November 17, 2009 Almost a Success...
One of the cool things that you can do while in McMurdo is that you can sign-up for Delta trips. Deltas are big wheeled buses that are used to transport people across the ice. I took one to happy camper school and they are fun because the wheels are huge and you are so far off the ground. They are really, really slow, however, and it takes a long time to get anywhere in one. The trip that I planned to go on was to a place called Cape Evans and it would take us 6 hours to get there and back.
So what is this Cape Evans place and why did I want to go there so bad? Cape Evans was the main headquarters for Robert Falcon Scott's terra nova expedition. The expedition lasted from 1910 - 1913 and Scott's team was trying to beat Roald Amundsen's team to the South Pole. Scott's team spent the winter before heading to the South Pole at the hut at Cape Evans and some of the men stayed there as support for Scott during the expedition. Unfortunately, Amundsen beat Scott to the pole by about five weeks and Scott and the four other members of his team never made it back. I wanted to go visit the hut because it is perfectly preserved just like it was almost 100 years ago. The shelves are still full of food, the beds are made, a bicycle is next to the door, and there is a skeleton of a dog still chained up outside. The lack of humidity, excellent care by the New Zealand government, and strict visitor rules have helped to keep it all in pristine condition.
That would have been all really cool to see, however, it just didn't work out. I originally signed up to go on the trip on Saturday, but that was when we got the big snow storm and it was cancelled. Since so many people missed out on going over the weekend, they offered a new sign-up for Monday night. I waited in line to get my name on the list and I was so excited to know that I was finally going. Monday the weather was much nicer and I was convinced that we would go. I forget, however, to take in account that the roads were all still buried in snow. The plows had been working all Monday on clearing the runways and heavily used roads that they just didn't have time to get to the Cape Evans road. The delta has huge wheels so we attempted to drive down the ice road, but it was slow going. The driver had the delta pushed to its max and we were still creeping through the snow. About 2/3's of the way there we stopped at the ice caves for a break. That trip usually takes about 45 minutes and it had just taken us about 2.5 hours. We gave up and explored the ice caves instead. They were amazing and almost worth the trip just to see them. After the ice caves we attempted to get to Cape Evans one more time, but we kept on getting stuck in huge snow drifts and everyone had to get out and shovel. It was fun the first couple of times, but after an hour we had to accept defeat and turn around and head back for home. I was so close, yet so far. Maybe next time I am here???