Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cape Evans ski trip

Yesterday was a rough day. I went out to Cape Evans again. People have been seeing a ton of penguins out there so I figured it would finally happen to me and took my heavy zoom lens, a decision I would grow to regret.

This trip was a special trip because instead of taking the Delta out and back, we would get to ride out and ski, run, or walk the 15 miles back. If you weren't done by a certain time, then the Delta following everyone would pick you up. There were two runners, two walkers, and eight skiers. It looked like it was going to be a great day. The sun was out. There wasn't any wind which was really important and it was pretty warm.

I started out in the usual gear as all of my outdoors runs - top and bottom tights, wind pants, capilene shirt, fleece top, one set of gloves, eye protection, and headware. I tried using a neck gator as headware the same way that Gift does. Great idea!! It keeps your skin covered, but lets the majority of your heat out of the top and you don't get nearly as sweaty.

One of our first time cross country skiers, Travis, working on step 1 - where are the skis . . .
One of our most experienced skate skiers, Kurt.

I took a bunch of pictures at the start of the run, but I didn't take the time to set up my camera properly and the pictures showed it. They are all over exposed. I need to get better at paying attention to the details, especially when every picture is getting twice as much sunlight. So there were something interesting formations, including an iceberg, at the beginning of the run, but you don't get to see those. Instead, you get my first look at live wildlife (outside of the Skua birds) since I got down here. SEALS, or maybe better put SEAL!!

About five miles into the run, there was a seal hole beside the road. I'm not sure how it got there, but I heard the Weddell seal before I ever saw it. The sound reminded me of the heavy breathing of someone who just jumped into water that is a little too cold or that just over exerted themselves. The same seal, I believe, just kept going under and kept coming back up to the same hole.

Same Seal

Same same Seal
I'll call this seal Andre. Extra points for anyone who knows the reference who isn't in my family

After we passed the seal hole, we continued on past a couple islands and even a sign that pointed towards the penguin ranch. Apparently, they go to penguin rookeries and put garbage cans over penguins heads and then transport them to the ranch. They used to try other means of capture, but apparently the dark keeps them calm. John Bain, you should try that with Nala instead of the crate that she could see out of it, but you better get it made out of adamantium.

I'm not sure exactly what they study at the ranch. It has something to do with penguin diving. There is only one penguin hole out there for them to use. A penguin can go in the water but it is too far to any other holes so they always come back to the same hole which allows them to have a contained environment to study them in.

I think it was somewhere around the penguin ranch that I ran into a really large wall compliments of the pack I was carrying. That pack included my zoom lens which also let me get some great pictures of the seals, but the total pack ended up weighing 13 lbs. Normally, I run with 3 lbs. I had been able to keep up with the leading skate skiers until this point and then I just crumbled. The last 5-6 miles were just brutal. When I was finally done with the run, I felt worse than I did after my marathon. I think there were three reasons for this: the heavy bag, soft snow that I kept sinking into, and getting a ton of sun exposure. I'm pretty sun burnt today.

I'm glad I did, but I won't be doing it again which might mean no penguin pictures for you readers at home, at least not from Cape Evans. On the other hand, I did get my camera adjusted right and eventually made some pictures worth taking a look at. Keep in mind that all of that flat area in these photos is sea ice and should melt in the next two months. Our major supply ship will cut across between where I am running on the sea ice and those mountains.


More mountains.
Castle Rock is the tallest rock in the picture. We can hike there from base.

Food for thought. We take pleasure in seeing the seal. Assuming that it was laboring for breath after coming back up to the seal hole only made the scene that much more dramatic. It is similar to a professional athlete in agony. We love the extremes and turn it into tourism of a sort. We might have been doing it to this seal. I saw a documentary about the rise of corporations that hit on a point similar to this. As first world travelers, we go to third world countries and turn their suffering into a sort of tourism. What they call life and may or may not enjoy, we go to explore because we can. However, we can always leave. Big difference.


  1. Those seal shots were great! (I'm not picky with photography, so the over-exposure was only evident after your commentary)

    I'm not sure I understand this method of keeping your head open to keep warm -- I didn't get the reference -- but at least you're finding ways to adapt. Any twisted ankles yet?

  2. Bailey,
    It's been a long time, my friend. I hope you are doing well.

    You know what a normal knit hat does for you on your head. A neck gator is open at two ends. Therefore, you can wrap it around your forehead like a hat, but because the top is open it ventilates really well. Imagine something as tight as the ear warmers that wrap around your head, but taller.

    I have twisted my ankle already. It sucked. I did it about a quarter mile into a 10 mile run. Luckily, it is feeling better now.

  3. Yeah, nice pics!

    I'm not sure I agree with your analogy at the end, but I can definately see where you're coming from...