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Pictures & stories from Antartica - (Final) Part III

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[Here, I wrap up my Antarctic adventure...]

Now that I've safely arrived at the McMurdo's Ice Runway in the comfort of my Hercules...🙂....it's time to get real and reflect a bit on the (RL) dangers of a flight into Antarctica!

While the (RL) Antarctic pilot takes a last look back at Christchurch (or Punta Arenas), as the case maybe, and climbs up and heads "south“, it is the last look at civilization, greenery and vegetation he/she will see for months. Over the vast Southern Ocean, the flight will soon enter a PNR (or point-of-no-return) phase, after which the flight must be continued come hell or high water, as they say it, and if the weather at destination were to deteriorate, a landing on a clear patch on the Antarctic continent may have to be considered, until conditions improve. To this end, Antarctic survival equipment and survival rations are carried on board.

Imagine next the fact that as one approaches and nears Antarctica by air, the first thing one encounters are the massive (floating and moving) Ice Shelves, in particular, the Ross Ice Shelf, if approaching from the NZ/Christchurch side of the world headed to McMurdo(US) station (or the Ronne ice shelf, if approaching from the (opposite) SA/Punta Arenas side of the world headed to Rothera(UK) station). These are the two largest ice shelves surrounding Antarctica (the former about the size of France!). Once one is near/on it, adverse weather, along with blizzards and overcasts can cause whiteouts making it impossible to distinguish shadows, landmarks or the horizon, while the elevation of the ground ice deceptively and dangerously continues to rise from sea-level up to 15,000' in the interior mountains (recall the ~13000' Mt Erebus within 25 miles of McMurdo).

Pilots landing C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft on the sea ice runway (NZIR) report that the surface is stable, not unlike landing on concrete. The similarity with land bases ends, however, when the jet aircraft rolls to a stop. The nearly 200 tons weight of the plane, causes it to sink into the ice, albeit only a matter of inches. Therefore, as a safety measure, a laser light is trained on the aircraft to measure the settlement rate, and if the 10-inch red line is reached, the $200 million aircraft must be moved to a nearby (safe) location. The (newest) Phoenix runway (NZFX) is a unique landing strip. Unlike the ice runways, it's built using compressed snow technology, designed to be able to withstand roughly 60 heavy flights a year.

Then, there is the McMurdo–South Pole Highway (also called the South Pole Traverse), which is an approximately 1000-mile-long compacted snow road in Antarctica that links the McMurdo Station to the South Pole (Amundsen–Scott Station). It was constructed by leveling and compacting snow and filling in crevasses - a man-made engineering wonder. Professional drivers with their Caterpillar and Case Corp. tractors pull specialized sleds along this Polar Highway to deliver fuel and cargo to the South Pole Station in about 40 days. The cargo-haulers who use this route, not only have to take with them their food and provisioning for the 40-days of travel, but also their "living quarters" (insulated tiny "homes" so to speak) to set up at the end of each day's journey! Here is a curious fact: On December 27, 2013, Maria Leijerstam, became the first person in the world to cycle to the south pole, departing from the edge of Ross Ice Shelf, cycling along this Highway, and reaching the Pole after 10 days, 14 Hours and 56 minutes - gaining a Guinness World Record!

Now a bit of notes about the SIM images below:

  1. First few pictures show arrival scenes at the Ice Runway.
  2. From the Twin Otter's flightdeck, you see the mountains in the foreground, that lead up, along a (3 miles) recreation trail from McMurdo Station, to the famous Castle Rock (named so by Robert Scott).
  3. Notice the brave soul waiting (outside) to welcome me at McMurdo Station, hopefully!
  4. The blue building in the picture of Mac-Town holds the McMurdo general Store (Anything You Want In The Middle of Nowhere!).
  5. One image shows the Rwy markers. Runways, taxiways and aprons around Antarctica are (typically) not illuminated for the following reason: The glare of the snow makes it impossible to see them properly when on the ground. Black marker flags as used do a much better job there.
  6. Note the Case Corp. STX-450 Tractor, I found, standing alone in one of the stations. These are the kinds of truck that can be used for cargo-haul along the McMurdo-South Pole Highway.
  7. Notice the image of the scenic Patriot Hills, a curious line of rock hills 5 nautical miles long, and is a tourist attraction. Nearby is the blue ice runway, a wide and long airfield, with natural ice, so strong that it can support wheeled landings by heavy aircraft such as (C-130 and IL-76) there. I observed the lone IL-76 standing there (see image).
  8. The last 4 images, ending with the night shot of the town, belong to Rothera(UK) - probably the station in Antarctica with the most picturesque location! Located on a rocky cape peeking out from a massive glacier dotted with mountains to the west, it is surrounded by sea to all other directions. Notice the collection of Barrels (and Barrel Lamps) used for illumination at dark. Regarding Penguins, they are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, but the greatest concentrations are found on the Antarctic coasts and islands. There, at Rothera station, the lone (and curious) Penguin seems to be a comforting sight!

Hope you enjoy these images! Comments and notes are welcome!




















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John: Appreciated your kind comment!

And, folks, thanks, for the reactions!

Of course, thanks also go to my trusty friend, 1st Person BOB,...🙂...who arranged my unrestricted access to all nook and corners of the various stations...as long as I kept BOB on the level ground...(the Penguin encounter was worth it)...!

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***Excellent*** Please buy BOB a Scarf...I can feel The Chill from here!😁

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