islands are Tent Island and Razorback from left to right.
This picture is looking down the peninsula with Mt. Discovery in the left background. The US Antarctic base McMurdo Station, and the New Zealand Scott Base are located at the end of the peninsula. On the left side of the peninsula is the Ross Ice Shelf, and on the right side is the Ross Sea. This is one of the most southern areas accessible by ship which is why Robert Falcon Scott chose this location for his Discovery Hut.
Cracks and crevasses in the snow on the side of Mt Erebus. These cracks are deceiving… they are actually large enough to swallow a house… and who knows how deep. The are opened up by snow/glaciers moving down Erebus and flowing over the uneven terrain below.
More crevasses in the side of Mt. Erebus. This side of Erebus is very deadly and not safe to travel on. The safer route up the volcano is on the opposite side.
Looking across the Ross Ice Shelf near Windless Bight. It’s definitely not windless though… The winds can actually blow at hurricane forces out here. Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, driest, and highest mean elevation continent on Earth. The snow/ice just keeps going and going and going. Distances are very deceiving and are actually much further than they appear. This part of the ice shelf moves up to 400 ft per year.
A storm moving in quickly on Room with a View. When it hit you couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.
A group cartwheel session on the route to “Room With A View”. I am on the far right in the blue jacket. This pic was taken on my birthday which is why I’m wearing the Birthday Boy cape!
Me in my birthday cape. I tried to fly, but it didn’t work.