15 October, 1996
In order to collect new species of invertebrates, Jim and Bill directed the dive team to an ecologically different site. This new site was at Cape Evans, which is at the base of an active volcano, Mount Erebus. It took two hours to drive across the sea ice in a heated spryte, using a sophisticated communication system to ensure our safety. Before the day was over we would have a better understanding of how much different it was for the first scientists and explorers that worked in Antarctica.
Our dive hut was about 200 yards from the spot where Robert Scott set out in an attempt to become the first person to reach the South Pole. In 1911, Scott and his crew, along with 19 Siberian ponies and 34 dogs landed at Cape Evans and constructed a hut that still remains. In October of that year an expedition of sixteen left the hut for the pole. On January 12th 1912, Scott and three others reached the South Pole only to find that a Norwegian team, lead by Roald Amundsen, had arrived three weeks before them. Weakened and with few supplies, the defeated team unsuccessfully attempted to return. Their frozen bodies were found almost a year later within eleven miles of one of their supply camps. After finding the bodies of their comrades, the remaining crew closed the camp and returned to New Zealand.
After our science operations were completed we decided to explore the hut. When we opened the door to the darkened building, we entered into the stables where the ponies and dogs had been kept. We found bales of hay in the stalls, a box of penguin eggs, an open box of biscuits, and tins of cheese. For eighty-four years the cold dry climate had preserved everything just as the early explorers had left it on their departure. There were boxes and bottles of food, clothing, and scientific equipment. Outside there was the skeleton of a dog, its collar still around the neck, chained to a rock. I had a feeling that the men had left the building on a work expedition and would be returning at any time.
When Bill came into the hut he was carrying a bottle that he found on the ocean bottom during a dive earlier in the day. We noticed a similar vinegar bottle was on one of the shelves in the food pantry. He quietly left the bottle in the hut where it originated. The Antarctic Conservation Act prohibits the collection of artifacts. The people here seem to have an appreciation for the fragility and beauty of this environment and take its conservation very seriously.
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