During the night, we reposition across the McMurdo Sound to Ross Island, aiming for Cape Evans on the foot of Mount Erebus. This is where Captain Scott had his hut built during his final expedition, with the famous ship Terra Nova.
There is not much to be seen of Mount Erebus today, its mighty silhouette remains hidden in the clouds today. The stiff southerly breeze brings somewhat mixed feelings, but at least the landing site is on the northern side of Cape Evans. Offshore winds are always good for Zodiac landings, or rather, at least not as bad as onshore winds.
It was a bit of an operation to get the Zodiacs ready. We, the guide team, board the first boat with some scepticism, to have a look at everything from waterlevel. The beach as such is fine, the peninsula gives nice shelter from wind and waves from this direction. Well, the beach is not the problem. And we are certainly willing to accept the Zodiac ride, which is long, wet and very, very cold. But the transition from the ship to the Zodiac is challenging in these conditions.
I observe it for a while, and as the Captain promises to use the ship to create a sheltered position at the gangway, I make a decision: let’s go. Keep a good eye on wind and weather and on the situation at the gangway, be ready to abort the operation at any time, and not too many people on shore at any one time, in case we need to get everybody back to the ship in a hurry. All these thoughts and some more go through my head in such a moment.
Soon, there are things to be done. The magical moment to open the door to Scott’s hut and enter the hallowed halls, where every board in the wall, every cup on the cupboard and every glass on the laboratory table still breathe the spirit of 1911.
Ice-encrusted yetis step out of the Zodiacs one by one. At the entrance to the hut, ice and snow are removed from clothes and sand and gravel from boots, and we have small groups entering the hut, while others take a little walk to the cross on Wind Vane Hill. The cross is a memorial for the three men of Shackleton’s Ross Sea party who were lost during the 1914-17 expedition with Aurora. Then we have Zodiacs circulating again, taking people back to the ship, most of them probably ready for a hot shower and a hot chocolate, and bringing others here who are keen to make the pilgrimage to this famous place.
Meanwhile, the ship is closer to the shore, making the Zodiac ride considerably shorter, and the wind has lost some strength. Things are getting a bit more relaxed, everything is working well. Finally, we can lock the door again and leave it all behind. After Taylor Valley yesterday, with Cape Evans we have been successful with another one of the big places in McMurdo Sound. (Click here for a virtual visit to Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans).
Gallery – Cape Evans – February 27th, 2017
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
Cape Royds is just some miles north of Cape Evans, but I watch conditions during the short crossing there with mixed feelings. The landing area is exposed to the south, into the wind. And as we are to see soon, the landing bay is full with ice. The low clouds prevent any tought of using helicopters to get us ashore. Today is not a day for Cape Royds, so we have to make do with a distant look at Shackleton’s Nimrod-hut. (Click here for a 360 degree panorama visit to Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds).
But leaving from Cape Royds relatively early was to give us one of the most beautiful evenings of the whole voyage. After a few hours we have reached the ice edge in the inner McMurdo Sound. The air is icy cold, but calm and clear. The evening light brings warm colours into the cold atmosphere. The ice edge is stretching miles and miles towards the horizon, which is crowned by the mighty silhouette of Mount Discovery and, a bit to the right, the endless chain of the Transantarctic Mountains. And in the water: orcas, orcas, orcas. Everywhere near the ice edge lows, suspiciously watched by small groups of Emperor and Adelie penguins every here and there. And we are in the middle of this amazing scenery. The evening will remain in our memories as one of the true highlights of this trip, as the whole day.