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November 30th, 2013

Cape Royds

by Terry Palmer


 One of the highlights of each season for the last few seasons has been a snowmobile trip to Cape Royds.  Cape Royds is 35 km (22 mi) north of McMurdo Station and right now is next to the edge of the sea ice.  Beyond Cape Royds is all open water.

An old map showing where we went

We drove out to Cape Royds on snowmobiles, which was a fun and exciting adventure in itself. We were joined by Jean Pennycook and a few Adelie others who were studying penguins while we were sampling (for more info click here).  The drive out to Cape Royds was both scenic and exhilarating. Crossing cracks in the sea ice was a little unnerving at times but the conditions were pretty good and we were comforted by our skills we had learned in sea ice training.

The snowmobile gang arriving at Cape Royds

The purpose of our trip was to go to Cape Royds to collect some soil samples. However luckily for us, Cape Royds is home to around 4000 Adelie penguins and a few dozen skuas.  It is also the site of Sir Ernest Shackleton's hut, which was built in 1908 built during his 'Nimrod' expedition.

A panoramic photo of Cape Royds from High Hill

Steve admiring the view with Mt. Erebus in the background

Steve photographing a sampling site

Me measuring the slope, Mary taking the sample and Steve recording numbers

After our sampling, we viewed and smelled the stinky Adelie penguin rookery.  The penguins are sitting on eggs right now so they weren't moving too much.  Some of the penguins were running around on the sea ice going to get some food for themselves and their partners.  We saw some Emperor penguins but they were about 100 meters away on the sea ice.  We also walked around and even got to an icy beach with open water with penguins and seals hanging out.  We got a couple of inquisitive Adelie visitors who came within a meter or two of us to say hello.  Along our walk, we also saw a very old seal carcass and some lichen - the first I have seen in Antarctica.

Shackletons hut (left) and the penguin rookery (back)

Mary in front of the penguin rookery

Two of the Emperor penguins on the sea ice

My Adelie friend

An old Weddell seal


After visiting the penguins, we got a quick peak inside Shackleton's hut.  The hut is well preserved with many original artifacts.

Shackleton's hut

Mary in Shackleton's hut

Some artifacts

Shackleton's kennels

On the way back to McMurdo Station, we took in the stunning views of Mt Erebus, passed the Barne Glacier and a couple of icebergs stuck in the sea ice.

Barne Glacier

The group in front of Barne Glacier