Thursday, February 23, 2012

Franklin Island and Scott Base

Highlights of Gary’s progress on the
Our Far South Expedition
February 23, 2012

Land Ho
Finally, after many days at sea, we anchored off the southern point of Franklin Island, where we made a rendezvous with the MV San Mateo which was in the Ross Sea carrying out some research on recruitment in the Toothfish fishery. We were also able to take a grab sample of the sea floor, while we were at anchor. Unfortunately, the bottom sediment is pretty coarse and we only managed to recover a sample of well-sorted volcanic pebbles – there’s obvious a fairly strong interaction with the bottom either from currents or large waves in a southerly blow. 

Before we left Franklin Island we were able to make a landing there despite the swell and breaking waves. There’s a large Adelle penguin colony on the Island but it was all but abandoned with only a few moulting birds remaining along with several sunbathing weddell seals. The evening saw the swell and wind drop away and glorious views of Ross Island from the north, as we tracked south and the sun set below Mount Morning. The colours of mounts Erebus and Discovery slowly changed from reds to orange to greens and we began to sea “grease” ice forming on the sea surface, which was formed into strange shapes as the ship pushed through it.

Hut Point Peninsula
Gary Wilson and Richard Levy at Scott Base
Hut Point is home to the United States McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. The sea ice has broken right out to McMurdo and at the moment the supply ship the MV Green Wave is tied up to the ice pier and offloading it’s annual resupply for the two research stations. Earlier the Fuel tanker had visited and restocked the fuel supply for the winter and next season. Staff from Scott Base met us and ferried us the 3 km “over the hill” to visit Scott Base – a first for many of the crew but a reunion with old friends for me as I was there only last December after undertaking fieldwork in the Skelton Neve. 

Scott Base is nearly in winter mode now with only a few of the Antarctica New Zealand staff remaining to fly north before the remaining crew settles in for the long Antarctic night and the task of repairs, servicing of vehicles and organizing of stores and supplies for the next field season which begins in a mere six months! Also in the winter crew are conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Trust who are preserving artifacts from the huts of Scott’s and Shackleton’s expeditions early last century. 

Our visit ashore concluded with a hike up Observation Hill where Scott’s men stood to look for his return across the ice shelf from his South Pole trek. Alas, he didn’t quite make it home and perished only 11 miles from one-ton depot, about a hundred miles from Ross Island. A cross stands atop observation hill erected to the men that never returned. It bears their names: Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans as well as a tribute, which reads “To Strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”.

Coming up….. historic huts

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