The beginning of the 19th century is known as the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration, a time when humans first stepped their foot on the polar regions and heroes were born. The race to the South Pole was fought between two explorers – the British Robert Falcon Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. As the superpower of that age, the United Kingdom envisioned itself as the natural leader in this race. However, even the best British minds had never seen Antarctica before… and designed a base for Scott’s Discovery expedition (his first attempt to reach the South Pole) that is even today unbearably cold and draughty, so much that the expedition members preferred to sleep on their ship. Useless verandas on three sides, insufficient insulation and an entrance on the windward side make Scott’s “Disco Hut” a monument for the UK’s least successful endeavor.
His rival Roald Amundsen
Captain Robert Falcon Scott
The hut was erected during the Discovery Expedition (1901 – 1904) by Captain Scott – who later lost the race to the South Pole (and with it his life) against the Roald Amundsen on the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition (1910 – 1913). Here are some of the student’s thoughts when they entered Discovery Hut:
- “I got an eerie feeling inside”, says Bjorn
- “The mummified seal is pretty cool”, says Anna, “and pretty groass”, says Ashley
- “The hut looks very uncomfortable and gives me a tingly feeling”, says Tayele
- “Walking through the hut is like stepping back in time”, says Olivia
- “The early explorers were real people”, says Simon
- “Tough !”, says Tasman
- “The smell is just very unique, something I’ve never smelled before”, says Rob, “they were twice the men that we are – and smell three times as bad”
The Discovery Hut
Impressions from inside the hut
The stove and “bed” in the background – looks pretty cold
The Antarctic Heritage Trust’s sign
A cross for an expedition member who died in the sea ice near Discovery Hut
Today was a sunny day outside, but we were freezing just after a couple of minutes inside the hut. It is hard to imagine how the early explorers must have suffered back in the day. Especially without all the fancy gear that we are equipped with !
What life is out there ? Today we went over to the nearby McMurdo station and spotted our first PENGUIN !!! Philip – the Adelie penguin – welcomed us at Hut Point. Until his best friend Steve – the Weddell seal – was spashing water at him before going for a dive with Mike – the Minke whale.
Our first penguin, sunbathing…
A weddell seal taking a deep breath
A Minke whale chasing a penguin
Even though Antarctica is an inhospitable environment for humans, life is plentyful above and under the ice. Around Ross Island thousands of penguins, seals, birds and even whales feed on these rich waters. It is our responsibility to protect this fragile ecosystem for future generations. However, we produce thousands of gallons waste-water every day while we are here. Chrissy – the waste-water plant manager at McMurdo station – filters this water and makes sure that our impact on the environment is minimalized. One of her helpers is “Winnie-the-Poo(h)-Bear”, is feeding on everything he can find in the waste-water. Micro-biology at his finest !
Bec explaining the wate-water treatment system
Here the clean water is given back to the ocean
Tasman double-checking the underwater camera
The final product of the waste-water treatment looks like soil and is shipped overseas for further treatment. The most interesting thing, however, is that tomato seeds in human waste can survive the treatment and even germinate in Antarctica ! I guess the students won’t eat any more tomatoes while we are here…
Tomatoes grown in Antarctica
Geetings from a very stunning night at Hut Point. We just returned from a late-night whale-spotting session near Captain Scott’s Discovery Hut. We saw Adelie penguins, Weddell seals and even Minke whales in the opean water just in front of us – and all that while the midnight sun was shining in bright orange colours… what an unforgetable experience !
no sunset at this time of the year
The midnight sun above Mt. Discovery
Students searching whales – successfully !!!
The students very much enjoyed our “night out” and I was impressed by how much they have learned about marine life in the Ross Sea. Some seals filter out small animals (Krill) through their teeth, while others even store fish for later !
Today we went on a trip to “Room with a view” – an exposed viewpoint which is high above our camp site. From here we could see glaciers and crevasses on the slopes of Mt. Erebus. Personally, I was most excited about having a closer look onto the Erebus Glacier Tongue (a large glacier flowing off Mt. Erebus and into the Ross Sea). In the distance, ice-bergs were floating in the open ocean as the chinese ice-breaker “Xuelong (Snow Dragon)” was breaking its way through the sea-ice to reach the nearby McMurdo station. The views from up here were overwhelming and made us realize once more, how important it is to protect this pristine environment for future generations.
see the 30 km long ice-berg in the background !!!
crevasses on Mt. Erebus
Today we dug snow pits, pulled ice cores and counted layers in the snow pack. This is important to measure snow accumulation at our campsite.
We also enjoyed a balmy evening and even a moment of sunbathing in Antarctica.
Today we summited castle rock, with temperatures down to -20 degrees.
From the top we could see the open ocean with icebergs on the horizon, The Erebus Glacier Tongue cascading down into the Ross Sea, and in the afternoon we found something in the ice… mysterious!
Greetings from our wonderful campsite from the McMurdo Ice-shelf.
We pitched our tents and dug the kitchen, now we are enjoying dinner with stunning views of Mount Erebus.