Sunday, March 27, 2011

The First Visit to the Pressure Ridges

Right now, it's Sunday evening and the sunset outside is magnificent! The fiery orange light is bouncing off the clouds and the semi-frozen sea water, giving everything a soft glow. And since the sun sets sideways here, the colors can last for hours!

Today, I'll be posting photos from an excursion that I took back in late October to the pressure ridges near Scott Base. The pressure ridges are ice formations that are caused by two things: 1) the movement of the permanent ice shelf against the annual sea ice, much like a fault line between tectonic plates on land, and 2) the twice-daily rising and sinking of the sea ice and ice shelf due to tides. I visited the pressure ridges twice, the second time being in mid-January after the ice had begun melting and the temperature had climbed into the mid-40s. The differences are amazing!

Both of my visits were on cloudy days, which means I took photos of white ice formations against a white background. While they turned out clearly,  you may find that clicking on the photos to enlarge them will bring out more detail. I tried to get more color contrast by reducing the exposure (the amount of light that enters the camera lens), hence why some of the pictures are darker than others.

This formation looks like ice waves about to crash on a white beach. Green flags, visible on the right, marked the safe trail through the ridges so that no one fell through the ice.

Ice towers!

A view of Scott Base from the pressure ridges. Legend has it that whoever designed Scott Base said that since New Zealand is a green country dotted with white sheep, Scott Base should be made up of green buildings dotting a white landscape.

The big pieces of ice were a beautiful deep blue color.

We had to follow a very specific path through the ridges lest we fall through to the sea below. Every couple of days, technicians came out to verify that the path was still solid and to reroute parts of it if needed. During our hike, we came upon a pack of Weddell seals lounging on the ice, including a mother and pup. :)


In this patch of water is the ice hole that allows the seals to go into and out of the sea.

This seal was right next to the trail; he seemed interested in us for a little bit, but for the most part he just ignored us.

Isn't he cute! Look at how much fat he has on him so he can stay warm.

Lazy seal. :)

A seal pokes his head up through the ice hole on the left.

Momma and pup!

It's nursing time.

Momma and pup with Ob Hill in the background.

I took a 50-second video of the pup seal nursing. He (or she?) alternated between eating his dinner and looking at us. If you listen closely, you can hear the pup make sucking sounds.

A panoromic view of the pressure ridges.

Scott Base behind the ridges.

Ob Hill and Scott Base behind some ice formations.

More pressure ridges next time! :-D

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