Origins ANTARCTICA, Scientific Journeys from McMurdo to the Pole
Ideas Tools Place Live Field Notes


by Paul Doherty and Noel Wanner


For the next eight hours we are reduced to hand signals and shouts to communicate. The hours pass, until one of the passengers points out the window: ice!

The Antarctic continent appears. Click for larger image.
  The pack ice of the South Polar Sea. Click for larger image.

Far below, the gray-black sea is dotted with white. From this height the ice looks like bits of styrofoam packing, though each block is the size of a football field. As we move deeper south, the ice covers more and more of the ocean's surface, and the individual pieces grow in size: as big as a city block, then as big as a small city, the ice moves in huge rafts and

blocks,with snaking crescents of open water-- this is the chaotic evidence of the Antarctic summer, the broken fragments of the great sea ice sheet that rings the continent, shaping and protecting its strange and fragile ecosystems. We are approaching the motherland of ice, where over 60 percent of the earth's fresh water is stored.


Video Producer Julie Konop arrives on The Ice. Click for larger image.


Finally, we land! The hatch opens, and brilliant white light streams in. Blinking and stiff, we hop down into the cold and the white. We've landed on an airstrip in the middle of the frozen McMurdo Sound, all around us are the mountains of Antarctica. We don't have much time to stare, though we could easily stand open mouthed at the immensity of this landscape. Our guides shepherd us into a personnel carrier with enormous balloon tires,and we're off, trundling across the road to McMurdo Station, which will be our home for the next six weeks.

We're exhausted and giddy all at once. Our exploration of this unique place will begin tomorrow--but first we have to get some sleep!

back field notes back
Origins Exploratorium ANTARCTICA


© Exploratorium