Marc Ankenbauer's 10+ year quest to jump in every named lake in Glacier and Waterton National Parks for charity.
168 lakes. Only 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
-- Marc jumped into Fisher Cap Lake on Sunday September 8th, 2013 to complete his goal! --
Read about Marc and how this project started...

Observation Hill : McMurdo’s Local Mountain

Observation Hill is a small mountain or a large hill on the outskirts of McMurdo Station…

It is the Antarctica version of the little, after work, local mountain.

On top of the summit there is a large cross that was placed there in honor of Robert Falcon Scott.

He was the famous British explorer that was the second to ever reach the South Pole, but passed away on the return trip.

There are hiking trails that go around “Ob Hill” and to the summit cross.



The trail around Observation Hill starts near the helicopter landing pad.

We even saw a helicopter flying in from the field right as we started our trip.



As the trail gained elevation the entire edge of McMurdo Station became visible with the huge people carrier headed out to the sea ice airstrip.



We were surprised by a C17 which was coming in from Christchurch, New Zealand.

We sat on rocky hillside and watched it land on the sea ice landing strip.



There is another airstrip called Pegasus which is further out on the Ice shelf.

It gets used later in the season when the sea ice melts too much to be solid.



The trail continues along the edge of the Ross Sea through black volcanic rock.

Absolutely nothing but rock and snow…Nothing.



At the base of the mountain there were three Weddell Seals lounging near the cracks in the sea ice.



We rounded a bend in the trail and my fellow hikers were silhouetted against the expanse of the never ending Ross Ice Shelf.



The New Zealand’s Scott Research Base was visible out on the point with Mt. Terror in the background.



The trail got pretty steep at points with snow jammed in the winding trail.



I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to be out hiking in this surreal place.

I needed to be sure to pose for a photo with the ever present Mt. Discovery.



The Observation Hill summit trail leads directly out of McMurdo Station and is well steeper.



I kept waiting to do the climb because it had been wicked cold and windy.

Cold is one thing but the wind makes it ridiculous up there pretty quickly.

I had to finally just choose to go.

All in all it was alright and the wind was still blowing snow across the ground.



The surrounding landscape grows and grows as the trail rises upward.

Far in the distance is White Island which is bound on all sides by the Ross Ice Sheet.



When I was almost to the summit the last group was starting the descent.



I was left to a peaceful 10 minute window to take in the 360 degree panorama.

I set up a tripod and got a shot of myself on the summit.

The double volcanoes were looming in the background and the road to Scott base was visible far below



Anytime a trail gains even a little elevation around town Mt. Erebus pops above the skyline.



Mt. Terror and its profound amount of ice was a great backdrop for the wind turbines that help power the US and Kiwi stations.



Right before I left to come down here, National Geographic wrote an article about Mt. Erebus.

It is the southernmost active volcano on earth.

Its almost always steaming because there is an actual lake of molten lava at the bottom.  For Real!!

If that’s not cool enough, the steam coming out of the steam vents freezes when it hits air and creates crazy Dr Seuss like vent tube creature looking things.

Wait, wait…And there is cool crystals that form out of volcanic minerals which makes them bizarro hard.

Ah, Mt. Erebus…



I bid the summit farewell and started heading back towards town to make sure I hit up dinner.



This might be the craziest thing I’ve ever looked at from a 25 minute hike.

I guess you’ll have that on the regional tour.  Huh, Spicer?

I suppose we are in Antarctica…

Thanks OB Hill.



I hope this finds each and everyone of you having a simply splendid day.

To Life


Hut Point Ridge – Seal Blubber?

Vince’s Cross at Hut Point

McMurdo Research Station is on the very tip of Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island.

It’s just off the coast of mainland Antarctica, but it’s attached to it by the Ross Ice Sheet.

So, I think if you are attached to a continent by a huge ice field, than you are part of the continent.

I’m sure some purists would disagree.  But hey, I’m not a geographer.


Countless explorers have made this spot their entry point to Antarctica.

It is basically as far south as you can take a ship before crashing into a large chunk of ice.

Robert Falcon Scott endeavored to be the first person to reach the South Pole in 1912.

Although he did make it to the pole, it didn’t work out well for him.

When I get to the South Pole, I’m sure I’ll elaborate.

Scott also led the Discovery Expedition to Antarctica eleven years earlier in 1901 to carry out scientific research and geographical exploration.

Before that trip more or less no one had really explored the continent.

For that trip they brought a prefabricated Australian hut.  They set it up on the very tip of Hut Point Peninsula and the Discovery Hut is still there.

It’s did tour the hut, but beforehand I hiked up Hut Point Ridge Trail which starts at the same spot as the hut.

Sunday is the only day employees have off, so windy or not…Sunday is hiking day.

I led my way up the ridge as the winds blew.

It was probably about 0 F but with 20 mile and hour winds I’m sure it was much colder.

It was cold but as long as you stayed bundled up and kept moving it was not too bad…

From above I saw the sea ice in McMurdo Bay starting to crumple up against the shore.

Later in the season there is supposedly penguins and seals hanging out.

Today, there was only crumply ice.

The Transantarctic Mountains create the far off landscape of McMurdo.

This section is called the Royal Society Range.  Pretty sweet name, huh?

As I crept further up the ridge I could see back down to the tip of the peninsula where the hut is.

I bumped into another employee and asked him to take my photo.

I felt bad; he had to take his mittens off, so we made it quick.

The ridge led directly into the wind?

It was such an amazing view I didn’t even care really.

But, it was wicked windy.

The trail eventually ends at a place called Arrival Heights.

From there you can’t continue unless you are part of a science group that has permission.

From here you get an absolutely amazing view of Mt. Erebus which is the southern most active volcano on earth.

It’s enormous and often has a little ripple of smoke coming out of the summit crater.

From here you get an amazing panorama of the entire area.

Mt. Erebus, the Ross Ice Sheet, The Royal Society Range, McMurdo Research Station…Jeez!!!

I could only handle being on top for a little while before the wind was just simply too much.

I followed the snow covered trail back to McMurdo.

Luckily I got back with ten minute left before dinner.  Great Day!!

McMurdo Station and Observation Point

A couple days later I got to go on the tour of Scotts Discovery Hut.

Since the weather is so cold and so dry, everything is preserved really well.

There is even a seal carcass outside of the hut that is in fine condition.  Odd…

Inside there are many of the original boxes and supplies that were left there from Scotts Expeditions.

Many of the boxes are even engraved by the manufacturer to say that they are for the expedition.

How’s that for custom production.

They brought dogs on some of the trips and there were even specially engraved boxes for the dog biscuits.

Both the human and the dog food were referred to as biscuits.

How would you like to live in a hut and eat these delicious looking morsels?

Kids, never complain about what mom and dad make for dinner.  K?

Actually Scotts Discovery Expedition did not stay in the hut.

It was simply too cold, so they stayed on the ship and used the hut as storage and a hang out spot.

Other explorers through the years have used it as a cabin though.

The walls and ceiling of the hut are covered in black soot.

This comes from burning seal blubber to heat the cabin.

Cloth tarps were hung to hold heat in, so they weren’t trying to heat the whole hut.

Again, with Seal Blubber!!!.

Again, no complaining folks.

If it’s cold at your place this winter, put on a sweater or grab a blanket…

Or you could burn some SEAL BLUBBER!!!

It was so powerful to see how they lived and the supplies they used.

If you look real close there is a finger print on this can.

Who was it?  What was his name?  Which group of explorers huddled in this building with him?

It brought so many questions.

It is really difficult to imagine living in these conditions.

We have it so good these days.

No complaints here.

I wonder how many men have looked out this same window at the insane weather outside?


So… Off to my warm dorm room!  J

Hope all is well where you are.  May you be healthy and happy?

May you not be eating strange dog biscuit looking things?

And, may you not be heating with seal blubber.

To Life!


Welcome to Antarctica

Hello all,

I left the U.S. on the 18th of October and flew from Missoula to Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Sydney, Christchurch NZ and eventually to McMurdo Research Station on Ross Island off the coast of Antarctica.

It is spring in New Zealand, so the mountains were still covered in snow as we flew overhead.

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Christchurch is the home base of the Antarctic Program and a very lovely city.

Two years ago it was hammered by a very major earthquake so the downtown portion was fenced off and essentially ruined.

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The people of the city are trying their best to keep their heads up and recreate their world.

We got delayed on our flight out to McMurdo so I used my free day to roam the city in the rain and check out the botanical garden.

It was without question the most amazing garden I have ever seen in my life.

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Most of my time was spent being given my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather Gear) and going through orientation.

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When we finally left we boarded a C-17.

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The U.S. Airforce does most all the flying around Antarctica so these military planes are very common.

Maybe it was because it was my first time down on the ICE but it was a pretty surreal experience to be flying in a huge military plane.

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The pilots let us go up into the cockpit and all you could see was clouds and dials.

I’m sure glad they know what they are doing.

Once we finally got visual of the continent I took a few pictures out of the small porthole windows.

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As far as you could see was expansive, unending white.

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We landed on the sea ice just outside of the station which will eventually melt to be open water as summer progresses.

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When we got off the plane we boarded a bus which like every other vehicle down here is humongous.

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My dorm while I’m in McMurdo is called the Mammoth Mountain Inn.  It is the middle building just below the small mountain in the back that’s called Observation or OB Hill.

My dorm is right next to a pavilion that flies the flags from all the countries that fund research in Antarctica.

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Antarctica is a continent but its not a country.

It’s no ones.

It is all of ours, a mutually held science laboratory for the entire world.

It really is an amazing place.

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There are multiple surrounding buildings but the main building is painted blue.

It houses all kinds of offices but most importantly it’s the dining hall.

So no matter how turned around you get…you always know where the food is.

Just go to the blue building.

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There are most basic things here; there is a post office, two bars and even a non-denominational church.

Its set right up against the expansive sea ice and makes a pretty cool backdrop.

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My life has been basically focused on training and preparation for going out into the field next month.

While much of it has been inside learning, everyone has to go through something called Happy Camper training.

For many it is to learn how to spend a night out if something has gone terribly wrong.  For me, it’s to help me get a feel of what it will be like out at the AGO camps.

Although in all reality it wasn’t a good showing because the weather was nice and only got down to 1F while the AGO camps will be -50F.

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Nineteen of us gathered our supplies and hopped into another enormous vehicle.

It drove over a pass and out on to the Ross Ice Shelf which is about 500’ thick.

It is flat like sea ice but it’s really where the main continental ice comes spilling off into the ocean.

This is still nothing compared to the often 5000’ thick ice around the South Pole.

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We were dropped off next to a building that we used as a classroom.

In all directions was flat ice which butted up to huge mountains off in the distance dwarfing the various buildings on the ice shelf.

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We were camping out right below a mountain called Mt. Erebus which is the southern most active volcano on earth.

It has a lake of lava in the bottom of the summit crater.

When the clouds parted we could see smoke plumes wafting up from the interior.

We headed inside for more training, but soon it was out for the night.

We erected two Scott tents and 7 mountaineering tents.

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The company that makes these tents is from my beloved Missoula, Montana.

I’ve never heard of Bluestar, but they must be cool.

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To block the wind we created a wall out of snow blocks.

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Now this really was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced.

I tried to make an igloo at Lolo Pass a few years ago and making blocks stay intact is hard.

This stuff was like heavy Styrofoam.

You can literally cut blocks with hand saws.  Whatever shape you cut them, they stay.

If they are not exactly how you want them, you trim them.

It was like perfect cartoon igloo snow.  WILD!

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Once camp was finished we melted blocks of snow to get boiling water.

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Bundled up, with a mug of hot chocolate and a freeze dried meal…I was warm.

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In the morning it was crystal clear.

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You could see where one of the main ice sheets rolls down into the ocean creating the ice shelf.

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I can’t even explain how huge this landscape is.

I have no comparison.


Beyond amazing.

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We broke down camp, and did some more training.

One scenario was the famous buckethead drill.

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We all had to put plastic buckets on our heads and try to find our teacher.

It is to simulate what it’s like to communicate and functionally find someone lost in a whiteout.

Basically impossible.

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The same enormous vehicle came to pick us up and bring us back to the station.

Later that evening was our Halloween celebration.

Everyone works six days a week and has Sunday off, so Saturday night is when organized holidays are held.

So, like it or not…Saturday was Halloween.

We ate like kings and hit the “town”.

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It was the first time I have been up late enough to see what counts for sunset down here.

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The sun does not actually fall below the horizon these days.  A week ago I think it still did slightly, but as of a few days ago it stopped fully setting.

It still gets real close and creates a few hour sunset color fest and then rises up again.

Since I’ve been here I have been asleep when this happens, but thanks to a few drinks and a Halloween party I was still awake to take part.

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So, I went home and got bundled up, grabbed my camera and went for a walk to a place called Hut Point.

It is a hut that Robert Scott’s expedition made in 1901.  They were trying to be the first group to ever reach the South Pole.

It’s so dry and cold down here that the hut is still in perfect shape.  Pretty wild.

It was the first time I saw McMurdo Station from a far.

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I’ve seen countless sunsets in my life, but none set against a backdrop like this.

I’m still having trouble comprehending that I’m in Antarctica.

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I am so happy that I got a chance at some photographs while the sun was right.

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In a few weeks I’ll be in the middle of the flat expanses of the interior plateau.

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A few weeks from now the sun will not set at all.

But tonight, at 2:30am I roamed around with a wig in my pocket and whiskey on my breath and took photos of Antarctica at Sunset.


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