Antarctica takes a bit of getting used to geographically. It is easy to think it’s just a blob of ice around the south pole, but you have to remember, it’s a whole continent.
To orient yourself
- Find the long finger of the Antarctic peninsula (it nearly touches Cape Horn, South America)
- The Ronne ice shelf is by the Antarctic peninsula. An ice shelf is a glacier that has left land and floats on the ocean. This one is 500km across.
- The Ross ice shelf is on the other side, also fairly close to the south pole. McMurdo (USA) and the much smaller Scott (NZ) base are located here.
- Miles away on the other eastern Antarctica side is the smaller (not 500 or 700km), but still large (200km wide), Amery ice shelf. Davis is to the east (clockwise) of it, Mawson is to the west.
- Casey is the other Australian base, halfway between McMurdo and Davis but out to the coast.
- Nearly 5000 km southwest of Hobart,
- At a similar longitude to India (+7 time zone).
- Just inside the polar circle (coordinates 68 35’S, 77 58’E)
- Around 2400 km from the south pole.
- Most (including me) arrive by ship, which takes around two weeks when having to navigate through the ice.
- Others arrive by air, in cooperation with the Americans at McMurdo station, 3800km south of Christchurch. From McMurdo station, it is over 2000km of high ice plateau to Wilkins, 70km from the Australian base at Casey. It is then another 1400km to Davis, Australia’s most southerly station.
- The Davis airfield is 37km from the station, on the ice plateau at a place called Whoop Whoop, suitable for Baslers and Twin Otters.
- Mawson is the smallest and most remote Australian base, located on the other side of the Amery ice shelf from Davis, about 700km away.
Navigating around the Vestfold hills is like finding your way around a vast mountain range that has been miniaturised. The terrain is varied and the views keep changing. There are half a dozen huts and “apple” or “melon” shelters spread over the area for field work and recreational purposes.
Magnetic (compass) North is nearly due west, 79.7 degrees from True North.