Hiking in Antarctica: Observation Hill, McMurdo Station.

I have been at McMurdo Station the US base in Antarctica for a few days now. The weather at the Australian base Casey where I will be spending the summer has been horrible so flights have not been able to land. Its been a little strange here, kind of ground hog day. Every morning we wake up at 0600 and meet in the foyer of the gym, where we have been sleeping on old army fold up beds and await to hear if we are flying or are we spending another day here. Today, again we are not flying so we decide to go exploring. We have seen this mountain behind our gym, named Observation Hill, so we chuck our survival gear on, gather our camera gear and off we go.

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Looking over the Ross Ice Shelf at the epic mountains

Its around -10c, hardly a cloud in the sky and just a slight breeze making it cold, the kind of cold where you think twice about taking your hands out of your warm gloves. We walk around the corner and see the mountain, it doesn’t look like to much trouble but I cant see a path up, is there a path or do we just scramble our way up? We pick a route that looks the easiest. The instant we pass the height of the buildings we get the Antarctic slap in the face, that is the wind chill, this is going to be cold. We reach a clearing and over near the edge I spot some old construction. On closer inspection i can see that this is the old location of the Nuclear Power Plant that the US had built back in the 60’s and 70’s. The only nuclear power plant that has operated in Antarctica. I found myself a little disappointed that there had even been a nuclear power plant in Antarctica but not surprised that it was run by the US.

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Stopping for a photo of a mate taking a photo

We continued the trek up the hill, i was completely amazed by the view of the mountain range and the huge expanse of the sea ice. I stopped many times for photo’s and to attempt to take it all in. I catch myself thinking “I am actually here in Antarctica”, it just doesn’t seem real, it was like i am on holiday, not here for work. I suppose at the moment it is like i am on holiday, we haven’t started our work life yet. The trek up started to get pretty steep and rather slippery. There still was no actual track other then some foot prints from those that have rushed up to the top. We were nearly there and the view every meter up became even more epic.

Then I got a glimpse of the cross on the summit of the hill. I new i was close and i quickly got myself up to the top to meet all the other Aussies, amazed out our view. We had an uninterrupted view of the magnificent Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano. It was so beautiful, there was smoke slowly flowing out of the mouth of this huge 3794m ancient monster which in 1979 sadly claimed a New Zealand Airlines aircraft. Once again I found myself collecting my thoughts, I was sitting atop a hill, looking over a active volcano in Antarctica. Is this really happening? I could of stayed up there for hours but my camera gear couldn’t, nether could my hands. I was still struggling to operate my camera’s with my gloves on so each time i took a photo i was taking off my gloves and my hands where freezing. My camera was almost flat, the batteries were really suffering in this temperature. I had experienced this before, in Siberia, China and even when I was snowboarding in Japan. I had learnt to carry your camera gear under all your jackets and close to your skin. You can get a little bit more out of your batteries if you chucked them in your armpits for a few minutes before attempting to take a photo. I looked down the hill and new the trek down was going to be a challenge. It was going to slippery and the loose rocks we passed on the way up were going to cause dramas with every footstep, but what a view, the trek was well worth it.

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The one and only Mt Erebus

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We make it to the top

 

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Taking in the view

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

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