Monday, December 6, 2010

Ice Cave in the Mt. Erebus Glacier Tongue

Hello again! Last week I had a chance to visit the ice cave in the Mt. Erebus glacier tongue. Spilling off Mt. Erebus onto the sea ice is a long glacier which cracks and splits in various places as it moves outward. At least one of those cracks has formed into an "ice cave" large enough for a few people to wander into. The two walls on the side formed a "V" and the ceiling was made of stunning ice crystals! Here's a map of where the ice cave is in relation to McMurdo Station.

Joanie and I went to the ice cave together along with about 18 other people. While we were waiting to go inside, I took a picture of myself reflected in her sunglasses.

The pathway to the cave is marked with flags. The flagged routes have been verified as safe to walk on. To wander off the flagged route is to risk falling into a crevasse, which can be as deep as a couple hundred feet.
The side of the Erebus glacier tongue is full of magnificent cracks.

Inaccessible Island to the north with a view of the Erebus glacier tongue on the right.

Our tour leader shovels out snow from the entrance to the ice cave.

These ice crystals formed in the ceiling of the cave just beyond the entrance.

From inside the cave, looking out.
Ice crystals!

More ice crystals!

A close-up of the ice crystals.

Aren't they stunning! This crystals are each about as big as a person's finger.

Joanie stands inside the depths of the cave while I look in from the front.

A view from the depths of the cave looking out. It was so much fun sliding down the ice to the bottom. :)

A crack in the wall of the cave, with my hand in view for scale. As the ice moves, these cracks form, many of which become humongous.

Joanie and Atlee outside the ice cave. Joanie and I are leaving and Atlee, who is also a janitor, is waiting to go inside.

After our excursion inside the cave, Joanie and I waited outside while the others in our group took their turns. During that time, I got some photos of some interesting stuff the surrounding sea ice area.

Looking north, it appears that there's rain off in the distance. Rain?! In Antarctica?! Somehow I don't think it is, but I have no idea what else it might be...

A view of the Hut Point Peninsula, which sticks out of Ross Island to the southwest. The bump on the far left is Castle Rock, which I will hike to later in the season. There will be some good photos from that adventure! :)

Inaccessible Island to the north.

Mt. Erebus hides in the clouds while the base of the volcano gets spots of sunlight.

Several cracks in the Erebus glacier tongue.

Mt. Erebus starts to peek out from behind the clouds.

Joanie and I noticed that the sea ice, while solid, has a patchy appearance. Could it be that we're looking at pieces of ice from previous years that got refrozen into the sea ice this year? Note the bluish gaps between the white chunks.

The clouds continue to clear and the sun begins to break through to Mt. Erebus.

Here you can clearly see the patchiness in the sea ice.

Isn't Mt. Erebus beautiful!
Have a great week and I'll see you next Sunday! :)


  1. "Rain?! In Antarctica?! Somehow I don't think it is, but I have no idea what else it might be..."

    Um, couldn't it be snow? Or maybe wind blowing snow?

  2. Could be snow, although I've never seen snow like that from a distance. :)

  3. Very Cool! I love the cave and crystal pics!!!! OHHHHH nice!!! What an adventure you are having!! Yay!! Much love!