2013: A Fresh Start

The New Year welcomed us with the best weather we could have asked for! Naturally, we decided to spend the first day of 2013 outside. After sleeping in and grabbing a late brunch, a group of us decided that we would make the hike out to Castle Rock, a rock spire that juts up from a ridge atop Hut Point Peninsula, here on Ross Island.

Our destination, Castle Rock, on the right, with Mt. Erebus in the background and Half Moon Crater just ahead of us.© A. Padilla
Our destination, Castle Rock, on the right, with Mt. Erebus in the background and Half Moon Crater just ahead of us.
© A. Padilla

The rock stands 1360 ft. tall, and it was discovered by the British National Antarctic Expedition under Captain Robert F. Scott, who named it Castle Rock because of its resemblance to a castle.

The hike to Castle Rock is approximately 2.9 mi. from the trailhead, which is about 0.8 mi. from our dorms, and with the tenth of a mile scramble to the top of the rock the hike adds up to 3.8 mi. (one-way). It is a fairly easy hike if the weather is good, but it does require that you dedicate some time to getting there and back. The last time that Bev and I hiked out to Castle Rock was on a windy and cold evening in late September, back in the days when the sun still set. We got to see stars then, but the temperature was in the -10º to -20ºF range and it was a bit windy, so we made it a fairly short hike.

Abe, on our first hike to Castle Rock, on a cold and windy WinFly night. © A. Padilla
Abe, on our first hike to Castle Rock, on a cold and windy WinFly night. This is a long-exposure shot, which makes it appear lighter out than it really was.
© A. Padilla
Bev, bundled up and ready for the cold hike out to Castle Rock. Long Exposure shot.© A. Padilla
Bev, bundled up and ready for the cold hike out to Castle Rock. Long Exposure shot.
© A. Padilla

By contrast, our New Year’s day hike was more enjoyable: it was sunny and warm (~37ºF), hardly any wind, and almost no clouds in the sky. Once we got there, we decided to hang out for a while, because why not? We were there for most of the afternoon and evening, spending about 6 hours enjoying the never-ending sun. I suppose that’s one nice thing about having a sun that never sets. Though we did get some thin clouds precipitating just around us later in the evening, as I will soon show you. That was about the time we decided to make the trek home.

Here are some pictures. Enjoy!

The Royal Society Mountain, providing a wonderful background to the Arrival Heights specially protected area (foreground).© A. Padilla
The Royal Society Mountain, providing a wonderful background to the Arrival Heights specially protected area (foreground).
© A. Padilla
Bev, in front of a survival shelter, affectionately known as an "Apple." I'm sure you can guess why. :-)© A. Padilla
Bev, in front of a survival shelter, affectionately known as an “Apple.” I’m sure you can guess why. 🙂
© A. Padilla
Cole Kelleher, from the Polar Geospatial Center, on the trail with the Google Street View Camera. Yes, we were mapping the Castle Rock trail for Google Street View!© A. Padilla
Cole Kelleher, from the Polar Geospatial Center, on the trail with the Google Street View Camera. Yes, we were mapping the Castle Rock trail for Google Street View!
© A. Padilla
Approaching Castle Rock.© A. Padilla
Approaching Castle Rock.
© A. Padilla
Bev, on the Castle Rock Trail. The view is South, towards McMurdo, with Mt. Discovery at center in the distance.© A. Padilla
Bev, on the Castle Rock Trail. The view is South, towards McMurdo, with Mt. Discovery at center in the distance.
© A. Padilla
Abe, on the Castle Rock Trail. The view is South, towards McMurdo, with Mt. Discovery at center in the distance.© A. Padilla
Abe, on the Castle Rock Trail. The view is South, towards McMurdo, with Mt. Discovery at center in the distance.
© A. Padilla
An excellent view of Erebus Bay. The four islands that you see are (left to right) Tent Island, Inaccessible Island, Big Razorback Island, and Little Razorback Island.© A. Padilla
An excellent view of Erebus Bay. The four islands that you see are (left to right) Tent Island, Inaccessible Island, Big Razorback Island, and Little Razorback Island.
© A. Padilla
The rest of our team trailing behind, the Apple, and Cole with the Google Street View camera.© A. Padilla
The rest of our team trailing behind, the Apple, and Cole with the Google Street View camera.
© A. Padilla
Castle Rock! Our Destination.© A. Padilla
Castle Rock! Our Destination.
© A. Padilla
Excellent volcanic layering preserved within Castle Rock! It is a record of the explosive history of this ancient volcano.© C. Kelleher
Excellent volcanic layering preserved within Castle Rock! It is a record of the explosive history of this ancient volcano.
© C. Kelleher

Quick geology lesson: Castle Rock

Geologically speaking, Castle Rock is what we call an old volcanic neck, or volcanic plug. Actually, geologically speaking it is quite young, as it formed only about 1.12 million years ago. These types of features form when lava or tuff (a combination of hot gasses, water, and volcanic rocks, ash, and debris) solidifies inside the “neck” (or the throat) of an active volcano. Because they sit inside the volcano where they can’t spread out, they tend to remain at higher temperatures longer than lava or tuff that is ejected from a volcano, resulting in the formation of a very solid, glassy, and more resistant plug within the neck of the volcano. We call this more resistant plug material a “welded” tuff. Over the last thousands of years erosion has carved out and removed all of the weaker “non-welded” tuff, leaving behind the plug that we now call Castle Rock. The specific type of rock that we find at this location is called a palagonite hyaloclastite. The first term (palagonite) means that the rock formed as a result of the interaction between volcanic glass (lava) and water. The second term (hyaloclastite) means that the eruption that produced this lava took place either underwater (submarine) or under a glacier (subglacial).

Still following? Great! Now back to the pictures:

Bev, standing atop Castle Rock. What a beautiful day!© A. Padilla
Bev, standing atop Castle Rock. What a beautiful day!
© A. Padilla
Abe, at the top of Castle Rock, after a wonderful hike up.© A. Padilla
Abe, at the top of Castle Rock, after a wonderful hike up.
© A. Padilla
Bev & Abe on Castle Rock, after a wonderful hike.© A. Padilla
Bev & Abe on Castle Rock, after a wonderful hike.
© A. Padilla
Bev, resting on Castle Rock with Mt. Erebus looming in the background.© A. Padilla
Bev, resting on Castle Rock with Mt. Erebus looming in the background.
© A. Padilla
Abe, taking a rest on Castle Rock, with Mt. Discovery in the distance. McMurdo is hidden around the center of the picture, just below the white dome.© A. Padilla
Abe, taking a rest on Castle Rock, with Mt. Discovery in the distance. McMurdo is hidden around the center of the picture, just below the white dome.
© A. Padilla
Enjoying a glass of wine with a few McMurdoite friends to celebrate the beginning of what is sure to be another great year!© A. Padilla
Enjoying a glass of wine with a few McMurdoite friends to celebrate the beginning of what is sure to be another great year!
© A. Padilla
The view north from Castle Rock. Mount Erebus in the background, and a ridge extending from castle rock in the foreground.© A. Padilla
The view north from Castle Rock. Mount Erebus in the background, and a ridge extending from castle rock in the foreground.
© A. Padilla
An incredible view of Mount Erebus. You can see the ice falls and crevasses riddling the base of the volcano quite well.© A. Padilla
An incredible view of Mount Erebus. You can see the ice falls and crevasses riddling the base of the volcano quite well.
© A. Padilla
The Royal Society Range, standing tall across the sound on the edge of Antarctic continent.© A. Padilla
The Royal Society Range, standing tall across the sound on the edge of Antarctic continent.
© A. Padilla
Hobbs Glacier, at Cape Chocolate, flowing out onto the Ice Shelf toward the Dailey Islands.© A. Padilla
Hobbs Glacier, at Cape Chocolate, flowing out onto the Ice Shelf toward the Dailey Islands.
© A. Padilla
Another good view of Erebus Bay and the ice falls at the base of Mt. Erebus.© A. Padilla
Another good view of Erebus Bay and the ice falls at the base of Mt. Erebus.
© A. Padilla
With the lack of wind, and the temperature soaring to a sizzling 37ºF, it was time for a little sun tan! Oh Yeah!© A. Padilla
With the lack of wind, and the temperature soaring to a sizzling 37ºF, it was time for a little sun tanning! Oh Yeah!
© A. Padilla
This pressure ridge marks where the glaciers coming off Hut Point Peninsula meet the McMurdo Ice Shelf, near Ackley Point.© A. Padilla
This pressure ridge marks where the glaciers coming off Hut Point Peninsula meet the McMurdo Ice Shelf, near Ackley Point.
© A. Padilla
The view south from Castle Rock, with White Island on the left and Minna Bluff on the right. You can see three features in the ice: the Pegasus road (to the runway) is the straight line across the picture, at the bottom right are the pressure ridges (near Scott Base), and in between is the edge of the Ice Shelf (sea ice on the right, ice shelf on the left).© A. Padilla
The view south from Castle Rock, with White Island on the left and Minna Bluff on the right. You can see three features in the ice: the Pegasus road (to the runway) is the straight line across the picture, at the bottom right are the pressure ridges (near Scott Base), and in between is the edge of the Ice Shelf (sea ice on the right, ice shelf on the left).
© A. Padilla

Quick atmospheric optics lesson: Solar Coronas (Optical Phenomenon)

There are a few atmospheric phenomenons that tend to be quite common around polar regions, or regions where the temperatures get quite low, including in countries like Canada, Russia, the Nordic countries, and even areas like the upper mid-West and New England. The most commonly recognized ones are sun dogs and sun halos (these two phrases are commonly interchanged, though they are quite distinct things). The one I want to talk about, because I have pictures to show you, is called a solar corona. This optical phenomenon requires light and the presence of moisture in the atmosphere, so it is not necessarily only associated with the sun; the moon can create a lunar corona. The presence of moisture, in the form of tiny cloud droplets or tiny ice crystals,  in the air causes light to diffract, or bend and scatter, when it interacts with the light. There are two parts to a solar corona: a central and very bright aureole, and one or more surrounding colored rings (basically circular rainbows). The color in the rings is the result of the scattered light, and it shows up best around the sun when the droplets or ice crystals are very tiny and low in density (when there isn’t much moisture, like when there is a very thin veil of mist in the air). During our time at Castle Rock, this happened towards the end of the day when very thin clouds started forming around us.

Whew! You made it through yet another science-y blabber? Great job! Enjoy some more pictures!

Abe atop Castle Rock, enjoying the wonderful view and a beautiful solar corona.© A. Padilla
Abe atop Castle Rock, enjoying the wonderful view and a beautiful solar corona.
© A. Padilla
Bev, atop Castle Rock, and surrounded by a wonderful solar corona.© A. Padilla
Bev atop Castle Rock, and surrounded by a wonderful solar corona.
© A. Padilla
Abe Phyle stands atop Castle Rock, surrounded by an incredible solar corona.© A. Padilla
Abe Phyle stands atop Castle Rock, surrounded by an incredible solar corona.
© A. Padilla
A solar corona, created by the bending and scattering of light as it interacts with the thin veil of mist around us.© A. Padilla
A beautiful solar corona, created by the bending and scattering of light as it interacts with the thin veil of mist in the air.
© A. Padilla
Perhaps the most radiant and colorful picture I was able to capture of the solar corona!© A. Padilla
Perhaps the most radiant and colorful picture I was able to capture of the solar corona!
© A. Padilla
It is a lot more fun to slide down the snowy hill than it is to hike it, so slide down it we did.© A. Padilla
It is a lot more fun to slide down the snowy hill than it is to hike it, so slide down it we did.
© A. Padilla
Sliding down the base of Castle Rock: much faster than hiking in the snow!© C. Kelleher
Sliding down the base of Castle Rock: much faster than hiking in the snow!
© C. Kelleher
Bev and Abe, making their way swiftly down the slopes of Castle Rock.© C. Kelleher
Bev and Abe, making their way swiftly down the slopes of Castle Rock.
© C. Kelleher
At the bottom of the hill after a good slide.© A. Padilla
At the bottom of the hill after a good slide.
© A. Padilla
Oh yeah, Abe got to carry the Google Street View camera on the hike home. WOOT WOOT!! Don't pay attention to my crooked mustache, it's the cold...© C. Kelleher
Oh yeah, Abe got to carry the Google Street View camera on the hike home. WOOT WOOT!! Don’t pay attention to my crooked mustache, it’s the cold…
© C. Kelleher

And lastly, a few other views of Castle Rock:

Castle Rock, engulfed in low clouds.© A. Padilla
Castle Rock, engulfed in low clouds.
© A. Padilla
A view of Castle Rock through ice pinnacles from the Scott Base pressure ridges.© A. Padilla
A view of Castle Rock through ice pinnacles from the Scott Base pressure ridges.
© A. Padilla
Castle Rock under total sunshine, seen from the top of Ob Hill.© A. Padilla
Castle Rock under total sunshine, seen from the top of Ob Hill.
© A. Padilla
A stunning view of Mt. Erebus, the ice falls, Castle Rock, and the Half Moon Crater, seen from the top of Ob Hill.© A. Padilla
A stunning view of Mt. Erebus, the ice falls, Castle Rock, and the Half Moon Crater, seen from the top of Ob Hill.
© A. Padilla

Sources:

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS): Antarctica Detail (Castle Rock)
J. J. Anderson, 1965. Bedrock Geology of Antarctica: A Summary of Exploration, 1831-1962Geology & Paleontology of the Antarctic, Vol. 6.
P.R. Kyle, and S.B.Treves, 1974. Geology of Hut Point Peninsula, Ross IslandAntarctic Journal.
Atmospheric Optics by Les Cowley: Corona.
Metereological Optics by Dr. James Calvert: The Corona.

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2 thoughts on “2013: A Fresh Start

  1. If only my teachers had been this good at explaining things, maybe I would actually have enjoyed Earth Science back in the day :). Thanks for the geology lesson! 🙂

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