December 10, 2011 Tragedy and the Spirit of Exploration at Ob Hill
Trekking to Ob Hill
The end of my time at McMurdo is fast approaching, yet I have managed to hike up to Ob Hill--one of my goals during my visit. It is a 750 feet climb to the top of Ob Hill and it provides a beautiful view of McMurdo. Terry and I hiked up to the top of Ob Hill after dinner. There were pretty steep sections of the path, but it was worth it to get a great view of the station.
Remembering Scott's Expedition
At the top of Ob Hill is a cross to commemorate Robert F. Scott and his men who died on their return from the South Pole in 1912. The story behind the death of Scott and his men is tragic. Scott failed to reach the pole during the Discovery Expedition of 1901 - 1904 when his team became too sick. He returned in 1910 and in November of 1911 started his march to the pole. Scott and four men from his team reached the pole on January 17, 1912, only to discover that a Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundson, had reached it five weeks earlier. Scott wrote in his diary:
The worst has happened...All the day dreams must go...Great God! This is an awful place
The journey back from the pole proved deadly. One of Scott's men, Edgar Evans, died near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. The team continued on through rough weather, suffering from frostbite, snowblindness, fatigue and hunger. On March 16, 1912, team member Lawrence Oates left his tent saying: "I am just going outside and may be some time" and was never seen again. The remaining three men: Scott, Wilson and Bowers, set up camp and were stuck in a blizzard. Unknown to them, they were 11 miles from safety. The three men died in their tent, which was found later by a search party. The tent and their bodies were never removed and it eventually drifted out to sea on an iceberg.
The cross at the top of Ob Hill is marked with the names of the men who died on the tragic journey back from the South Pole. Carved into the bottom of the cross are the last lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses": To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. I have loved this poem for many years and to see those words carved into a memorial of such a brave and tragic journey was moving. When returning to the whole poem, many of the lines of the poem are in tune with historic polar exploration. You can read the poem here.
How do you think Scott felt when he realized Amundson beat him to the pole? Have you ever felt similarly?
Why do you think they carved in the lines: "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" on the cross?
If the distance between Scott's base near McMurdo and the South Pole is 800 miles and it took them about 77 days to get to the South Pole, how fast did Scott's group travel?
If Scott's team travelled 300 miles over the Polar Plateau in 19 days, how fast did they travel then?
Cool Careers in Antarctica
Meet Mee-ya Monnin. Mee-ya is a junior at Oregon State University majoring in fisheries and wildlife science. She is in Antarctica as a research assistant studying Weddell Seals and how they maintain their warmth. Mee-ya started working on this project four months before arriving to Antarctica. She had to figure out what kind of instrument would allow her and her team to best measure how much heat is leaving the seals. Here, Mee-ya helps out the research team and also takes 3D pictures of the seals so she can record their sizes without disturbing them. In Antarctica, Mee-ya enjoys snowmobiling on the sea ice. Back home she likes yoga, golf, reading and journaling. Mee-ya's advice to students is to not be afraid to apply for things that seem hard to get. Mee-ya is a great example of this! Other people at her school wanted to come to Antarctica to do research, but didn't bother to apply. Mee-ya decided to take a chance, filled out the application, and was chosen! You can learn more about Mee-ya's experiences on her blog: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/hailingfrozenthoughts/