December 6, 2018 Last evening was quite a spectacular and amazing experience. I went on tour of the pressure ridges, just off of the coast, near New Zealand’s Scott Base. Here the local sea ice contacts the thicker ice of the Ross Ice Shelf. The force of this interaction causes the thinner sea ice to buckle, uplifting and down-thrusting a thin section of the ice. This dynamic event allows portions of the ice to nearly open up, creating entry points for the local Weddell seals to utilize. We were able to watch at least a dozen seals laying on the ice. Their large sizes were overwhelming, some of them possibly weighing up to half of a ton. We kept our distance to avoid disturbing them, but were still able to get a good look. By far, the highlight of the trip was seeing a baby seal laying with its mother. With the trip starting at 9pm, it made for quite a late night but it was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thursday morning came quickly and so did our final training sessions by the staff here at McMurdo Station.
After completing training, John McBrine and I utilized our free time to explore Observation Hill and hike the three mile loop that circumvents it. The scenery was quite amazing, at least for John anyway, I was too busy staring down at the olivine xenolith bearing volcanic rocks beneath my feet. I’m not sure if I looked up more than twice during the entire hike. After our hike around Observation Hill, we met up with Sheridan and hiked down to Discovery Hut. This building was built in 1902 by R.F. Scott and the crew of the SY Discovery. It’s one of the highly protected areas near McMurdo Station, so we could walk up to it but did not dare to step inside. From Discovery Hut, we walked up and looked over the edge of Hut Point. To our amazement, there lied another group of Weddell seals, soaking up the McMurdo sunshine, just below us! After our adventuring was finished for the day, we hiked back up to the base and began preparing for our “shake down” trip tomorrow. We will be performing a mock camping exercise to help acquaint us with the daily activities out on the ice. Here we will set up camp, go over some final safety training and spend our first night out on the ice. The rest of the day’s activities will include dinner, and then some of us will be visiting Scott Base towards evening. It will be a great opportunity to see the New Zealand base and purchase some souvenirs from their store!
Until next time, Paul Scholar
-posted by Paul, with some minor editing by rph