Pressure ridges, penguins and seals

 

Ice sculptures in the pressure ridge

 

Pressure ridge ice blocks and melt pool

 

An Adelie penguin out for a walk on the sea ice

 

Sun bathing Weddell seal on the ice

 

C-130 on skis for the ice runway

Hi wildlife fans,

            To help pad my resume with extracurricular activities beyond polar fillings and root canals, I signed up last Friday night to be a guide for the pressure ridges that form when glaciers and wind push the frozen ocean into sculptured towers of ice next to the shoreline.  After some classroom briefing and discussion our group headed out to walk the flagged path that was carefully chosen by the Kiwis to marvel at the ice formations without falling into a crack or melt pool and becoming part of the permanent exhibit. We spent 2 hours browsing leisurely though the waves that are suspended in time and space and were rewarded with images of blue ice jumbled like kid’s blocks on a playground of a cryogenically preserved ocean. The next challenge will be to take groups of others out on the same walk and share the wonder without losing anyone in the gaps that form between ridges and creating an embarrassing blemish on the tour log book.

            Today I enlisted to help teach some McMurdo residents how to cross country ski, and shortly after heading out on the sea ice we encountered not one, but two adorable Adelie penguins that waddled over to us as we stopped to gaze at their comical wanderings, and they no doubt were amused by our piles of wind pants, jackets, goggles and gloves compared to their sleek tuxedo suit of feathers that keep them warm and toasty in sub zero temps. To top off the afternoon a plump, blubbery Weddell seal undulated over to the path we were skiing on and appeared to be a contented sunbather on the ice as the wind kept us flapping our arms and moving around like hyperactive toddlers in an attempt to keep warm. Shortly before our amazing wildlife encounters we had spent time touring the ice runway and the flying machines that traverse to and from McMurdo, taking advantage of an open house to see the planes inside and out and chatting with the crews that gladly soar and land on runways of glaciers and solid seas. I found it to be a great way to spend a Sunday and finished up with some impressive ping pong scores against some of the toughest players on the polar circuit. Dinner was a treat of prime rib and lamb chops, and finished with a modest cone of Frosty Boy vanilla ice cream to celebrate the end of another magical week in this frozen wonderland. Hope your pressure ridges are static and your penguins are photogenic.

            Cheers,

                Blubberless Bob