Ice shelf

We are skiing on an endless expanse of ice. There are no landmarks to be seen. The Ross Ice Shelf floats on the ocean and is several hundred metres thick. It rises and falls with the tide, but that movement is undetectable to us. And we must ski 700 kilometres atop this colossus. For sheer scale, Antarctica is in a class of its own!
Ski tracks on the Ross Ice ShelfSki tracks on the Ross Ice Shelf. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

A few years ago, a team of German researchers drilled through an ice shelf in Dronning Maud Land and lowered sound sensors into the hole. They were astounded to find themselves eavesdropping on lots of “conversations” under the ice. Whales and seals were producing sounds as if participating in an underwater concert. This unique natural environment never ceases to inspire wonder and awe.

In 2008, researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute attached oceanographic data loggers to seals on Bouvetøya, several thousand kilometres from Antarctica. Some of those seals swam all the way to Fimbulisen (the Fimbul Ice Shelf) in Dronning Maud Land, where they dove under the ice and collected information the oceanographers desperately needed. Thanks for all your assistance, natives of the volcanic island!

Today, again, the sun shone from a cloudless sky. We have had sunshine for ten days and nights in a row. And today there was no wind. Snow conditions varied. In one place where there had recently been strong winds, we encountered numerous drifts – sastrugi. In other places the snow was smooth as silk.

As we ski, the snow groans repeatedly beneath our feet. Amundsen experienced the same phenomenon. It is somewhat frightening, but the sound arises when loosely packed layers of snow collapse under our weight. The surface of the snow sinks a few centimetres with a loud rumbling sound.

We are well pleased with today’s distance, even though Amundsen increased his lead again.

Position: S 81 29.055, W 167 15.064
Temperature: -22°C
Wind: calm
Distance traversed: 34 km
Distance behind Amundsen: 209 km