One Day Back In September
I was able to post most of my most interesting photos from the field… with this major exception. One day back in September, before ARTEMIS was on station and before SIMPLE camp was fully established, John and I rode with Kevin and Gretchen to the ice edge to north of McMurdo. Kevin and Gretchen are plankton researchers who collect samples at the ice edge regularly. We took the opportunity to ride along with them to record the locations of the ice edge and nearby hazards in case they became relevant in an ARTEMIS “armageddon scenario”.
The sky was overcast in a slightly spooky way, but visibility was still good, and the terrain was breathtaking. We drove along the Cape Evans Route past the Dellbridge Islands, past an iceberg frozen into the sea ice, to the sea ice edge at the foot of Barne Glacier. The day was remarkable, but I didn’t get the chance to process the photos and put up a post until now.
At the ice edge, John and I were recording positions and Gretchen and Kevin were debating whether to deploy their sampling gear in the growing winds when three black dots appeared at a distant spot on the ice edge and began heading straight for us – Emperor Penguins. I took some photos as they approached us, looked at us and our Pisten Bully for a few minutes, and then moved along to other penguin business.
Before heading home, we looked east at the beautiful Barne Glacier – water that has been frozen solid for 2000 years (i.e. since the time of Christ) flowing down the slopes of Mt. Erebus and into the Ross Sea. The glacier ends in a mind-bending ice cliff with Weddell seals hauled out on the cracked sea ice at the bottom.
The Barne Glacier flows into the Ross Sea from the slopes of Mt. Erebus. The glacier dwarfs Gretchen’s Pisten Bully in this photo. Mt. Erebus is obscured by clouds in the background. (photo: Peter Kimball)
On the way home, we had to stop as a group of around 15 Emperor Penguins crossed the route, marching over the sea ice toward Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island.
Emperor Penguins march across sea ice, far from open water. (photo: Peter Kimball)
John sleeps in the back of the Pisten Bully, exhausted from an amazing day. (photo: Peter Kimball)
Reporting by Peter Kimball