Hiking Around McMurdo

One of the nice parts about life in McMurdo (unlike Pole) is the outdoors. The weather is much more benign than at Pole, and there are stunning views and good hiking terrain right around the station. A few destinations from the early weeks…

Hut Point

An easy stroll from our dorms takes us to Hut Point Peninsula, location of a hut built by Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition in 1912. It was beautiful out the evening I arrived, so I met up with a few SPIDER folks for a stroll out to the peninsula (see a prior posting).

The hut itself is a historical site, and off-limits to hikers. Last time I was here it was cordoned off for restoration and I never got inside. But this season there was an open house a week or so after I arrived. We waited in the cold, and were allowed to walk through a few at a time.

A room within the Scott hut, preserved for the past 120 years

On another walk out in mid-December the sea ice had started to break up and form melt pools, some with seals frolicking inside.

Sea ice looking out from Hut Point, with cracks and melt pools visible.

Observation Hill

A rocky hill overlooking the station, with fantastic views down to McMurdo and out on to the sea ice. Steve, Riccardo, and I took a hike up there on a clear day. We encountered some visitors from Scott Base on the same hike, as well as a plaque commemorating the nuclear reactor that operated there in the 1960s.

View from the peak of Ob Hill, with Steve and Riccardo at left edge, three Kiwi hikers by the cross.
The view back to McMurdo from the top of Ob Hill.

Hut Point Ridge Loop

A walk over the windy ridge from Hut Point around to the back of town. A nice walk with Elle, Susan, Steve, and Simon.

Elle, Simon, Steve, and Susan, gazing at Mt. Erebus across a melt pool
A small sculpture by the road in town – and a reminder of why we’re here!

The Pressure Ridges

Our LDB Camp Manager, Rose McAdoo, took us on a tour of the pressure ridges near Scott Base. These are ridges of blue ice, forced up by collision between the sea ice and the permanent ice shelf. They’re huge, and incredibly striking.

Rose among the ridges
Tour guide Rose!
View of the pressure ridges, showing blue ice with mountains in the distance
Photo by Brian Bath

The pressure ridges are also full of Weddell seals. These mostly just lounge around like giant slugs, but we saw a few snuggling with pups. One actually prevented us from starting the tour! A seal was lounging across a choke point at the very beginning of the trail, at the one point we cannot go around. The Antarctic treaty forbids us from interacting with the animals… so we were stuck! In the end we took the tour loop in reverse, and thankfully the seal was gone by the time we got to the end so we didn’t have to go back the long way.

A Weddell seal
Photo by Brian Bath
A lounging Weddell seal, on its back with open mouth
Photo by Brian Bath
The LDB team at the pressure ridges. Photo by Brian Bath

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