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McMurdo Base

The US-base McMur­do is situa­ted far south in the Ross Sea on McMur­do Island, under the famous vol­ca­no Mount Ere­bus. The­re is not­hing such as a »nice« ant­ar­c­tic sta­ti­on, but the­se places are not meant to ser­ve aes­the­ti­cal pur­pu­ses, but sci­ence and logi­stics (yes, and poli­tics). But McMur­do is a shi­ning exam­p­le of ugli­ne­ss out-of-place was­te pro­ducts of civi­liza­ti­on on a sca­le that is unri­val­led else­whe­re in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. They say Ant­ar­c­ti­ca is a pris­ti­ne place. Not at McMur­do Base.

The place is a small town rather than a sta­ti­on, housing far more than 1000 peo­p­le during busy sum­mer sea­son, when fre­quent flights con­nect McMur­do to New Zea­land, Amund­sen-Scott Base at the South Pole and the Rus­si­an Vos­tok Sta­ti­on. The nea­rer sur­roun­dings are made acces­si­ble by immense vehic­les. The New Zea­land Scott Base is just 3 kilo­me­ters away, a road con­nects McMur­do and Scott Bases.

Part of McMurdo’s infra­struc­tu­re was a nuclear power plant that was in use from 1962 to 1972. After dis­mant­ling, it was moved to the US tog­e­ther with seve­ral thousand cubic meters of con­ta­mi­na­ted soil.

Visi­ting McMur­do Base will nor­mal­ly requi­re heli­c­op­ters due to the ice con­di­ti­ons in the area, and it is cer­tain­ly alway a very bureau­cra­tic pro­cess. They seem to belie­ve that peo­p­le who visit the place have never crossed a road or been insi­de a shop befo­re in their life. But if you have done some­thing like that else­whe­re, then you will also be able to sur­vi­ve the traf­fic in McMur­do. You won’t see a lot of sci­ence the­re, the inter­net is a much bet­ter place to learn about ant­ar­c­tic rese­arch than McMur­do unless you are invol­ved.

Nevert­hel­ess, it is in its very own way abso­lut­e­ly uni­que, no doubt about that. And abso­lut­e­ly worth the visit are Scott’s old hut at Hut Point, built and used during Scott’s first expe­di­ti­on, the Dis­co­very-expe­di­ti­on (1901-04). Get­ting to Hut Point is a mat­ter of a few minu­tes wal­king along the road from McMur­do Base. Ano­ther high­light ist the walk up to Obser­va­ti­on Hill on the other side of the base.

McMur­do-Base Pan­ora­mas


last modification: 2019-02-05 · copyright: Rolf Stange