4.07.2008

Mount Erebus

Two snowmachines are dwarfed by the terminus of the Barnes Glacier, one of the many iceflows that roll off of the massive Mount Erebus (seen in the background). It stands at 12,447 feet in elevation and is the southern most active volcano in the world.



Looking west off the shoulder of Mt Erebus lies the sea ice edge and the Royal Society range, approximately 60 miles away. The last point of land seen in the foreground of this photo, on the lower right before open water, is Cape Royds. Every year, over 1000 mated pairs of Adelie Penguins use this point as their birthing grounds.



In late November, McMurdo's primary search and rescue team performed a training exercise on the northern side of Mt Erebus and snowmachined to the only scientific station on the mountain, the Lower Erebus Hut (LEH). Familiarization of this route is significant because stormy weather can delay helicopter access onto the mountain for weeks at a time. The following photos capture the incredible cloud formations that formed as a stormfront moved in. By the time we reached LEH, winds were exceeding 30 knots and temperatures were hovering around -25˚F.



Snowmachine mechanic Bob Sawicki helps to switch out jets in the fuel line at 8,000 feet in order to improve the machine's performance at higher elevations on Mt Erebus.



The Lower Erebus Hut sits at 11,500 feet on Mt Erebus' caldera rim. Currently, 5 scientists are stationed here and are involved in seismic and radar studies of the volcano, monitor its gaseous outputs, and research the geophysics of its magma and crystal formations. When looking inside its crater rim, two active lava lakes can be seen, making Mt Erebus one of only three active volcanic mountains of its kind in the world. Since the other two exist in politically unstable regions of Africa, Mt Erebus has logistically become the simplest to study.



These ice towers, geologically called fumaroles, mark a point were hot gas is released from old lava flows. Ice caves form underneath the snow with tunnels that link a series of beautiful crystalized rooms.



Down we go into the first fumarole...



A distinct line of blowing snow on the horizon denotes an area of strong winds we will soon enter as we descend the mountain.



Visibility diminishes quickly as we enter into a ground storm with strong winds and blowing snow.



Alex Gerst is a German scientist who specializes in radar studies of volcanic lava lakes around the world. Stationed out of LEH, this is Alex's third year studying Mt Erebus.



Looking across the sea ice to the Royal Society Range 14 hours after leaving McMurdo.


10 comments:

Danny Uhlmann said...

Karen,
Awesome photos, I hope Mt. Erebus is fun. The South Pole is really flat and everyone here is excited for you to teach them next week. If I head out to AGO on Monday I may not see you for a while. So it was good knowing you. I really like the clouds in all of your Erebus photos. And where exactly did you get that sweep sweeping view of the Royds colony from.

Carl Sax said...

Karen! These pictures are amazing. I'm loving the black and white and the amazing clouds! Well done. It's exciting seeing what you're up to.

Indianapolis Family said...

Karen, I echo the comments of Carl and Danny. The photos are incredible. The black and white captures so much more than a typical color photo ever could. Thanks for sharing your memories. We look forward to many, many more.
Paul, Julie and Brendan

Danielle said...

Hey there, I love reading about all your adventures and seeing all your photos! Keep up the awesome work!

Phyllis said...

You write very well.

Mieke said...

this is amazing!! I wish I can stand someday where your photos are taken... the photos are beautiful..breathtaking =D

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