3 December, 1999
Mt Erebus is a remarkable volcano with many faces. It was named by James Ross who first sighted the mountain, Jan 27,1841. Ross named it after his ship, the Erebus, which in Greek mythology was the “gateway to hell” It was first climbed by the men of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition in 1908. They used home made crampons attached to their boots made from reindeer skins. From the ship anchored at Ross Island, they pulled a sledge with supplies for three days up the icy slopes then abandon the sledge and hand carried only the most essential things. That third night a storm raged and for 30 hours they lay in their sleeping bags at 2650m out in the open. Finally on the 6th day March 10, 1908 they reached the top and looked into the entrance to the volcano for the first time. What they saw in the crater was steam openings hissing and belching gases. ( See journal entry Dec. 7) The sulphur fumes were strong and below they could see a lava lake. They hurried back to the ship by sliding down the ice using their ice axes as brakes.
Mt Erebus is located on Ross Island at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. At the base of the volcano on the Island are two science stations, one run by Americans where we staged our efforts to get here, Mcmurdo Station. The other run by New Zealand is around the corner, Scott Base. The well known explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton both built huts on Ross Island at the base of Mt Erebus, and can still be visited today.
Mt Erebus is unique in that it is one of the few volcanoes on earth with a convecting lava lake. This means that the lake is out in the open and can be seen to churn and cycle bringing hot lave to the surface. On the day we visited the crater we saw several burps of lave come to the surface, as molten lava and gas were released from the earth’s churning molten magma. The lava is chemically unique in that it is an andesitic phonolite, as evidence by the profusion of beautiful and rare crystals strewn about the crater rim.
If you would like to learn more about Mt Erebus please visit the web page which is maintained by New Mexico Institute of Technology. <http://www.ees.nmt.edu/Geop/erebus.html>
This expedition, as well as the studies from the past 25 years, is run by professor Dr. Philip Kyle, on faculty at New Mexico Tech. To learn more about Dr. Kyle and his work visit his web page at: http://www.ees.nmt.edu/faculty/kyle.html
Mt Erebus has many faces. Every morning it surprises us with a new look. From our tents we can hear the explosions as lava is belched from the inside the crater. Please visit this web site frequently as I will add pictures whenever Erebus changes her mood.
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