1 February, 1999

1 February 1999

Eleven others and I left the Pole just before 2 PM in a Hercules craft. As we flew over the station, it appeared below as a silver

thumbtack on a white bulletin board. It occurred to me then just how remote our location was. The weather was beautiful for the 3 hr. flight back to Mc Murdo; much of the Transantarctic Mountain chain

was visible rising out of the sea of white that surrounded it.

The mountain range, the physical boundary between East and West Antarctica, stretches about 2900km (1800 mi.).

When at Mc Murdo, a handful of us toured the interior of Scott's Discovery hut at Hut Point, Ross Island. Between 1907-17, the hut provided shelter for the members of the Nimrod(Shackleton), Terra Nova (Scott) and Aurora(Mackintosh/Shackleton) expeditions during their exploration of the area following the Discovery party of 1901-4.

The ice breaking ships had left a large area around Hut Point as open water. When I was last in Mc Murdo, the fast, or bay ice had still covered all the water to the edge of the point. On the quiet,

northern side of the point, a pair of seals surfaced from under the fast. Their bodies were dark brown and their eyes and faces reminded me of a dog's.

On top of the fast ice, lay many Weddell seals, rarely moving their rotund bodies. Weddells have the distinction of being the most southerly dwelling mammals (except for us) and are great divers

(to depths of almost 200 feet). I watched one for a while until the seal finally agreed to look up for a photo.

The skua, a tough looking, gull-like bird also is a common sight

on the islands near the continent. One species lives on Antarctica, and some of these birds have been sighted at the pole! Members of the South Polar species prey upon penguins and other seabirds as well as krill. The skuas that I saw seemed interested in something at the water's edge. I later found two starfish lying on the ice where

the birds had been.


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A skua surveys the water's edge for a snack.

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