Breathtaking Icebreaking

We spent all day today just outside McMurdo Station, docked to a tanker and refueling. Most of the scientists relaxed, or talked about what they hoped to find in their next sampling stations, or sneaked into the galley to see when the cook brought out warm cookies. (For the record, it was about 8 p.m.)

Technically, we weren’t here all day—we arrived at McMurdo about 4 a.m. From midnight until four we steamed through ice along the west side of Ross Island. The air was calm, the visibility seemed limitless, penguins yelped at us as we went by, and the scenery was unforgettable. Read on through the slideshow for a few examples of what we saw:

Just for fun, Chris went to the high point on the ship (the ‘conning tower’) to get this panoramic photo of the Palmer tied up to the tanker, with the ice and McMurdo Station in the background. The image is curved because Chris used a wide-angle lens and stitched together several images. That’s Mt. Erebus in the distance.

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About Hugh Powell

Hugh is a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is on special assignment with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. He has previously written for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

10 Responses to “Breathtaking Icebreaking”

  1. ned hunter Temple University January 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Erebus, the son of Chaos in greek mythology and also the father of Aether (Sky) and Hemera (Day). Seems fitting considering the stark beauty of the region.

    Remind Eli not to drop the glider.

  2. Austin from Coleman Place Elementary January 30, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The ice looks like ice cream sherbet in the “sea ice reflections” picture. I ish I could be there.

  3. Amazing photos. Thank you, Chris!

  4. That sea reflection foto was so cool.[:how does it do that?

    • Hi Matt. The turned up sides of the ice are aqua blue because they have liquid water in them. The pink-orange colors come from the setting sun reflecting off the orange hull of the Palmer.

  5. Questions from Ed in Period 5 Science;
    How does the glider face obstacles like ice?
    How many hours can you spend on the “Palmer” before you have to refuel again?
    What is the depth limitation of the glider?

    • Hi Ed, thanks for your questions. Ice can be a big problem for gliders, because if they can’t surface then they can’t transmit data or receive new instructions. The best way for them to stay safe from ice is for the glider pilots to send them on routes that stay away from the ice. The Palmer can sail for about three months on its main fuel supply. The gliders have different depth limitations depending on how they’ve been built (see Feb 5th post). RU26 can go pretty deep—1000 meters.

  6. Eva from Memorial February 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    What were some of the ideas the scientists hoped to find at there next sampling stations?

    • Hi Eva, Hmm, the scientists have plenty of ideas all the time—they don’t need to go anywhere to find more of them! They go to sampling stations to gather data, conduct experiments, and test their ideas. For a run-down of the main ideas they want to test, see the Jan. 23 post.


  1. Tweets that mention Ross Sea Connection - Breathtaking Icebreaking -- - January 29, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RJS, Sergio Abranches and Lis Duarte, Maggie Romuld. Maggie Romuld said: Breathtaking #Antarctica ice images & blog on Ross Sea research: MT @therightblue @WordCraftWriter […]

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