Antarctic Scientists Go Chasing Waterfalls

Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic:

Lead_960 (1)January 29, 1912, was a beautiful day in Antarctica. A group of British explorers, led by a 37-year-old Victor Campbell, were on a cheerful journey across what we now call the Nansen Ice Shelf and Priestley Glacier. It was a kind of summer sojourn around the continent: They would make the first maps of the area, then rendezvous with their ship, Terra Nova, six weeks later.

Campbell’s notes are brief on January 29. The terrain on which he and his team tottered around that day was at the foot of some glaciers and mountains, which loomed above the icy plain. The area even sounded different: “The noise of running water from a lot of streams sounded very odd after the usual Antarctic silence,” he wrote. “Occasionally an enormous boulder would come crashing down from the heights above, making jumps of 50 or 100 feet at a time.” His party set up camp that night on a bed of gentle gravel, then moved on.

But the Terra Nova did not reach them in February, or March, or ever. Early sea ice set in and blocked off the ship’s route. With winter bearing down, Campbell and his team took steps that later made them famous. They dug an ice cave on Inexpressible Island and made camp for the the winter. They remained in the cave for months— eating seal and penguin meat, burning blubber for warmth—all through the black night of Antarctic winter. Not until September 30 did they finally set off for the 200-mile march back to their basecamp.

More here.