Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Yesterday I was treated to a morale trip up the side of Mt. Erebus. You might remember from earlier posts that Mt. Erebus is an active volcano that is on the Ross Island, near Scott Base and McMurdo Station. It constantly emits a large plume of steam and smoke. Occasionally it will belch rocks. You can watch a live video from inside the Mt. Erebus crater at the MEVO website.
The trip started with a briefing on the outing at the Field Safety Training Program offices. Then we selected helmets to fit us. We then took a Hagglunds tracked transport from McMurdo to the Scott Base sea ice transition. The Hagglunds is a Swedish dual-cab, medium class, over snow vehicle. Six persons sat in the rear cab and four sat in the front cab. A minimum thickness of 50 cm of hard ice is required before a Hagglunds can be driven across sea ice. They are powered by turbo diesel engines driving four rubber tracks through an automatic transmission and transfer case.
Once there, we were briefed on the proper operation of the snow mobiles (Bombardier Ski Doos). Interestingly enough, at McMurdo these are called "snow machines" not snow mobiles. I don't know the history or reason behind this change.
We rode tandem on the snow machines. There were many bumps and hills that occasionally caused the snow machine to become airborne. We took a route from the sea ice transition up the side of Mt. Erebus until we reached a large dome-like clearing. There was a Scott tent set up and inside it there with a football and soccer ball to play with. The wind was ferocious, probably at about 35 - 50 kts. The view was the most impressive part.
There was a giant panorama in 360 degrees that showed Mts. Erebus, Terra Nova and Terror;
the glacier that runs down to meet the sea ice;
the back side of Castle Rock; across the Ross Sea to Black Island and White Island;
the Royal Society Mountains;
and finally out to the liquid open water of the Ross Sea.
I could see the path the ice breaker Odin cut and the fuel tanker just behind it bring us 5.5 million gallons of fuel – enough to last the station for the next 12 months. These last photos are of the fuel tanker waiting just outside our ice pier and the pier itself.
It was a delightful afternoon outing that really gave one the sense of enormity and grandeur that is Antarctica.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco is visiting Antarctica as part of his interest in global ecology and climate. Americans may remember that he is the son of Prince Ranier and American actress Grace Kelly.
Wednesday, January 14, he visited the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Thursday he visited McMurdo Station. He spoke with the assembled people in our dining hall at 7:15 pm. His comments were extemporaneous and unrehearsed. He spoke of his pride that Monaco is one of the signatories to the Antarctica Treaty, that the principality participates with Italy and France in other environmental issues and that his trip to both the Artic and Antarctic arose from his interest in the vital roles the poles play in global ecology and climate.
As you can see in this underexposed photo, he spoke to the crowd for about 15 minutes then he took a few questions from the audience. The questions were generic in quality as were the answers. He describes Monaco as a 2.2 square mile area with 33,000 residents, the majority of whom are not Monegasques (the name given to natives of Monaco....they are not Monicans). There are over 125 different nationalities living in Monaco where they receive over 4 million tourists annually. Prince Albert's grandfather was also a polar explorer, according to his remarks.
From McMurdo he travels to Antarctic bases of other countries: Concordia (France & Italy), Vostok (Russia), and Davis (Australia).