Mindy, Monday 3 August 2009
Weather: -40°C and 10 knot winds (N) = wind chill temperature of -60°C, slightly hazy
July 15th was a day of excitement. Ewan, the Scott Base Field Support Co-ordinator, announced that a short walk was now open on the sea ice in front of the base. This route marks the opening portion of the 8km-long Cape Armitage Loop (named after Lieutenant Albert Armitage, Scott’s second-in-command on his 1901 - 04 Discovery Expedition).
Having travelled most of the locally available recreational routes over the past 6 months, it’s exciting to think we may soon have access to this historic walk.
The Cape Armitage Loop runs around the southern end of Hut Point Peninsula. Throughout the winter the sea ice has been slowly reforming and safety guidelines mean it must be at least 0.75m thick to allow for travel. Now that conditions have been deemed acceptable, flags will be placed along the rest of the route to mark the way. Combined with skills and knowledge gained through our Antarctic field training, we can follow the flags and safely navigate our way over the sea ice from Scott Base to McMurdo Station.
Travelling over sea ice (or anywhere for that matter) in early 20th century Antarctica was much more of an unknown. Established routes were marked by cairns on the landscape or as lines on maps, but much was yet to be discovered, and one wrong footing in uncharted territory could find the explorers in a deep crevasse or falling through cracks in the sea ice.
During an average year it should be okay to travel the Cape Armitage Loop until mid-summer (with continual monitoring for safety) but our team won’t be here for much longer. If the stars align and our luck is good, the route will be ready before the summer conservators arrive in just over a month. Fingers crossed!