20 November, 2001
Nov 20th- Time Well Spent
Today was my first day off since I got here! I slept for twelve hours. It was wonderful! After lunch I decided to hike up Observation Hill. This is a 750 ft high volcanic cone that looks down on McMurdo. On this peak sits a cross that was put up on January 20, 1913 in memory of the five people who died on their way back from their quest for the South Pole. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was the leader of this long and arduous expedition. When he and his other teammates reached the pole, they were devastated to find a Norwegian flag already flying there. Roald Amundsen and his team had arrived there 33 days before them. With total disappointment, Scott's team had to begin their trek back to Ross Island where McMurdo Station sits today. All five members of the team died on their way back. The cross on top of Observation Hill was put there to honor them.
The inscription on the cross is from a poem called "Ulysses" by Tennyson. It says,
"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield."
Climbing up Observation Hill was refreshing. I was desperately in need of some physical activity and time alone. The solitude was wonderful. Atop the hill, I was deeply moved by the site of the cross up close. I felt like I was back in the days of the early polar explorers. I envisioned the men who erected this cross and the sadness that they brought with it. This was an incredible experience.
After the hike down I headed out to Hut Point, located near McMurdo Station. On one of Captain Scott's earlier expeditions, he and his team built a hut there. This hut is still standing and will be 100 years old this February! The structure is called "Discovery Hut". Many expeditions after Scott used the hut as they passed through. The Antarctic Heritage Trust is in charge of preserving this hut. Guided tours are offered on occasion. Hopefully while I am down here I will get a chance to actually go inside of it.
When I arrived at the hut, I was able to see inside though the windows. There were boxes with food and other items. There were clothes hanging and other objects that I couldn't make out. It looked really dirty. Apparently there is black soot all over the inside from when the explorers used seal blubber to cook with. Speaking of seals, outside of the hut sits a dead seal that has been preserved by the cold since the time of the explorers! It was sad to see, but amazing at the same time.
It was really eerie to see the hut and to look inside. I imagined the men sitting around trying to stay warm while discussing their plans for exploring Antarctica. There is a real sense of history here.
Before I left, I walked out to the edge of Hut Point where another cross stands. This one was put up in memory of Able Seaman George T. Vince who was a part of Scott's 1902 expedition. Vince died when he fell over an ice cliff into McMurdo Sound on March 11, 1902.
This day was invigorating! It felt great to do something totally different and by myself. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to visit these sites. This was a day that I will always remember!!
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