"Trip Into a Crevasse"
Ed Stockard - July 30, 1994
This was excerpted from a letter I wrote to my 8 year old boy, Sam, who lives in Pt. Townsend, Washington:
Hi from Ed Yesterday, July 30th, was my turn, along with another member of our Search and Rescue Team, to lead a trip into a crevasse. It was a chance for the local population to see the inside of a crevasse first hand. We have been donating our time on days off through the month of July. Of course the crevasse was carefully scouted out for safety before the trips begin. We led two trips on this particular Sunday.
The location was just above Silver City where Hut Peninsula, on Ross Island, drops down to the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. This is the location of the field safety courses for summer time scientist and residents. This crevasse, like others is caused by tension or stretching of the glacier as it moves (very slowly) over a landform.
The groups got shuttled from McMurdo (a few miles away) to our warming hut where we briefed folks and ready them for the trip. They all wore modified crampons, a climbing harness, and a hard hat used for climbing. In the briefing they were told what to expect and the safety precautions that we expected them to take. We then moved outside and assembled into rope teams lead by a SAR member or another competent member in the group. We had flashlights with us too, as it was still mostly dark outside; however, there was a bit of a twinkle outside, unlike earlier trips in the month.
We then began a short but vigorous walk of about 15 minutes up a fairly steep slope. The Ross Ice Shelf and White and Black Islands became visible to us as we ascended the slope. Soon we reached a hole, where we made a short descent into what seemed to be a large room of ice. Very pretty formations hung down off the ceiling. In this room we took off the climbing ropes and reattached everyone to a "fixed rope" so they could further descend into a large slot or crevasse. There is one opening in the ceiling as we began this short but steep descent. Otherwise it is completely bridged over and it would be very dark if not for the use of lanterns inside the slot. This crevasse was about 100 yards long and 30 to 40 yards wide, but narrow at the bottom. There were lots of ooohs and awes and plenty of picture taking. We spent about 30 minutes there (maybe a bit longer) and then we headed on down the hill.
The group warmed up with hot drinks at the hut and we then returned gear at Silver City and we got ready ourselves for a second group of the day.
WHAT FUN that we get to give our friends a treat. After all, Antarctica is known for....ICE.
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