Landscape: Open Water at McMurdo Sound

Two nights ago, I sheltered myself from the wind at Robert Falcon Scott’s historic Discovery Expedition hut and looked out on open water at McMurdo Sound.

Scott’s hut remains here on Ross Island, Antarctica tucked on the inside of Hut Point Peninsula (named, of course, after Scott’s hut). A frozen seal carcass remains outside the front door, and rations are still stocked on the shelves inside.

I stepped out of the hut’s shelter and walked to the top of the peninsula to see something very rare here: water, in its liquid form.

Ross Island is normally surrounded by sea ice that webs it to the coast of Antarctica, but an icebreaking vessel arrived here a few weeks ago to break a channel through the ice so that McMurdo Station could receive an annual cargo re-supply vessel. Sometimes the channel freezes over as soon as the cargo vessel departs, but high winds blew ice out of the channel and broke it wide-open.

Gray skies over McMurdo Sound gave the scene and eerily calm feel, and turquoise ice pools scattered around made the place seem more otherworldly than usual.

Science research vessel Nathanial B. Palmer is tethered to the ice pier, but as soon as it departs, no ships will dock here until next January.

In the meantime, a population of 150 people will winter-over at McMurdo station. They’ll watch this open water freeze solid within the next few weeks. And then they’ll watch long sunsets splash wild colors across the sky, followed by four months of darkness and a night sky full of stars.


2 responses to “Landscape: Open Water at McMurdo Sound

  1. Hi Traci!

    Sorry we didn’t get a chance to pay you back for drinks….pesky earthquake getting in the way and all. Hope you are safely on your way elsewhere.

    See you next season and good luck with your off-the-grid endeavors. I look forward to seeing you (and paying you back) next season!


  2. Katie Simonelli

    Hi Traci!
    Really enjoying your updates and photographs of Antarctica! Glad you are having lots of time to write and explore! Kate

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