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Scaling the Castle

Posted by Conservators Sep 26, 2013

Yesterday evening the AHT team, along with a few other intrepid explorers under the guidance of the expert Mike Rowe, climbed Castle Rock, a prominent landmark on this peninsula which was often mentioned by the early explorers. Castle Rock is a reddish volcanic plug standing up sheer from the top of the ridge of the peninsula.

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Castle Rock prominent on the ridge line between Scott Base and Mt. Erebus © AHT/Josiah

 

We rode a Hagglund snow vehicle out about 3 miles to the base of the rock, then climbed around the side to the top in time to watch another fantastic sunset. The view from the top of the castle is stunning. The mighty volcanos Erebus and Terror, which form the backbone of Ross Island, dominate the eastern horizon.

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Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror from Castle Rock © AHT/Josiah

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The conservators atop the Castle © AHT/Josiah

 

To the south is the ice barrier and White and Black Islands. To the west, the ridge tapers off to where Scott Base and McMurdo sit on either side of Observation Hill on the edge of the frozen sea. Across that sea Discovery Peak dominates a jagged range of mountains and glaciers that hold back the ice of the Antarctic plateau. To the north, we looked toward Cape Evans where we will be spending most of our summer, and beyond it to distant Cape Royds where some open water is showing beyond the edge of the sea ice.

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Cape Evans, Cape Roys and Delbridge Islands © AHT/Josiah

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Sunset over the Royal Society Range © AHT/Josiah

 

As the sun abruptly set behind the western mountains this tableau turned to gold, to fuchsia, and to plum.

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Mt. Erebus as the sun sets © AHT/Josiah

The ever whistling wind stung our cheeks and noses but it was hard to tear ourselves away from the spectacular view to hike back down to the Hagglund to return to our comfortable Scott Base. I hope that we may find another opportunity to go up to Castle Rock, but as the days rapidly lengthen I doubt if we will have another chance to see a sunset from up there again this year.

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Catching the Hagglund home © AHT/Josiah

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Under Pressure

Posted by Conservators Sep 20, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 18 September 2013

Temperature: -21C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Sunrise: 7.10

Sunset: 18.30

 

 

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Heading for a walk amoung the pressure ridges © Josiah

 

The pond in the village where I grew up would occasionally freeze over in winter and, with my head filled with images of polar explorers, I always wanted to walk onto its thin, enticing shell of ice.  So, this evening it was a great thrill to be able to step from the land in front of Scott Base and onto the 2m thick sea ice.

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The moon rising above the jagged silhouttes of the broken ice © Nicola

 

I was heading out to explore the extraordinarily beautiful features known as the pressure ridges.  Formed as the ice is squashed up against the land during winter these jagged walls of ice are slowly forced up into strange, distorted, awe-inspiring shapes. As the tide rises puddles of sea water appear around their base then freeze into ponds of blue ice. The shapes are never static, and over the coming months they will gradually change; fracturing, splitting and sagging under their own weight.

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A jumble of fractured sea ice and frozen ponds with Mount Erebus behind © Nicola

 

I carefully followed the safe flagged route, probing the snow in front of me with a pole, checking for new cracks in the ice. In the gloom as the sun went down I was confronted with two massive dark shapes – seals. During the summer hundreds will make their way through the cracks around the pressure ridges and come up for air. I left them peacefully relaxing on the ice and headed back to the base.

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Seals lying on the ice amoung the pressure ridge walk © Nicola

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Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 10 September 2013

Temperature: -36.7C

Wind Speed: 8 knots

Temp with wind chill: Approx -50C

Sunrise: Around 8am

Sunset: Around 4.30pm

 

 

Greetings. This is my first trip to Antarctica so it is an all new land of wonder for me. Nicola and I joined the AHT team on the Ice just a week ago and will be taking over the blogging duties from here. We were most fortunate on our flight down to have clear skies and a plane with plenty of windows for a fabulous view.

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Sea ice from the plane

 

We crossed sea ice about half way from New Zealand.

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The Antarctic coast

 

and had our first view of the coast of Antarctica an hour or so later.

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The Victory Mountains


We passed over the spectacular Victory Mountains,

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Ross Island and the Ice


and after about 4 hours of flying had our first look at Ross Island, our home for the next 5 months. The broken pack ice meets the more stable sea ice which in turn meets the massive continental shelf ice around Ross Island.

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Arrival!


We landed on a runway scraped in the unending flat sheet of the continental ice and set foot on the Last Continent, a vast, surreal, frozen landscape, an entire continent to which no human has ever been native. We are here to tend the few fragile threads that link us to the very first people ever to inhabit this remotest of lands. But like them we will be here for only a short time before returning whence we came, leaving this continent where the icy land, sea, and sky reign majestically uncaring of the few people who come and go upon the surface.

I feel that a good adventure has begun.

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Author: Sue

 

 

We all know there are no bears in Antarctica, despite some early maps of the continent having vignettes showing polar bears here. But there’s one little chap with a very adventurous spirit who’d like to set the record straight.

 

In 1993 my childhood teddy bear, Bambino, took a trip to Antarctica … wintered-over here, in fact. I was working at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney at the time and sponsored my bear—whom I’d had since birth—to sail to Antarctica with a couple of hundred other brave bears under the capable leadership of inspirational Australian adventurers Don and Margie McIntyre. Newsletters recounting Bambino’s exciting adventures on the high seas and the ice were duly received as Bambino weathered the storms and rode out the long, cold, dark, windy months. He returned home some time later, none the worse for wear, with proud photos alongside penguins and outside an explorer’s hut. I paid his bear fare—all funds raised went to support the Camperdown Children’s Hospital in Sydney—and a good time was reportedly had by all.

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Bambino gives a wave as he mingles with a colony of Emperor penguins, 1993

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Group excursion to Mawson’s hut, 1993 (Bambino circled)

 

And so when Bambino learned I was planning to winter-over here with the Antarctic Heritage Trust this year, 20 years later, his paw shot up in an instant (although I can't help but notice that it's always up!) and he insisted on tagging along.

 

Appropriately attired and excited by the return of some semi-daylight to the continent this week, the forever-young Bambino was spotted out surfing some snow drifts around Scott Base. (And I’m not really a teddy-bear person at all, but it’s a cute little story.)

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Bambino surfs some drifts at Scott Base, 2013