Hiking and History
The majority of the participants in the US Antarctic Program do not get the opportunity to leave the area directly surrounding McMurdo Station. Safety is the number one priority, which is a good thing due to the remoteness of the town, so, with the exception of scientists and a few lucky people who’s jobs take them into the field, there are virtually no ways of getting out and exploring and seeing things such as mountain tops or wildlife, unless they wander into town. To help combat the boredom and restlessness that someone with a yearning for adventure experiences when they are surrounded by an amazingly beautiful, but off-limits wilderness, the National Science Foundation has allowed a few recreational trails to be made into the surrounding hills and they occasionally offer morale trips to visit some of the truly unique places. I have hiked a few of these trails and a new one that opened this year has become my favorite. The trail starts at the historic hut built by Scott in 1902 and follows a ridge along the sea ice past a few monuments dedicated to fallen explorers, along the edge of the specially protected (and off-limits) Arrival Heights area, across a snow field with great views of Mt. Erebus, past the ray dome, which is called the golf ball here, and back into town – A distance of about three miles. Although Scott’s hut is locked up, there are several interesting things to see around it including a mummified carcass of a seal that was going to be used as food by Scott and is still there. Where the trail runs along the sea ice, the wind is very strong and extremely cold. I had been warned to where face protection on this hike and I am glad I listened, because the never ceasing wind was so cold that by the end of the hike my water bottle had frozen nearly solid. I liked this trail, because at many points along the way there was no sign of McMurdo Station – It must have looked the same to the early explorers when they first arrived. Well, time to go to Happy Camper school!