Saturday, March 29, 2014

White Ocean, Richard Byrd and the Ford Ranges

Birchall Peaks.  Photo © Bruce Luyendyk
Richard E. Byrd first explored Marie Byrd Land (MBL) in West Antarctica in the early part of the Twentieth Century in three expeditions. Byrd’s expeditions were the first to discover regions east of the Ross Ice Shelf visited by Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. Based from Little America near the Bay of Whales on the eastern front of the Ross Ice Shelf, near where Amundsen had set up his base Framheim, Byrd and his crew first sighted the vast interior of parts of the subcontinent of West Antarctica on exploratory flights in 1929. He named this region Marie Byrd Land after his wife. Many other geographical features of MBL were explored by air and by dog sledge parties over the three Byrd expeditions. Significant geographic features he named after his friends and sponsors. The Ford Ranges recognize Edsel Ford of that famous family, one of the prime financial backers of his expeditions.

White Ocean of Ice is focused on my visits to the western portion of MBL and the Ford Ranges and Edward VII Peninsula during 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1992-93. The geologic expeditions to the Ford Ranges took place eight hundred miles from McMurdo Station, the main U.S. base. Our team of six explored the northern portions of the Ford Ranges by snowmobile and sledge, living in tents. These types of expeditions have special names within the Antarctic experience - Deep Field, or Remote Field - that means well beyond helicopter range, support and rapid rescue from the main base - we were alone and always in survival mode.

My memoir is a window into a special style of science investigation in Antarctica, and how it affected me, even to this day. My book conveys the experience of finding myself in a unique place of unfamiliar extremes and uncertain challenges. It is a story of the discovery of Earth’s secrets and of my own.

For more about Marie Byrd Land click here

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