Ending at the Beginning
One of the first scientific studies in Antarctica was of penguins: In 1902, biologist Edward Wilson discovered the first emperor penguin colony right here at Cape Crozier. In midsummer he found nearly full-grown chicks standing on the sea ice (much as we did two days ago) and immediately realized if he wanted to study their eggs he would have to come back much earlier in the year.
In 1910 Wilson returned to Antarctica with plans to visit the colony in the darkness of winter. So began one of the most horrendous chapters in Antarctic suffering, as three men endured bottomless temperatures and stone-rattling blizzards in pursuit of knowledge.
Today, for Christmas, we walked to the south side of Cape Crozier to visit the remains of that expedition, a stone igloo the three men built on a bony ridgetop as shelter against the elements. They camped there for three nights, studying emperors as best they could during the short daylight, until a blizzard tore the roof off their hut, scattered their possessions, and nearly froze the men to death. Our hike across 25 kilometers of lava rock and snowfields wasn’t quite as bleak, but it was a fitting end to our incredible journey in Antarctica.
Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in»