2013-14 Photos - Aftermath of the storm

Hut Point calves off

During the February storm, Hut Point was seriously undercut, some of the underlying ice in its permafrost was exposed, and the ice, of course, started to melt. At the beginning of March, the end of the point, uh...broke off, as seen above.

Hut Point before things cracked upPermafrost is not always "permanent," as has been shown elsewhere, particularly in the Arctic where global warming trends and rising ocean levels have affected the soils underlying coastal villages. Melting has also been observed in Antarctica in areas such as the Dry Valleys. The melting of Hut Point was exacerbated by particularly violent wave action from an unusual angle.

The above photo clearly depicts Vince's Cross on top of the knoll; fortunately it and the nearby Discovery Hut (built by Robert Falcon Scott's 1902 expedition) are in no danger. Also of interest--a "before" photo (right) taken before the crack developed. It shows a bit of lens fog, but it also depicts Scott's hut as well as the temporary buildings being used by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust to conserve the hut. More information (with video) on the conservation effort is in this Antarctic Sun article.

For more information, some scientific background, and a closeup photo of the crack, see Peter Rejcek's 7 March 2014 Antarctic Sun article "Coastal Erosion".

Here are some comments by Brian Wheater who worked at McMurdo a few (!) years ago:

'When I was scraping the hill sides with my beautiful D-8, I would look around and I soon realized that all was not as it seemed at MacTown. I would slip and slide when I thought I was on rock and I would hit rock when I thought I was on ice. Being the inquisitive type, I went looking for someone who had been around for a long time and that led me to Johnny Rafal.

'I would go up to Johnny's room in the evening and get him to tell me what he knew about the terrain. This is what he told me.

'Hut Point had some rock but it was mostly ice. The entire wharf area, the roads and most of the adjacent area was ice which the Navy had mitigated by covering it with tons of rock and fines. Even where the girls lived in Viet Nam Village was on ice. It appears what he told me was true.' "

The photo at the top of this page is by Tim Foster, and the "before" photo is by Zachary Schroeder; these are used by permission. Also thanks to Jordan Dickens and Brian Wheater!

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