Scott Base and Pressure Ridges


Somewhere over the rainbow, there’s a place called Scott Base. It’s the New Zealand Antarctic base that’s located about 1.5 miles from McMurdo Station. It’s cute, small, and a lot like one of those gerbil tunnel things since all the buildings are connected.

Zero moons ago, but I think it was sometime last week, a few of us walked over there to check out the store and stamp our passports because, hey, we’re in Antarctica.

We followed the road for most of the way, but cut down a trail for a short cut. Technically that part of trail was part of the greater Ross Island Trail System.


Welcome to New Zealand, which has technically laid claim to the whole area, including McMurdo Station. If the kiwis were ever to try anything, though, I think the U.S.’s response would be “come and take it,” in true Texas fashion.

It was quite a nice walk.


Until around here.


That’s the good kind…right?

We still made it there just fine and stopped to get some proof that we were there.


Scott Base has a much more incredible view than we do here at McMurdo. One of the main reasons for this is the pressure ridges right out their front door.


Ice pressure ridges

The area right outside Scott Base and McMurdo Station is where the Ross Ice Shelf meets with sea ice. The Ice Shelf is comprised of ice that’s, say, 150 ft thick. It has flowed down from land-based glaciers and created a thick sheet of ice over the underlying ocean water. Sea ice, on the other hand, is formed when the top layer of ocean water freezes. This is often seasonal and will break up as temperatures rise, whereas the ice shelf is more permanent.


More pressure ridges

Anyway, the pressure ridges form where the ice shelf meets the sea ice. The sea ice is very susceptible to tides and so it changes elevation easily. This puts pressure on the sturdier ice shelf and where the two collide, the result is this pressure ridge feature. Ice here is thrust up in weird ways, sometimes 10’s of feet high.


Still more pressure ridges

Seals love to hang out around the ridges and during the colder months there are guided hikes through the area. Unfortunately right now, the ice is too soft to take anyone through there so I probably won’t be able to go. But do yourself a favor and google anything about Scott Base pressure ridges and check out some of the personal photos people have posted. They’re incredible.


2 thoughts on “Scott Base and Pressure Ridges

  1. The last two posts have been little science lessons. Thanks! I’m going to find someone I can explain LiDAR and ice ridges to. And are you sure Byrd Camp is real? Maybe it’s a little joke on the freshmen.


  2. Really neat Gail! How can the Kiwi’s claim any part of Antarctica? Thought International treaties barred that sort of thing. (I’m not awake at night worrying about it, though!)
    Love Tom


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