Scott Base is situated on Ross Island which is connected to the mainland by the Ross Ice Shelf. Before venturing out onto the ice shelf and go exploring we had to go through Antarctic Field Training. This is as exciting as it sounds, spending the night out on the snow in a polar explorer tent, which uses the same design as the original tents used for the early Antarctic expeditions.
After getting everything organised and briefing the team, we loaded up the Hagglund (an off road monster) out to our campsite to pitch the yellow triangles of tents. We were pitching our tents on the Ross Ice Shelf where the ice was approximately 300m thick. We spent the next few hours setting up camp and digging our kitchen in the most picturesque landscape imaginable. There are few places where everything in all directions is pure white, and we were being shadowed by Mt Erebus steaming away in our backyard.
There was not a wisp of wind in the air as we cooked dinner and had ourselves a merry feast of backcountry freeze-dried food and hot chocolate. This was camping at its finest! After dinner we went out for a Hagglund back country cruise, a short trip and a mild scramble to the top of Castle Rock to get 360o views of McMurdo Sound and the mountains. The view was simply stunning. Unfortunately, time was not on our side as it was already nearly 11pm at night and we had to get back into camp. Somehow, I lost track of time being out in the field and around 1am I went to take a nap and fell straight asleep despite the daylight. This is inside the tent at 1am with my new found roomie and friend Grant who is showing off his supreme selfie skills.
Travelling back, we had a short excursion on the sea ice outside Scott Base to see the Weddell seals with their pups. The seals come up in the cracks in the sea ice where the ice is pushed against the land causing pressure ridges. This provides the seals a safe place to sun bathe and raise their pups away from the dangers of the open water. The seal pups are amazingly cute and fluffy, this seal is about three days old and is still in the care of its mum.
Later this week we are doing the yearly maintenance on the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott. The sea ice out at Cape Royds isn’t stable enough to drive out to so we get to go in a helicopter to drop us off. I am already excited!
BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador 2017