11 November, 1997
11 November 97
Condition III for all locations.
REGIONAL WEATHER SUMMARY...Developing light glacial outflow will dominate today. A trough will devlop along Siple Coast later today, and move across the Ross Ice Shelf.
TODAY...Mostly clear becoming mostly cloudy late in the afternoon. Visibility: Unrestricted.
Wind (knots): Southeast 12-18 gusts 25 becoming east during the afternoon.
High Temperature -05C/+23F Lowest Wind-chill -23C/-09F.
Wind (knots): East 10-15.
Low Temperature -08C/+18F Lowest Wind-chill -25C/-12F.
WEDNESDAY...Mostly cloudy with occasional blowing snow.
Visibility: Unrestricted, reduced 3 to 5 in blowing snow.
Wind (knots): East 10-15 increasing southeast 15-20 by mid-afternoon. High Temperature -06C/+21F Lowest Wind-chill -24C/-11F.
SCOTT BASE 24HR TEMPERATURE FORECAST
High Temperature -06C Low Temperature -10C
Next sunrise in February, 1998
YESTERDAY'S EXTREMES: 10 November, 1997
Maximum Temperature: -02C/+28F
Minimum Temperature: -07C/+20 F
Peak Wind: 56 Knots
Lowest wind chill: -30C/-22F
My day began at 4:45 AM. I needed to get up early in order to conduct two CU-SeeMe video conferences with parcticipating schools in the USA. The time differences meant a few adjustments to my alarm clock! Thanks to the dedication of the support staff at the Crary Lab we were able to have back-to-back sessions. It was quite a thrill to be able to see and talk to students so far away. I hope they learned as much about Antarctica as I did about video conferencing.
Myself and the other members of this research team spent the entire day in the field. The weather was some of the best I've seen since I've been in Antarctica. The sky was nearly cloudless and the sun was shinning . The temperature was near the freezing mark, which is quite warm for here. It was decided that we should do the Antarctic equivalent of a road trip.
We packed up a Spryte and set off over the frozen McMurdo Sound for Cape Royds Cape Royds is located on Ross Island further north than any place I've been to since I arrived here at the beginning of October. McMurdo Sound is no longer frozen at this point and is simply referred to as the "Ice Edge." The Ice edge is quite a different environment. A helicopter trip to the ice edge is scheduled for tomorrow. I hope the weather holds long enough for us to be able to do this.
Cape Royds is another very historic place. This is the place that Ernest Shackleton used as his base of operations for his Antarctic explorations. He vowed to return to Antarctica after being sent back to England with severe scurvy which he developed while a member of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's first Antarctic expedition in 1902-04. He returned leading his own expedition (1907-09) which was the first to reach the magnetic South Pole and fell 180 kilometers short of reaching the geographic pole.
Shackleton built a hut at Cape Royds at the base of Mt. Erebus. The hut still remains and is in remarkably good shape. Dr. Marsh was able to obtain the key to the hut and we were therefore able to go inside. I was surprised at just how much had been left behind when the expedition left. I experienced a strange feeling that I could sense what it may have been like for those heroic explorers. Even though it was a beautiful day the wind was very strong and one need to walk at a substantial angel when heading into the wind. These winds must have been incredible during the long cold winter.
A New Zealand photographer and guide were at the site. The photographer was filming for the PBS Nature series. The topic was "catabatic winds." I do not know what catabatic winds are, and have not had time to find out, but I understand that the series is scheduled to air in 1999. I certainly would pick this place to study wind since Cape Royds was one of the windiest places I've been.
After leaving Cape Royds we had lunch at the Barne Glacier. A group of Weddell seals had surfaced through the pressure cracks and were lying on the ice. We ate next to the glacier where it extends out into the sea after its journey down Mt. Erebus. The ice was a beautiful blue color and we chipped off bits so we could make drinks with 3000 year old ice.
Later we went to visit Scott's hut at Cape Evans and Dr. Marsh had been able to obtain the key to this hut as well. This was his base of operations for his expedition (1910-14) to the South Pole in which he and 4 others died on the return journey. Like Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds and Scott's Hut at Hut Point, which was built during his first expedition on the Discovery (1902-04), this hut was also remarkably well preserved. The sense of history I felt at Shackleton's hut was much stronger here. I have read a bit about this expedition and have come to know many of the individuals and what they did. While in the hut I sat at the table where they shared so many meals. I saw where each of them slept and the things they left behind. Some of the things I recall from my reading. I saw the stable where they kept the ponies, the chart table where Scott meticulously planned his journeys, the science lab, the darkroom, the stacks of blubber which were used for fuel, the stove and kitchen, and the many stacks of food and supplies left behind. It was though they had never left and were simply out in the field while we were visiting.
On the return to McMurdo we stopped at the Erebus Glacial Ice Tongue. There is a popular area at the glacier known as the "Ice Caves." These are areas where this floating glacier has developed crevasses and the sea water has flowed into he bottom portions then froze. A snow bridge formed over the top of the crevasse and the effect is like being in a network of caverns. Inside was a beautiful crystal world. When one looks up you can see crystalline patterns attached to the underside of the snow bridge high above. There are numerous chambers to explore. It also is a good way to get a sense of what the inside of a crevasse is like and how fragile the snow bridge is. From the top side it is often difficult to tell that there is a crevasse below. It is a completely different world below and one which has proved to be fatal to those who were not careful or were unlucky.
By the time we had returned to McMurdo it was after 9:00PM. I knew that the experiences of the day would remain with me for the rest of my life and I reflected on how fortunate I was to have experienced it.
Things to ponder:
Think about what it would be like if historic sites around mainland USA were left intact and unattended like these I have visited in Antarctica. Suppose all you had to do to visit a site was to ask someone for the key.
1. Do you think this would be a good policy or a bad one? Why?
2. Would you like it better with this type of policy or would you rather have admission, guides. and a souvenir shop? Why?
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