Paul Doherty and Noel Wanner
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!
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
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.
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.
exhausted and giddy all at once. Our exploration of this unique
place will begin tomorrow--but first we have to get some sleep!