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30 November, 2003

Sunday in McMurdo: Snow Day and Discovery Hut

As I mentioned yesterday, Sunday is the one day that the majority of Antarctic workers have off. Since most employees work six days a week, Sunday is their one day to "play". It isn't uncommon to see groups of people heading off for a day of skiing, walking up Ob Hill, or relaxing in the lounges. We too took a day off from processing samples, which allowed me a little more time to get caught up on some of my journals.

Unfortunately, the weather is starting to deteriorate, so many of us stayed in doors. It started snowing late last night and hasn't stopped. The brown volcanic rock that makes up McMurdo is slowing being covered with wet, blowing snow. While one might think that snow in Antarctica would be a common sight, it really isn't; especially this time of year.

Despite the dreary weather, we took a quick walk over to Discovery Hut, located on the tip of Ross Island's Hut Point.

1. Discovery Hut. Built in 1902, Robert Falcon Scott used this hut during his first mission to Antarctica. During this expedition, Scott, a young Earnest Shackleton, and Edward Wilson set out for the South Pole. They got as far as 82 degrees south.

2. Dr. Connell and me outside of Discovery Hut.

3. This is a sleeping platform. Funny tidbit: Scottís men never ended up sleeping in this hut. Their boat, the Discovery, became frozen in the sea ice and ended up serving as their winter headquarters. Instead, it was only used for storage, entertainment, science experiments, and repair work. They nick named it The Royal Terror Theatre. Later in 1911, members of his Terra Nova expedition used it as an enroute shelter as they traveled to/from Cape Evans to the Ross Ice Shelf laying depots.

4. A hut with a view. Like many huts, this was also used during other Antarctic explorations. Shackletonís Nimrod expedition also used it in 1908 as an enroute shelter when they were traveling to and from Cape Royds (See my Nov. 22nd journal ), and members of his Ross Sea party also spent time in the hut in 1915 and 1916 while waiting for the sea ice to firm so they could return to the Cape Evans hut (see my Nov. 26th journal).

5. In this stove the men heated blubber in order to keep warm. The place still somewhat smells of burnt seal blubber and the interior of the hut is blackened with soot.

6. This hole was used for gravity experiments using a pendulum. Why would they need to cut a hole in the floor?

7. As you can see this is much more barren than the two other huts Iíve seen. This is partly because the hut is so close to McMurdo and people used to take things as souvenirs.

8. Vinceís Cross. This cross stands about 100m from the hut and is a memorial to George T. Vince, who fell to his death over an ice cliff into McMurdo Sound in 1902. He had been part of a sledging party who was setting out for Cape Crozier to change the message left there for their relief ship, The Morning. During their return, they encountered a blizzard near Castle Rock and Vince lost his footing. He was the first man to die in McMurdo Sound.

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