Marble Point

On Monday we flew to Marble Point, which is about 45 mins (by helo) west from McMurdo, so that Liu could collect some moresediment samples. There weren’t going to be any penguin colonies there because of the sea ice reaching right up to the shore – although, historically, when the area was ice free there were colonies. In fact, Larry and Dr. Emslie found a site from 10 years previously where they had sampled an abandoned colony. The square of disturbed pebbles was unchanged from ten years prior. Its amazing how little things will change in Antarctica. There was a big “road” (really just cleared space) left over from huge earth-moving vehicles from over 20 years ago, when NSF was considering moving the main USAP base to Marble Point. There was some trash strewn about – rusted cans, ropes, and pieces of wood. Treads were still visible in the soil. This stability of Antarctica attests to how much humans can indeed impact this fragile environment.

a view of Marble Point Bay

Since there was no mission in mind (except for Liu) I was left to my own devices for 7 hours, during which I hiked around, explored the area, relaxed, and contemplated life :). Marble Point is very desolate – almost completely lifeless (except for the skuas), and completely silent. It was the most silent place in the world that I have ever been to. The only sound to be heard was the wind, the creaking of the ice, and the occasional squawk of a skua. At one point, I hallucinated hearing the distant sound of a highway filled with the sound of driving cars – but upon closer inspection, I realized this was strong wind blowing through the glacial valleys in the nearby mountains. It was an eerie, lonely sound.

relaxing, having found my own beautiful little piece of Antarctica

skua conducting a geological survey

USGS 1996-1997 season

USGS 1994-1995 season

some of the trash left behind by the workers >20 years ago

a beautiful ice cave in an iceberg, lit up with sunlight

breathtaking views from the helo on the flight back

On the other side of the helo was open ocean…and looking down into it at one point, I saw my first confirmed sighting of Minke whales!!!! 🙂


5 responses to “Marble Point

  1. The silence and lack of change….there may not be another place like it in the world. How I wish I could sit with you and savor that primordial silence!

    • Surely there isn’t. The desolation is a one of a kind beauty. To realize that you are one of only a few people within tens, even hundreds of miles, is too easy. Primordial is a perfect word to describe the atmosphere!

  2. Eva,

    Your description of the slowness with which things change in Antarctica, and some of the imagery this brings to my mind, makes me think of Mars. Another very still place.


    • Many times I have thought of this place as extraterrestrial – either like Mars, or the Moon. The largely lifeless, rocky and icy land just seems so unearthly, and is vastly different from anything that I am used to. Its very intimidating, at moments.

  3. Antarctica’s “desolation” is nothing of the sort. It is the world starting out all over again, a blank slate, with no cities, no noise, no war. Its emptiness hides a richness of possibility. Being there, you are in a sense at the beginning of all things, things that are yet to come. I felt something of the sort in the sand and rock desert of Oman on a moonlit night, that I was there at the beginning of time. Savor it Eva. It is now part of you and will always be with you. You are truly lucky to be there.

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