White Cliffs of McMurdo

smithsonian.com

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.

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

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