Break On Through to the Other Side, December 27, 2005
Break On Through to the Other Side, December 27, 2005
Dec 27 2005, 09:24 AM
Group: TREC Team
Joined: 1-November 05
Member No.: 22
Break On Through to the Other Side
December 27, 2005
For those interested in things Antarctic, check out the weekly Antarctic newspaper at http://AntarcticSun.usap.gov
Hello from the Ice!
For additional Antarctic pics, check out the Gallery. Thanks to all of my friends, family, and new acquaintances that wished me a Happy Holidays. And Happy Birthday, Dad!
Ross Island, Antarctica
Since McMurdo Station is the southernmost port on Earth they are also privileged to have the only ice pier on Earth. Why an ice pier? There are no docks, piers, or any other permanent structures in Antarctic waters because the thick sea ice and the high tides destroy any attempts to build anything permanent. So, each year or so, they build a new ice pier.
The area covered by the ice pier is about the size of a football field. A one-foot wall of snow and ice is built around the outer edge of the pier area on top of the existing sea ice. Two pumps on the pier each throw 1,600 gallons of seawater per minute into the area bound by the wall. This area within the wall is flooded to a depth of four inches with seawater. If the weather is very cold the water becomes ice by morning, at which time the process is repeated again and again at four-inch thicknesses, pushing the new ice further down into the water.
More layers of water are added on top until the depth of the ice has reached 20 feet. It takes around 150 million liters of sea water to make the pier. Then, they spread a six-inch insulating layer of local volcanic rock on the pier surface. A heavy-duty, portable metal bridge, about 40 feet long, is then placed in position and connects the land to the pier.
When its lifetime is up (every couple of years), a permit from the Antarctic Conservation Act (ACA) allows the pier to be released and towed away by an icebreaker. The pier's journey is tracked with a beacon and targets are mounted on the top to alert any passing ships after it is let loose into the ocean. In the last few years, a giant iceberg (B15A) north of Ross Island has prevented the ocean current from flushing the sea ice in McMurdo Sound out to the open ocean. So if the icebreaker can't tow the pier away at the end of the season, then it stays.
The ice pier from the side. McMurdo is in the background with Ob Hill and the lovely brown buildings are the dormitories:
As I have said before, the sea ice in McMurdo Sound is beginning to break up in the warm summer weather (Woohoo, 34 degrees F! Whew boy, is that ever hot!). At this time of the year, McMurdo Station would like to be able to bring cargo and fuel barges as well as tourist cruise ships into base here, where they will dock at the soon-to-be-completed ice pier. The problem is that pesky iceberg has kept the sea ice in for several years so it is very thick multiyear ice. The National Science Foundation has hired a Russian icebreaker, the Krasin, to break a path into McMurdo Station from the ice edge approximately 75 miles away. The icebreaker started its ice journey on December 20 to break through to McMurdo.
It was going along just fine until it hit the thick multiyear ice about 12 miles out of McMurdo, then it REALLY slowed down. Its purpose is to open up a channel for the cargo and tourist boats to get to McMurdo. When we took a walk over to Hut Point on the North side of McMurdo to photograph the ice pier before dinner, we could just see the Krasin busting its way through the ice of McMurdo Sound. It is a diesel-powered reinforced-hull ship about 100 meters long. You can see the cloud of diesel exhaust above the ship (hmmm…isn’t this supposed to be the least polluted place on earth?).
I found a closer picture of the Krasin on a Russian website:
Everyone is eagerly awaiting the arrival of this ship bringing new people from a different culture into town.
Did you know?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent: A private company is promoting its upcoming races (already sold out for 2007!).
An amazing new marathon - the Antarctic Ice Marathon - will be held in the interior of the Antarctic on January 5, 2006. Run in the foothills of the scenic Ellsworth Mountains, this will now be the southernmost 26.2-mile foot race in the world and the only marathon held on the mainland continent.
The race will be run at 80 degrees south in the vicinity of the Patriot Hills camp operated by Antarctic Logistics & Operations (ALE). Having purchased Adventure Network International in 2003, ALE is now the only organization offering expedition support and safety backup to the interior of the Antarctic. The marathon itself will be organized and promoted by Richard Donovan of Polar Running Adventures, the organizer of the annual North Pole Marathon. Available places are limited to 25.
With underfoot conditions comprising snow and ice throughout, an average temperature of –20C, and the possibility of strong Katabatic winds blowing from the South Pole, competitors are certainly guaranteed a genuine Antarctic marathon experience. The 26.2-mile circuit will meander along a marked route that encompasses a plane wreck, long stretches of open white terrain, and of course the Patriot Hills themselves. Support personnel and medical assistance will be at hand and participants will be monitored for any signs of cold-related problems such as hypothermia.
Then, on January 7, 2006, the first Antarctic 100k ultra race will begin. Undoubtedly, “the world’s coldest 100”, this ultramarathon challenge is reserved for only the toughest of endurance athletes. The 100k (62.1 miles) distance will seem endless, run under a sun that never sets against the backdrop of Patriot Hills and the Ellsworth Mountains. This race presents the first opportunity to complete a 100k event on the frozen continent and creates the prospect of a 100k Seven Continents Club for global ultra athletes. Don’t apply unless you like to hurt!
The cost: a mere $14,000, not including airfare to and from Punta Arenas, Chile
Current Conditions at McMurdo Station
Partly cloudy but the sun has just come out at 10:30 pm here and it is very nice outside. A low pressure system over the Ross Sea continues to bring gusty winds.
Winds from the southeast at 7 knots
Pressure: 29.560 inHg
Temperature: 34 oF/1 oC with wind chill: 25 F/ -4 C
Sunset: February 20 at 1:38 am
Dec 28 2005, 10:51 PM
Kewl stuff Kleck'er..I'm so jealous.....
Say ..if the piers are towed away..and there's a beacon on the pier..how far away from the main Ice do they get on an average..and over the years due to "warming " are they not getting as far as they did in past years
|NSF Acknowledgment & Disclaimer||Time is now: 28th February 2017 - 10:07 AM|