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Cape Royds

We made ano­t­her attempt last night to zodiac-land at Cape Royds, just to find out that Back­door Bay was still as much fil­led with brash ice as the day befo­re. So today was to be the day. We gave it an ear­ly morning start, drag­ged the heli­co­p­ters out and soon the air bus shut­tle ser­vice was in ope­ra­ti­on.

Cape Royds is at the foot of Mount Ere­bus, a very vol­ca­nic land­s­cape with some pecu­li­ar erra­tic boul­ders of gra­ni­te. A beau­ti­ful, if not slight­ly dark sce­ne­ry, which can be very grim at times of bad wea­ther, but just grand on a sun­ny day like this, and again Mount Ere­bus is loo­m­ing clear from any clouds abo­ve the site of our excur­si­on. Which is very appro­pria­te, as it is from here it was clim­bed for the first time ever, during the expe­di­ti­on we want to pay hom­mage to now.

The Nim­rod-expe­di­ti­on (1907-09) was the first one Shack­le­ton was in char­ge of hims­elf and cer­tain­ly his most suc­cess­ful one ever. He almost reached the South Pole. Wit­hin less than a hund­red miles from it he saw hims­elf for­ced to give up and turn around, „bet­ter a living don­key than a dead lion.“ As men­tio­ned, Ere­bus was clim­bed for the first time during the expe­di­ti­on and the south magne­tic pole was reached, some­thing James Clark Ross could only dream of in 1841.

The hut is smal­ler and less com­plex than Scott’s at Cape Evans. Tins are still stan­ding on the shel­ves. All men shared one room, only the Boss had a litt­le cubicle to hims­elf, which he wil­lin­g­ly gave to other expe­di­ti­on mem­bers who nee­ded time for reco­very. You can even find Shackleton’s signa­tu­re on a woo­den board.

Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds

Ade­lie pen­gu­ins are bree­ding a few hund­red metres away from the Nim­rod hut, they say it is the sou­thern­most one any­whe­re. May­be the­re are some more nes­ting at Cape Bar­ne, a good stone throw fur­ther south, I don’t know.

Our litt­le pre-bre­ak­fast excur­si­on is inde­ed short enough so we, the gui­des, just make it back in time for lunch. It always takes a while in the end, as the very last heli­co­p­ter can only land on the ship once the other one has been shut down, fold­ed tog­e­ther and sto­wed away. Heli­co­p­ter logistics are always qui­te an ope­ra­ti­on. But it was worth every minu­te. Even our pen­gu­in spe­cia­list col­league, not a polar histo­ry lun­a­tic or a Shack­le­ton grou­pie, agrees. Cape Royds would be worth a visit even without the his­to­ri­cal hut.

Mount Erebus

After an ear­ly start and a long morning out, it is a quiet after­noon on board as we are sai­ling nor­thwards, lea­ving McMur­do Sound behind. The few pre­cious days the­re are over for this time, as always too short, but spoi­led with ama­zin­gly good wea­ther. Mile after mile through calm, open water, with gre­at views of Ross Island with all 3 major peaks at the same time: Mount Ter­ror, Mount Bird and Mount Ere­bus, this famous trio of gla­cier-cove­r­ed vol­ca­noes. How often can you see them so beau­ti­ful­ly?

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last modification: 2015-02-18 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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