17 November, 1999
The "tourist "side of being on Ross Island in Antarctica
While working on our presentations for the workshops and getting all of the schedules worked out, I have had a chance to do some walking on the sea ice, and ride in the Delta vehicle as well as the Terra bus. I have lots of interesting photos to share with you and will send them one at a time since I am limited to 1 meg per e-mail.
Yesterday evening I had a chance to ride in the Delta vehicle out to Cape Evans where the Scott hut is still standing and has been made into a memorial and is maintained by the New Zealand Historical Society. As I understand it, Scott built the hut as a place from which to launch the treck to the South Pole. The hut was used by other expeditions including the re-supply party for the ill-fated Shackelton expedition. The recreation department offers trips in the Delta vehicles that drive about 5-8 mph on the sea ice for the 20 miles to Cape Evans from McMurdo Station. The drive takes about an hour and a half as we bump along over cracks in the ice. If you look at the huge tires, then you will understand that they can drive over cracks that are no wider than a third of the width of the vehicle tires. It
was cold, clear, crisp and windy! With 12 warm bodies in the vehicle, the windows quickly frosted over requiring constant scraping with an ice scraper. When going out onto the Ross Sea ice, we took along the ECW gear and wore lots of warm clothing as well.
As we drove along the scenery was spectacular with excellent views of Mt.Erebus, an active volcano that spouts steam with regularity. It looks much like our very own volcano in the Seattle area. Several stops were made along the way to view wild life. I will send photos of Weddell seals, skua (looks like a large sea gull and is the only flying bird here) and a penguin (a shot that I did not take but a better photographer than I snapped). The group of about 20 people stayed at Cape Evans for several hours and we tried to imagine what it might be like living there. One historic group lost their lives here when the ship on which they arrived broke its ropes and drifted away leaving the group stranded. The ship's anchor is still there. As I walked up the hill and looked out over the frozen sea, it is easy to understand why they selected this beautiful place at the foot of Mt.Erebus as a safe shelter. After walking around for several hours inspecting rock formations, skeletal remains of penguins, seals, and dogs, all of which must have been meals for the people who lived here, it is hard to imagine what they must have been thinking about. The beauty is breath taking. So is the cold and wind. There is sadness mingled in with the beauty and enormous respect for the forces of nature.
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