Sea Ice Training

Yesterday I did Sea Ice Training. The purpose of this class is to learn how to profile cracks in the sea ice to determine if it’s safe to cross with the vehicle you are in. We went out to the Mt. Erebus glacier tongue. This is where the glacier pushes out into the Ross Sea ice several miles. It’s a very active crack area because the glacier is constantly pushing against the sea ice. One of the cracks we profiled was about 10 feet wide and had cracked and froze multiple times.

To profile a crack we carefully approach and examine the crack and shovel off snow to find the overall width of the crack. You can clearly see the different layers that form each time it breaks and the incoming water freezes. We then drill holes all the way across to determine how thick each layer is. The profile is used to determine whether it’s safe to cross. The thickness of the ice inside the crack and overall width are important factors to know whether you can cross it with a certain type of vehicle. Each vehicle has a different limit on thickness and crack width. It was actually really fun!

Me with Gretel, our trusty Hagglund.

Me with Gretel, our trusty Hagglund.

The ice drill we use to profile cracks in the sea ice.

The ice drill we use to profile cracks in the sea ice.

An active crack in the Ross Sea Ice that we profiled.  Mt. Erebus is in the background and you can see some faint steam venting at the top.

An active crack in the Ross Sea Ice that we profiled. Mt. Erebus is in the background and you can see some faint steam venting at the top.

Looking down the length of the crack in the Ross Sea Ice.  The crack was about 10ft wide.

Looking down the length of the crack in the Ross Sea Ice. The crack was about 10ft wide.

The crack profile and thickness of each layer across the crack.  This crack had broken about 5 times.  The most recent formed a pressure ridge at the center.

The crack profile and thickness of each layer across the crack. This crack had broken about 5 times. The most recent formed a pressure ridge at the center.

Weddell seals basking in the sun on the Ross Sea Ice.

Weddell seals basking in the sun on the Ross Sea Ice.

Weddell seal basking in front of Mt. Erebus.  Erebus is an active volcano with a lava lake in it's crater.

Weddell seal basking in front of Mt. Erebus. Erebus is an active volcano with a lava lake in it’s crater.

Our Hagglund on the Ross Sea Ice.

Our Hagglund on the Ross Sea Ice.

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Hike up Ob Hill at dusk.

The other night I hiked up Observation Hill (Ob Hill) during sunset. I went with my friend Dave Weimer, and Tyler Gilbertson. The sunsets at this time of year last for several hours and are amazing to see! Pretty soon the sun won’t be setting at all, and it will be daylight 24 hours a day. We are gaining about 15 minutes of daylight each day. The view down at McMurdo Station and the Trans Antarctic mountains across the Ross Sea Ice were very beautiful. It was a calm night which made the hike really nice.

Cross for RF Scott on top of Observation Hill at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Cross for RF Scott on top of Observation Hill at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Looking down at McMurdo Station at dusk.

Looking down at McMurdo Station at dusk.

Cross for R. F. Scott and the men that died on their attempt to be the first to get to the South Pole.

Cross for R. F. Scott and the men that died on their attempt to be the first to get to the South Pole.

Me on top of Ob Hill.  Mt Erebus is in the background.

Me on top of Ob Hill. Mt Erebus is in the background.

My friend Tyler on top of Ob Hill at McMurdo Station Antarctica

My friend Tyler on top of Ob Hill at McMurdo Station Antarctica