My Epic to Antarctica – The Cool Stuff

“Cool stuff”, see what I did there? Still writing on this trip of a lifetime.

You can catch up by reading the first, second, third and fourth posts.

Saved all the best stuff for the end. Today I’ll be giving you a tour of CAPT Scott’s original expedition hut, some penguins, and a pier made of ice.

We’ll start at Discovery Hut where the Terra Nova Expedition camped for two years. The structure was an Australian hut and designed to have a double roof to let heat rise in the Outback. Not a good design for Antarctica. To go inside, we needed one of the McMurdo staff who is deputized as a National Park Ranger. For the full story of Discovery Hut, read more here.

a building in the middle of a dry field a plaque on a rock

Everything inside is untouched for over 100 years. This was originally built in 1902 and abandoned for the last time in 1917. It was buried by snow until the American Navy came to set up McMurdo in 1956. It was excavated of all the snow and they were amazed to find how well preserved everything was.

a group of wooden boxes a group of wooden boxes and cans a room with wood walls and a wood floor a shelf with objects on it

Just like they were here yesterday. Warning the next photo might be disturbing for some. It shows the remains of seals killed for food and their oil was used for fuel. Still preserved since it only gets above 32 degrees about three days a year. There was a butchered seal on the floor of another room and the oil was still glistening like it was done yesterday.

animals in a room

a pile of dirty objects

a brick chimney in a room an old fashioned oil burner a metal bowls on a stone surface

I have had to live very primitively sometimes in the Army, but I cannot imagine suffering through this for two years!

The next sightseeing activity is George Vince’s Cross. An early explorer who supposedly was wearing new boots which didn’t fit him well. He slipped and fell into the water here and died. It is a very steep drop off.

Here is the hill from Discovery Hut.

a snowy hill with a cross on top

The view is spectacular!

a cross on a hill

From this hill I was able to see a small group of penguins. Note that this shot is from about 100 yards away. You should never get closer to the animals than this in order to safeguard them. I have seen some photos of tourists thinking this is a petting zoo and that is completely wrong.


penguins walking on a rocky hill penguins walking on snow

The next cool thing is something engineers like me geek out about. Remember an earlier post where I said the sea ice blows in and out daily? That makes building a concrete and steel pier extremely difficult plus it would require pretty significant disruption to the ocean bottom here. Years ago, an engineer came up with the idea of building a pier out of pure ice! This block of ice is about a football field long, half that in width and about 20 feet thick. It is allowed to bob up and down with the tide and connected to land by cables and a Bailey Bridge. The once a year supply ship comes in about January and offloads everything the base will need for the following year. from fuel to heavy equipment and preservable supplies. Greens and other fresh items come via the C-17s each week. You can see Discovery Hut and the Vince George Cross beyond that.

a landscape with a body of water and mountains in the background

a bridge over a river

So why is it covered in dirt? They spread a few inches of dirt over the surface to reduce melting. Since we were here in February, they are using a grader to scoop up all the dirt. Then during the winter, they will spray seawater on top and let it freeze to build back the few feet of ice lost to the summer sun.

a dirt field with a yellow vehicle in the foreground

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer.

a man standing in a rocky area



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