10 January, 2001
The Ross glacier grinds its way down mountains towards the Ross Sea. As this glacier flows over various land contours and sometimes one side of the glacier peels away from the other creating a crevasse. This opening is wider at the top and narrows to the point where the two pieces of the glacier are still connected. These cracks in the glacier vary in depth from fifty feet to hundreds.
In order to allow individuals to get out enjoy and some recreational hiking the McMurdo Search and Rescue (SAR) Team maintains several marked trails. These trails are marked with green flags attached to bamboo poles, indicating the area within 30 feet of the poles, including poles, are safe. Anything outside of this zone is traveled at your own risk. Part of snow school lore is an incident that occurred three years ago. Three hikers were following the Castlerock trail. This trail winds its way around a rock outcropping, known as Castlerock, and then doubles back on itself. About midway the three adventurers became concerned about a storm forming and decided they would take a short cut to beat the storm. They would simply leave the trail they were following and cut across picking up the return trail. Dumb! Really dumb! Our three hikers soon found themselves in trouble when two of them broke through the surface snow and disappeared with a crevasse. The third member raced to Scott Base, Kiwi base, which was 1/2 mile from where his friends where. As bad luck would have it the McMurdo Search and Rescue (SAR) Team was training in the Dry Valleys. Putting together what rescue equipment they could find a rescue party returned to the trapped individuals.
The two individuals had fallen about one hundred feet. As if this wasn't enough, remember the physics rule that a falling body increases in speed, the two individual had picked up enough speed to drive themselves deeper into the narrowing crevasse. Wedging themselves so tight between the fractured glacier that all rescue attempts failed. The two bodies were recovered the following year.
To give us some sense of the danger and beauty a crevasse can present we were belayed into a crevasse. Check out the video click of this at the ali site.
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