By Samantha, Dylan and Dr. Madsen – UWRF Undergraduates
As mentioned before, we have seen very little wildlife here in Antarctica. All wildlife in Antarctica is protected by the Antarctic Treaty and the Antarctic Conservation Act, making it illegal to disturb wildlife and the ecosystems. The most exciting wildlife “interactions” we get are run-ins with Skua. Skua are large brown birds that are slightly aggressive when searching for food. Because of the treaty, no one is allowed to feed the birds or bother them in any way. Even if one happens to land on the roof of a vehicle. This happened to one of the shuttle vans, and no one could do anything until it moved on its own. This particular Skua must have found comfort in the roof of the van, as he stayed such a long time that the driver got a new vehicle to complete her run. Apparently it happens once or twice a season.
Other than Skua, we have seen plenty of seals, specifically Weddell seals. They don’t really do much. They sun bathe, and rarely move. We have gotten so close to these seals, that we could hear them snoring!
Sometimes it is possible to see penguins near McMurdo, but this year the sea ice went out much farther than in the recent past, so the already small chance of seeing an Adélie penguin dropped significantly. We have not seen any penguins so far. Other types of seals, and whales do come near the station on occasion, but not that we have seen.
Another highly protected area is the Discovery Hut. This historic building was built in 1902 to be a storage place and a rendezvous point for Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. From the Discovery Hut, the South Pole is approximately 850 miles.
Another highly protected area is the Discovery Hut. This historic building was built in 1902 to be a storage place and a rendezvous point for Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. From the Discovery Hut, the South Pole is approximately 850 miles. Imagine walking in extreme cold weather for months without the gear we have today. Elaine Hood, the communications specialist of the Antarctic Support Contract, gave us a tour of the building. It was absolutely stunning to see the building in near pristine condition. Some of the explorers left seal carcasses in and just outside the hut, and yes, these have been left exactly as they were too.
About ten years later, in a mission by Ernest Shackleton, 5 men were trapped in the hut for 5 months. It was sobering to be standing in the same place that these men had struggled to survive. Visiting the hut was a humbling experience, and is one of my favorite parts of our adventure so far.