White Cliffs of McMurdo

The Barne Glacier drops down to sea level from the slopes of Mt. Erebus, a 12,000-foot active volcano. The glacier coasts to a stop in the sea ice of McMurdo Sound, about 15 miles north of McMurdo Station and five miles south of Cape Royds, where I spent all of last week. While the sea ice is safe for travel—at most another week or so in this sunny summer weather—the glacier is a popular stop for McMurdoans who score a snowmobile and a half-day's leave to go sightseeing.

The cliffs of the Barne Glacier are about 150 feet high. I'm not an ice climber, but I imagine this is the sort of thing they salivate over: an unbroken stretch of cracks, chimneys and faces longer than some of the rock outcrops we used to queue up to climb in Britain. I was content to creep up to the base of the cliffs and look up at the glistening blue walls, streaked horizontally with the strata of centuries of accumulated ice.


Hugh Powell is on assignment in Antarctica through December. Read about his exploits here.

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