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Antarctic conservation

2 Posts tagged with the mcmurdo_sound tag
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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 6 October 2010
Temperature: -15C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 5:30am
Sunset 9:50pm

 

Sundays are our day off at New Zealand’s Scott Base, and, when the weather permits, these are the best days to set off on longer hikes.  There are a series of marked trails throughout the southern tip of Ross Island, one being a hike up to Observation Hill that Diana featured in previous blog, and another is called the Cape Armitage Loop.  Last Sunday, a friend and I walked the 8k trail that took us out in front of Scott Base, along a flagged route over the sea ice to the U.S. McMurdo Base.  It is an open and flat route that affords views of the distant Trans-Antarctic mountain range, and White and Black Islands, and follows along the back side of Observation Hill.

Trail Map.jpg
Trail System on the Southern Tip of Ross Island © AHT/Cricket


The trail is named after Albert Borlase Armitage, who joined R.F. Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition from the merchant service and served as Scott’s navigator and second-in-command.  Among other accomplishments, Armitage successfully led the Western Journey, becoming the first to ascend the Ferrar Glacier and reach the summit of Antarctica.  This was quite a feat considering that his party consisted of seaman who had little cold weather and no climbing experience.  One author said that before this journey, the highest any man from that party had ever climbed was up the mast of a ship.  Though likely an exaggeration, it serves as a helpful reminder that most of Scott’s men had never before experienced anything like the Antarctic terrain and climate.

View of McMurdo.JPG
View of McMurdo from Cape Armitage Loop © AHT/Cricket

 

Armitage’s Western Journey was quite difficult and the party suffered fierce blizzards, altitude sickness, and one even a heart attack.  Surprisingly, all survived and returned safely to the Discovery base camp.  Knowing a little of the history, I smile at the irony of the Cape Armitage Loop name, for the trek is a tranquil and relatively easy route that, as advertised, offers solitude and escape.  And, it conveniently ends near the coffee shop at McMurdo where you can sit back and have an easy rest of the day with a big mug of hot chocolate.
 

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Mindy                      August 4, 2010


Temperature:           -17.0°C
Wind Speed:           10 knots
Temp with wind chill: Approximately -30°C
Moonrise:                Below horizon
Moonset:                 Below horizon

 

When we arrived at Scott Base (New Zealand’s Antarctic research station) in February, pools of open water were everywhere.  It was hard not to notice the waters of McMurdo Sound through breaks in the ice.

 

Open waters of McMurdo Sound resized.jpg

The open waters of McMurdo Sound, as viewed from Observation Hill in March. When the sea ice freezes over,

the Cape Armitage Loop runs directly through this area.  © AHT / M. Bell

 

After months of winter, these pools have frozen over.  It is now possible to assess the potential for local travel over the sea ice.  Armed with flags, a GPS unit, measuring tapes, shovels, hot chocolate and a very large drill, we ventured out on to the sea ice.  With Tom, Scott Base winter manager, at the helm, we followed the Cape Armitage GPS route at a cautious pace.  Observing the landscape closely, we stopped to measure, assess and mark potential dangers like cracks in the sea ice.  We also stopped to determine the ice’s thickness at specific points along the route.

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Digging down through the snow to find the ice surface, with Observation Hill in the background.

© Antarctica New Zealand / T Arnold

Drilling into the ice resized.jpg

Drilling into the sea ice to determine its thickness

© Antarctica New Zealand / T Arnold

As a general rule, a minimum of 75 cm of ice is required for sea ice travel.  Measurements gathered from our trip suggest the portion of the route we surveyed is good to go.  When the route is completely profiled, the path of safe travel will be marked with flags and the fun can begin.  Me, I’m keen to get out for a good ski!