It’s warmed up here at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, so warm that the sea ice runway recently closed for airplane traffic for the season. So the view from town center out to Hut Point Peninsula isn’t littered with the sight of mobile runway structures, fueling pits, and machines. It’s a beautiful wide-open space, looking like this—if a camera can do it justice:
Hut Point is so named because Robert F. Scott and his team built a hut here on their 1901 Discovery Expedition to Antarctica. Scott is perhaps best known for his legendary and fateful attempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole. After wintering in the hut at Hut Point on Ross Island, Scott and his men set out for the pole (the hut is in a shadow in the lower right of the above photo). Scott’s team did reach the South Pole, but Norwegian Amundsen’s team beat him by a month—and then all of Scott’s team tragically died on their return journey.
The cross that now sits on the top of Hut Point doesn’t commemorate Scott—but one of his expedition members, George T. Vince, who was the first known man to lose his life in McMurdo Sound. While wearing fur-soled boots, Vince slipped in a storm and fell over some cliffs into the icy waters below.
Antarctica can still be a dangerous place, but I more often think of the beauty here than of the killer storms and killer whales. It’s regularly between 25° F and 40° F these days, so even though incoming planes can’t land on the thin sea ice, they’re still able to land further in on the ice shelf, which is also a fantastic place to ski all day—or night—in the summer sun.