Today we are invited by the Kiwi’s to visit the incredibly beautiful and absolutely amazing Pressure Ridge Field right next to New Zealand’s Scott Base. Scott Base was named after Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Royal Navy. Captan Scott lead two expeditions to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.
Scott Base is located at Pram Point on the Ross Island near the most active volcano in Antarctica, and the location of the 1979 Air New Zealand disaster where Flight 901, a DC-10 crashed instantly killing all 257 people on board.
As we walk towards Scott base we get our first view of the pressure ridge field. From our high vantage point I am unaware of the size of these ice formations but I can see that they extend in a wave like form from where the sea ice of the Ross Ice Shelf in McMurdo Sound meets the shore line. We meet at the Kiwi base recreation office and receive instructions to follow our Field Training Officers (FTO) every step. We are briefed on the dangers of the field and what to expect to see. Stay between the flags, do not stray from the marked paths, keep away from the black flags and do not approach the seals. So with our ice picks and cameras in hand we wander into the extraordinary Pressure Ridge Field.
The first thing I notice is that it is much colder out here. This quickly makes sense, we are standing on frozen sea water, there are no hills around us to stop the wind and we are in Antarctica! I quickly cover up any exposed skin and start taking heaps of photos and video. I soon realise that my camera gear is really struggling with the cold and my batteries are going flat very quickly.
The Pressure Ridges develop here because the McMurdo Ice Shelf is pushing and squeezing the sea ice against the Hut Point Peninsula. The ice cracks, forcing these jagged pieces of ice to push up and forming these very interesting formations.
We approach our first giant piece of jagged ice towering out of the sea ice, it has all these shades of deep blues through it. The sun reflex the ice crystals it is just magnificent to see. I never new there were so many different shades of blue. I continue being completely overwhelmed that I am not only here in Antarctica, but that I am getting to see all these incredible places and having all these incredible experiences. I look up at this point and I can see Mt Erebus, with some smoke coming from the crater, I can see the Wind Turbines spinning, I can see the mountain ridge on the other side of McMurdo Sound, I can see Scott Base and I can see this vast expanse of sea ice, extending right to the horizon.
Soon we reach the seals, We had been informed that there were a few Weddel Seals hanging out and that one just had a pup. We couldn’t get to close to these incredible creatures, but it was pretty amazing to see these massive animals this close in the wildest of wild places. They lay still, almost just chilling out, catching the antarctic sun, only moving to have a scratch or to see what all the fuss is about. They choose to hang out here as they are safe to pup, away from Predators such as Killer Whales and Leopard Seals.
As we exit the field and are about to walk back onto land I see my very first crevasse, be it only a very little one. It was pretty cool to look down a crack in the ice and not really see the bottom. These can be huge and are very dangerous. They can easily be covered by a snow bridge, completely covering the fact that they are there. I eye opener to what I will need to be aware of whilst I am in this wild continent.
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