Downtown McMurdo

naked Ob Hill

This view of Observation Hill was taken in September, 1956 by Jim Waldron. Amazingly enough, these buildings got erected during the 9 months since the first ships had arrived at McMurdo. The first Quonset hut on the left was the movie theater; the structures on the right were part of the officers' quarters and wardroom complex. When I first arrived at McM in December 1972, I took a photograph from almost exactly this same location. The second Quonset on the right was "BOQ #9" where I stayed, later it was the photo lab. The "Chapel of the Snows" was just behind the second Quonset on the left.

One amazing feature of this picture is the lack of overhead electrical wires. During the initial construction of the station, most of these were buried or laid out on the surface, perhaps to reduce exposure to windstorms, or perhaps because they didn't have a good way to erect utility poles. A year or two later the decision was made to use overhead distribution. It turned out to be easier to erect utility poles than to bury the wires in the permafrost, deep enough so they wouldn't be damaged.

If you were standing here today, of course, all of these structures would be gone. On your right would be the Crary Lab; in the center and further away would be the Hotel California, MMI, and Chalet (left to right). (full size photo is here)