Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Beauty of Antarctica

Since work is a bit slow right now (not that we aren't busy, just not with anything of particular interest to share), I thought I would show you some examples of the beauty of the McMurdo area. This is definitely one of the reasons I am willing to come back here, in addition to this being a place to do good research. McMurdo Station itself is not that attractive a place (you can find lots of pictures of it online) - the land is simply volcanic rock with a light covering of snow (right now - in a couple of months it will be mud and dust). Many of the buildings are left from the Navy days when McMurdo was a military installation, so it resembles an aging, bland harbor town.

The scenery, on the other hand, is quite beautiful (at least in the eyes of most of us; if you like trees and green things, you won't like it here!).  McMurdo is on the southern side of Ross Island - to the south of us is Mt. Discovery (an extinct volcano) and to the west is the Royal Society range of the TransAntarctic Mountains. Both are quite photogenic, especially with the low sun angles we currently have here.

Mt. Discovery yesterday morning. The shadow on the lower slopes is cast by
Mt. Erebus, which is to our north, between us and the sun. The vehicles in the
foreground are working to prepare the ice runway that will be use starting in October.

Of course, the low sun angles this time of year make for some spectacular lighting. It is impossible to capture every beautiful moment, but here are a couple of recent examples. The colors are real - I have not manipulated these images and I think the camera captured them well.
Sky toward sunset - the purple is the very thin polar stratospheric clouds I described in a previous
post. I liked the reflection of the sky colors in the windows of the lab in the foreground.

The western sky after sunset last night, looking toward the Royal Society Range.
The color beneath the mountains is ice fog!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the awe-inspiring night sky here.  Unlike what we are used to seeing in the Northern Hemisphere (when we can see the stars, that is ), the Southern Hemisphere is dominated by the Milky Way. The first time I saw this, I literally fell over. We have been fortunate to have some very clear nights this week. Last night I decided to go out for a look with a colleague. I borrowed a tripod from the lab and decided to experiment with my new camera. You can judge the results for yourself below (and this is just a tiny piece of the sky, so imagine seeing this kind of stuff from horizon to horizon).

Does this need a caption??

1 comment:

  1. Linnea,

    Your pictures are amazing! This is a very different McMurdo than the one seen under 24 hours of daylight. Gorgeous!

    Have a great trip.