Odell Glacier, Victoria Land, Antarctica

Earlier this season I had the opportunity to go on a trip “off the rock” (as we say in McMurdo — the “rock” meaning Ross Island, where McMurdo Station is located). The trip itself was a work visit to Odell Glacier. However, it was not part of my own job tasking, but rather a routine work trip organized by the McMurdo Fuels department to visit an emergency fuel cache, assess the condition of the fuel barrels staged there, and sample the fuel for chemical testing to ensure it remains in good condition. Fuel caches are placed all around Antarctica in locations that are considered to be reliable emergency landing sites for planes supporting Antarctic Operations. The Odell fuel cache contains around 2200 liters of diesel fuel. Trips such as this one usually require a dedicated flight (either by helicopter or by plane) to reach the work location, but typically only require two or three personnel from the organizing work center (in this case McMurdo Fuels) to complete the task at hand, which means that flights would depart McMurdo with empty seats. The U.S. Antarctic Program takes these trips as an opportunity for improving morale across the community by allowing personnel whose jobs would not normally take them off station to fill those empty seats on a flight and tag along on the trip to help with the work. Naturally, these trips are known as “morale trips.” I was able to attend the trip to Odell Glacier as a morale trip. It was an awesome opportunity, and the only requirement on my part was the willingness to help dig out fuel barrels if they happened to be completely buried in snow (a common occurrence in Antarctica) – Easy!!

Overview of the McMurdo Sound Area, and the flight route between McMurdo Station and Odell Glacier, Antarctica. Satellite imagery obtained from Google Maps.
Overview of the McMurdo Sound Area, and the flight route between McMurdo Station and Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
Satellite imagery obtained from Google Maps.

Odell Glacier (76°44′S, 159°55′E) is located roughly 150 miles northeast of McMurdo Station, in South Victoria Land. It is named after Professor Noel E. Odell, an English geologist and mountaineer known for his support of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s famous (and tragic) expedition to be the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, in June of 1924. We spent little time on the ground at Odell Glacier, just enough to sample fuel, but the flight there and back was nothing short of incredible. The route from McMurdo Station to Odell Glacier took us along the edge of the sea ice, as well as across the McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctic Specially Managed Area (to access a map of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, click here). Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip, both from the ground and from the air. Enjoy!

Fuel Operators at Williams Field Runway, preparing for the flight to Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Fuel Operators at Williams Field Runway, preparing for the flight to Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Sea ice on the McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, and Ross Island in the background. © A. Padilla
Sea ice on the McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, and Ross Island in the background.
© A. Padilla
Icebergs frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Icebergs frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Iceberg frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Iceberg frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Iceberg frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Iceberg frozen in the McMurdo Sound sea ice, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Wind-blown snow features on the sea ice surface, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Wind-blown snow features on the sea ice surface, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Sea ice along the coast of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, at New Harbor, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Sea ice along the coast of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, at New Harbor, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Twin Otter sitting on blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Twin Otter sitting on blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
KBA Twin Otter and sitting on the ice at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
KBA Twin Otter and sitting on the ice at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
KBA Twin Otter and fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
KBA Twin Otter and fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Fuel barrels staged at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Fuel barrels staged at the Odell Glacier Fuel Cache, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Inspecting fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier fuel cache. © A. Padilla
Inspecting fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier fuel cache.
© A. Padilla
Inspecting fuel barrels at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Inspecting fuel barrels at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Fuel Operators preparing barrels for sampling at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Fuel Operators preparing barrels for sampling at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Fuel Operator Brian Harms samples fuel barrels at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Fuel Operator Brian Harms samples fuel barrels at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Fuel Operator Jamie McMillen inspects fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier fuel cache. © A. Padilla
Fuel Operator Jamie McMillen inspects fuel barrels at the Odell Glacier fuel cache.
© A. Padilla
Abe on blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica, with the Allan Hills in the background. © A. Padilla
Abe on blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica, with the Allan Hills in the background.
© A. Padilla
Kenn Borek Air's ski-equipped DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Kenn Borek Air’s ski-equipped DHC-6 Twin Otter 300
at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Odell Glacier and the Allan Hills, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Odell Glacier and the Allan Hills, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Blue and white ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Blue and white ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Blue ice at Odell Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Snowstorm front near the Cambridge Glacier, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Snowstorm front near the Cambridge Glacier, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
View across the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
View across the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Rock monuments in the Olympus Range, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Rock monuments in the Olympus Range, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Glaciers and geology of the Convoy Range, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Glaciers and geology of the Convoy Range, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Webb Glacier flowing into Barwick Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Webb Glacier flowing into Barwick Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
The Airdevronsix Glacier Falls, flowing over the Ferrar Dolerite to feed the Wright Upper Glacier, in Wright Valley, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
The Airdevronsix Glacier Falls, flowing over the Ferrar Dolerite to feed the Wright Upper Glacier, in Wright Valley, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Icefall from the Saint Johns Range onto Miller Glacier, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Icefall from the Saint Johns Range onto Miller Glacier, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Upper Victoria Glacier and Upper Victoria Lake flow into Victoria Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Upper Victoria Glacier and Upper Victoria Lake flow into Victoria Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
The Canada Glacier and Lake Fryxell, in Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
The Canada Glacier and Lake Fryxell, in Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
Steam rising from the summit crater of Mt. Erebus, on Ross Island, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
Steam rising from the summit crater of Mt. Erebus, on Ross Island, Antarctica.
© A. Padilla
View over McMurdo Station, at the base of Hut Point Peninsula, and Mt. Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica. © A. Padilla
View over McMurdo Station, at the base of Hut Point Peninsula, and Mt. Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, marking the conclusion of our trip and our return home.
© A. Padilla
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