My Bedroom in Antarctica

Do you live in an Igloo?

Would you believe thats a question I have actually been asked. I am certain is was intended as a joke, but it does raise a legitimate question about how we live down here. So I thought, I will do a series of short videos about our day to day life, to show what we do and how we live in the most isolated and extreme place on earth.

We live in a specially designed building which we call “The Red Shed”. The Red Shed is built on a system called AANBUS, Australian Antarctic Building System. The walls are almost 1 meter thick and are made up four pieces of freezer wall with an air gap in between. This is unique to the Australian Antarctic Program and is great at keeping us warm inside.

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The Red Shed Mawsom

My room is number 21 and I am on the top floor over looking East Arm and one of the Wind Turbines. Our rooms are quite small, which is fine as I spend most of my spare time in the communal living areas, like the bar, pool room, dog room and around the Dart board. We have all the creature comforts in our rooms like phones, internet connection, power outlets, and a comfy single bed. You would have seen in the video that I have a Humidifier, this is because Antarctica even with all this ice around is the driest place on earth. The Humidity outside is around 20% and inside the building can drop to as low as 10% making it quite difficult to sleep at night time, so a simple way to bring a little bit of humidity into my room is to have a humidifier. This one is real nice as I can add a few drops of essential oils, which is a great way to have a few nice smells around. As there are no plants other than the our Hydroponics room, or any natural smells, our sense of smell is heightened and we can smell the slightest change in the way the wind blows, blowing the smell of the diesel generators or even when the doctor is roasting his coffee beans, everyone all over station can smell them.

As you can see my room looks just like your room back home, however I do I have a few things that are unique to Antarctica. The “Normal, Caution, Danger, Stop” sign you sore, is our Field Travel Conditions guidelines. This outlines when you are allowed to go outside. Normal is basically fine weather and all travel is ok, Caution is visibility is less than 100m, and wind is up to 40knots, you are only allowed around station limits, Danger, visibility is less than 30m, winds are above 60knots. This is a blizzard and you need permission to go outside for urgent requirements only and STOP, it’s really, really bad out and no one is allowed outside.

I also have a few signs like The Mawson Station Search Zones, Fire Hydrant locations and Building and Structures. I need this for my roles as Electrician, Fire Chief and Emergency Response Team member. As we are so isolated, if anything like a fire, or someone goes missing, you can’t call the authorities, we are it, so we are our own emergency response.

I also have a few little things from home. My little Loch Ness Monsters, I bought them in Scotland in 2012, when my wife and I were on a road trip around the UK. They travel with us everywhere. The pink one is Crazy Ness and the blue one is Cool Ness. They sat on the dash board of the Kombi on the road trip across Australia. I also have some Tibetan Prayer Flags that I bought when I was in Nepal in 2014. The prayer flags remind me of the incredible spiritual journey I had through Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet in 2014.

So that is a run down on my room. I hope you enjoyed the video and the little insight into what life is like down here. If you have any questions about Antarctica, about what I am doing here, or about life down here, please ask in the comments and I will see if I can do a video on it for you.

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

ANTARCTICA: Aurora Australis Timelapse 2016

It is late and I am walking back from the Power House, there is a slight Aurora happening so I grab my camera, what happened next was out of this world.

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The Aurora starting to take form

Its the 1st of May 2016 at 830pm, I am walking back from the Mawson Power house, I slight Aurora is appearing in the night sky, nothing special, but its there. So I thought this might be a good chance to practice my Aurora Timelapse. I have never taken a timelapse of an Aurora before, or used my new timer remote, but tonight is the night.

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Aurora over Mawson

Its a little windy tonight so i set the camera up in the shelter of the “Red Shed” (living quarters) and face towards the ANARESAT, that big golf ball looking thing. To my suprise, this is when the sky decides to go crazy and show me one of the most epic Aurora’s I have ever seen.

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Aurora over Mawson Station

I was hoping for a return of the great Aurora the next night, and was not disappointed, infact, the next night was even more incredible.

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Aurora over Wombat

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport. You can follow the adventure by simply clicking on the follow button at the bottom of your screen or on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Beme.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Shipwrecked in Antarctica

Outside my window, the wind is pumping 130kmp/h, then I hear the loud scream of the SAR Alarm. I grab my survival bag and head to the mess, the primary muster point. That is where I am informed that the Aurora Australis, Australia’s Ice-Breaker has broken its moorings and run aground in Horseshoe Harbour. This is going to be a long day.

The local time is 9:15am (3:15pm AEDT) on Wednesday the 24th February 2016. Mother nature is showing us how much power an Antarctic blizzard has, sustained winds of 130kmp/h and zero visibility. You can hear the wind hitting the “Red Shed” (Living Quarters) the windows, they are pure white, you can’t see a thing out there. We all gather and our Station Leader Jen Wressel informs us that the “AA” has broken its moorings and run aground on West Arm. “The ship remains watertight, with no damage to the hull of the vessel”

The Aurora Australis departed Hobart on the 11th of January 2016 carrying 66 expeditioners and has been conducting marine science around the Kerguelen Plateau Region in the Southern Indian Ocean before arriving at Mawson Research Station on the 20th of February 2016 to conduct the Mawson Re-Supply.

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Aurora Australis on the Rocks

After the briefing the Field Training Officer who is also the Emergency Response Team Leader calls the ERT which I am a part of, to meet up stairs. We gather and discuss the options. We know that we can’t go out there now it is too dangerous, we also know that the crew on board are safe and that the ship remains water tight. So we gather all our ERT equipment and return in an hour. This goes on for a while, the weather is atrocious, and stays this way for 2 days.

The next day I managed to get the first image of the ship. It really looked battered, there were huge pieces of ice, frozen on the bright red iron, you could only just make out the tiny AA 2, the Aurora Australis’s little tug boat moored to the side of ship. It was strange to see the ship there. We new where it was, but the last time I had seen it, it was moored in the middle of the harbour.

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Aurora Australis Icebreaker

Blizzard conditions remained for 2 days, the crew on station were doing well, our concerns lay with those on the ship. We have been working hard and by this time we had laid plans for the crew aboard the AA to transfer to Mawson, when the weather conditions allowed. We have now been informed that there is a breach in the hull. It is only minor and in a section of the hull that normally holds ballast water. “This breach has occurred in an area of the ship that poses no risk to the stability of the vessel or of fuel leaking into the environment”.

The following day the weather lifted and we initiated our plans to transfer all expeditions from the AA to set foot on Antarctica. This was a real relief for the current team at Mawson and I am certain for the crew that have been aboard the AA since it left Hobart 7 weeks ago. We welcomed the AA crew to Mawson and escorted the new Mawson-ites up from the wharf to the warmth of the Red Shed.

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Aurora Australis Mawson

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Aurora Australis A ground at Mawson

On the 27th of February the ships crew managed to re-float the AA at 7:20pm AEDT (1;20pm Mawson time) using the ships ballast and work boats. The crew aboard the AA conducted a full assessment of the ships damage, whilst the AA stayed with in the vicinity of Mawson Station. This took 4 days to complete and on the 2 March the AA sailed, on its way to Fremantle in Western Australia.

The marine science expeditioners aboard the AA and the previous wintering crew remained at Mawson until the 2nd of March. They were transferred to Casey Station via the Japanese Ice-Breaker The Shirase, and onward to Hobart Australia on the 14th of March via a C-17A Globemaster III, operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The Shirase is operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (Japanese Navy) for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE)

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The AA Shipwrecked

It was an incredible experience, super challenging for everyone involved on so many levels. Mawson is designed to house 40 Expeditioners, during the grounding there were 80 people on station. This stressed the very small water producing capabilities meaning the entire station was on strict water restrictions. One, three minute shower every three days. The waste water treatment plant was well over capacity, however “Team Plumb” did an incredible job at keeping everything working well. There are only 42 rooms on station, which meant many people needed to share the very small rooms, some slept in the library and some in the “Dog Room”. There were many little things that popped up as well, we didn’t have enough chairs in the Mess for everyone to sit down for dinner, we needed to get more coffee mugs, plates, cutlery and glasses from “The Green Store” and the very small dish washer, well that was pretty much going all the time. Even with all this extra stress on the station, everyone got along great. It was great to have the scientist on station. In my field I tend to talk to other tradies, Electricians, Plumbers, Mechanics and Carpenters, so having someone from a field so far away from what I do was super interesting. I spent a lot of the time asking questions about their research and about their time at sea. I also found a new light on my trade. I don’t tend to see what I do interesting, the things that I do everyday for work are just work, however these were interesting to them. It was a mutual cross skilled interest in someone else’s life, something I really valued and something you just don’t get anywhere else other than here in Antarctica.

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Mawson and The AA

After this huge start to our season, the Mawson Wintering crew, the 69th ANARE had settled into station life and had built a community we are all proud to be a part of. This does happen usually but the challenging start, I felt helped it along. I look forward to what this season brings and I invite you to join me on this adventure. It will be a long year down here, there will be ups and downs, there will be incredible challenges and lifetime friendships. This is going to be one adventure I will never forget.

Thank you for stopping by Tatteredpassport, if you have liked this post, please SHARE with your family and friends. You can FOLLOW Tatteredpassport on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and BEME, or simply by clicking on the FOLLOW BUTTON at the bottom of your page.

One Life, One Search,
Peace Out,
Shane.

Flying south for the winter

Story and photographs by Shane Ness

Antarctica’s wild nature captures the world’s imagination. This white continent caught me and now I get to join a very unique club, for those few people who have wintered over in Antarctica.

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The AAD’s A319 at Wilkins Aerodrome

Australia has been a part of the Antarctic story for 100 years. Sir Douglas Mawson infamous expeditions in the 1930’s have led the way for decades of Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) expeditioners to work in this icy, remote, extreme and beautiful continent at the bottom of the world.

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Whoop Whoop Hercules

I remember the start of my Antarctic story. I was an apprentice electrician in the 2000’s. I heard that electricians could work in Antarctica, but I felt it was out of reach for your average bloke. Little did I know that 10 years later I would be writing this story from Mawson Station Antarctica, preparing to winter over.

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Vesfold Hills Davis

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Welcome To Davis

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Davis Street Sign

Why Antarctica? I get asked this all the time. For me it is a part of the adventure, I thrive on challenging myself. The Antarctic adventure is not just bout exploring far off lands, it is about the challenges of working in such an extreme environment. The challenges of living in a small community for 12 months and the challenges of being away from my loved ones. This is going to be my biggest challenge ever.

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Davis From The Air

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Ice Berge moving

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Pan Cake Ice

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Rumdoodle from the air

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Twin Otter @ Rumdoodle

Thank you for visiting tatteredpassport, if you have liked this post please share with your friends. You can also follow me by clicking on the “FOLLOW” button or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and BEME.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Mountain Biking Antarctica.

It is a beautiful summers day at Casey Station Antarctica, it’s a balmy zero degrees celsius, the sun is shining and not a breath of wind. A few of us decide to shoot a short film, a film to show our friends what we do in our spare time. We grab the stations mountain bikes and ride down to the rocky outcrop near the Wharf.

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Mountain Biking Antarctica

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport, I hope you have enjoyed this short film. If you have please LIKE and SHARE with your friends. I would love to have you SUBSCRIBE, you can  Follow Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and on this blog by simply clicking on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your screen.

I love hearing about your adventures, please write them in the comments below.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.


 

Exploring an Abandoned Antarctic Station: Wilks Station

Today a few of us are lucky enough to head “Off Station” on what we call a Jolly, (recreation tie off station). We jump in the IRB’s and head across the bay to the abandoned Wilks Station. Wilks was originally established by the U.S. on the on the 29th of January 1957 then handed over to Australia on the 7th of February 1959. Australia used the station until 1969 when the new Casey Station was occupied.

Wilks Station

Public Transport Antarctica style.

Once at Wilks we make the walk through the ruins of this unique part of Australia’s Antarctic heritage. You can see so many buildings completely buried in ice and snow, with just their roofs peaking through the surface. It was amazing to think that there used to be a complete working station here, now hidden below years of snow. We make it the hut that will be our home for the night, the famous Wilks Hilton. Its an old Transmitter hut and now acts as one of the favourite recreation huts for expeditioner’s from Casey. The hut oozes character and charm of yesteryear. We settle in and head out to explore the station.

Wilks Hilton

The lads at the Wilks Hilton

Wilks Station, Tattered Passport,

Abandoned Buildings

I could easily spends days walking around these old remains, it was just incredible to see parts of buildings that used to house expeditions back in the early days of Antarctic Research. It gave me a little insight into what it might have been like here back in the 60’s. Now days we have WiFi, phones, Radio comms back to Australia, ducted heating, we even have a spa. These expeditions back in the 60’s were made of much tougher fibre then any of us.

Wilks Station.

Supplies from a lifetime ago.

Wilks Station

Old Machinery left Behind

After many hours of exploring and deep discussions with my mates about how it might have been like to be here we sit down to watch the sunset over Casey. I had another Antarctic moment on that rocky outcrop. I am sitting here at an Abandoned Research Station in Antarctica, watching the sunset. How did I get here? How did a this bloke from the Girrawheen end up working as an Electrician in Antarctica?

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport. If you have enjoyed this post please hit the Like button, you can follow my adventures by simply clicking on the Follow button at the bottom of your screen. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Wilks Station

The Sunset i have ever seen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

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Stand By Me, The Meltdowns: Antarctica.

The Casey Winter Crew of 2013-2014 are about to head back home to Australia, so to send them off with a bang, the new incoming crew assemble a band and quickly put together a show for them. I would like to present to you “The Meltdowns”.

After a superb formal dinner prepared for us by the Casey Chief’s Eddie and Gareth, we were treated to a live performance of a bunch of great songs. Here is Stand By Me sung by Greg.

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NASA Base in Antarctica

Today we are invited out to see a very cool place, somewhere I would never have though that I would see, let alone see in Antarctica. We are invited to visit the NASA base situated on the sea ice out from McMurdo Station.

We arrive at the NASA base and I look around, I can see a few very tall sheds and few make shift “Nissans” these Dome style huts, and the huge Mount Erebus. We are guided inside and given a brief induction to the site. Then we head off in groups for a tour of the facility.

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Antarctica, NASA Base.

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NASA. Antarctica

I wont pretend to completely understand what these scientist were doing, I will let the video speak for it self. I will just say that in my non scientific understanding these scientist were looking for Neutrinos, which are the most tiny quantity, or particle ever imagined by a human being. They are also looking to figure out what happened in the first seconds after the big bang.

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https://youtu.be/iEX-dhReN24

I hope you enjoy the short film from my visit to NASA. Do you know about Neutrinos or are you a scientist that is looking into the very beginning of our world? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Maybe you could explain it all to me?

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post Like, Share and Follow. You an follow Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simply by clicking the Follow button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Exploring the Pressure Ridges: Antarctica

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.

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Scott Base, 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.

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Scott Base Pressure Ridge Field.

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.

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Scott Base Pressure Ridge Field.

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Ice Blues

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.

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Vast Expanse of Ross Ice Shelf

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.

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, if you have liked this post please Like, Share and Follow. You can follow Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simple by clicking the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane,

Flying from Tasmania to Antarctica.

Hobart Tasmania, Australia to McMurdo Station Antarctica.

Its 1:30am and we are sitting on the verge waiting for our bus to pick us up and take us to the famous Sapphire Lounge at the Hobart International Airport. For those of you that don’t know where Hobart Tasmania is, well its the little island state off the bottom of Australia. Tassie as us Aussie’s call it is a seriously beautiful location, with picturesque mountains and unusual to the rest of Australia it is very green. Tassie’s airport is very small, however tucked away in the corner is the Saffire Lounge, the international terminal. The only international flights that leave this airport are those that fly to most remote place on earth, Antarctica. Today I am one of those lucky few that get to not only visit this amazing continent, I get to live and work there for the summer season.

We board the AAD, (Australian Antarctic Division) A319 jet plane. I feel this sense of, is this really happening? Am I actually going to Antarctica? We are in the air, this is no ordinary flight, the cock pit is open, there are a bunch of seats in the middle of the aircraft that are missing, there are all these red bags everywhere, and everyone is chatting. Some are reminiscing of their previous expeditions, some are getting to know the other trades are some are just stunned into silence. As we settle at our cruising altitude we are able to move about the aircraft. Everyone seems to congregate in the large open area in the middle. This is so unusual, its like a lounge area, we sit down, chat amongst our selves, we have a few cups of coffee and eat our muffins. This is how air travel should be. I am asked if I wanted to have a look in the cock pit, “Um Yes!” So I walk up to the cock pit, I walk through the door and I am welcomed by the two chilled-out pilots. I sit down next to them and have a great chat. They point out a few things, like the pancake sea ice that is forming, a few small icebergs and a bunch of switches. It is amazing to look out the front window of an aircraft, then to look out and see sea ice, well it’s just breath taking.

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AAD A319

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Antarctic Pancake Ice

As we start our decent, we are instructed to start putting on our survival gear. Now its starts to get really hot. I have so many layers on, of hard core Antarctic survival clothes, but I am still inside the aircraft. I look outside and I can see huge expanse of sea ice, then I see mountain and I can actually see land. I can see Antarctica! We drop below the clouds and I can see the runway. Then we land. I am now on the Frozen Continent. I step off and I am struck by the freezing -17c. My glasses instantly freeze up, my camera lens fogs up and I can feel the hair inside my nostrils freeze. I know that I am here, I am standing on Antarctica. The airstrip at McMurdo is the Pegasus Field and it is on sea ice. It is incredible that the huge A319 Aircraft can land on the sea ice. We are quickly escorted to the infamous “Ivan The Terror Bus”. This huge all terrain people carrier vehicle that looks like something from a Mad Max film, for the very slow drive to McMurdo Station.

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McMurdo Station

Once at ‘Mc Town’ we are informed that we will be staying here for a few days, because of bad weather and that we will be sleeping in the gym. After setting up our camp we get to wander around the station and find our way to Scott’s Discovery Hut, and up on top of a nearby hill to have a look over the Ross Ice Shelf. There I get to see my first Seal, basking in the Antarctic sun. After our long day, we search out one of the two bars that McMurdo has and find ourselves the centre of attention. We play pool, learn a game of Shuffleboard, which has now become one of my favourite pub games, and as Aussies do, we have a few drinks.

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My First seal spotting in Antarctica

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Looking out over the Ross Ice Shelf.

As we leave the bar we are greeted by a perfect midnight sun. This is the first time that I have seen the midnight sun, it is out of this world beautiful. I have a moment and flip out a little. It is midnight and the sun is high in the sky, it is so bright I am forced to wear my sunnies. I am in Antarctica, it -17c, it’s midnight and the sun is shinning bright. This is going to be an EPIC summer.

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Antarctic Midnight sun.

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post please Like, Share and Follow. Simple click on the button at the bottom of your screen. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.