Local traditions and culture in Antarctica

  • Your Wellies need desinfection when coming home
    Your Wellies need desinfection when...
    by globetrott
  • Black Ice Cocktails
    Black Ice Cocktails
    by DSwede
  • Skuas in McMurdo
    Skuas in McMurdo
    by XenoHumph

Most Viewed Local Customs in Antarctica

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    Black Ice Cocktails

    by DSwede Written Mar 22, 2014

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    Now, as anybody who has been to Antarctica knows, and those who have read the rules, it is forbidden to take anything from the continent. However, there are some loopholes to this rule when it comes to things that are floating in the water.

    Black ice is formed when water in a glacier re-freezes without the presence of any air. There are no bubbles, it is completely clear, extremely hard and incomparably pure.

    Talk to the barman, the zodiac drivers, etc. and see if you can get a chunk of this from the water. It makes for great cocktails!

    Black Ice Cocktails
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    Meteorites in Antarctica

    by XenoHumph Updated Feb 18, 2013

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    I suppose I should say a few words about meteorites given that I went to Antarctica to find some!

    So first, why do we need meteorites? The meteorites found by the ANSMET expeditions are made available to scientists from all over the world to study. They are curated in Houston (USA) at NASA Johnson Space Center. Meteorites are rocks from space that fell on Earth. They can teach us a lot about how the solar system and the planets formed and even what the origin of our own Earth and Moon is. Some are pieces of the solar system intact from its very beginning even before planets formed. Some are pieces of Mars, the Moon or asteroids like Vesta.

    Second, why go to Antarctica to find meteorites? Meteorites fall all over Earth and not specifically in Antarctica. First, deserts, hot ones like the Sahara or cold ones like Antarctica, have the perfect climate to preserve meteorites, with minimal alteration. However, Antarctica has a unique mechanism of meteorite concentration because it is covered by a huge ice sheet. The meteorites fall on this polar cap which ice slowly flows towards the edges of continents, and makes icebergs in the ocean. The ice transports the meteorites but is at places stopped by mountains, like the Transantarctic mountains. There the ice and the meteorites accumulate. Plus the katabatic winds are also blocked by the mountains and erode the ice at the edge of the mountains, making the meteorites pop up at the surface.

    Please go to the Antarctic Search for Meteorite website, ANSMET, to learn more.

    Meteorite on blue ice in Antarctica
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    Sundog

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 26, 2013

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    A sun dog is a bright ring that forms in the sky around the sun. When the air is cold enough for ice crystals to form, sunlight reflects off them. It is a common and beautiful sight in Antarctica. The scientific name is parhelion.

    Antarctic sundog
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    Blue ice

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 22, 2013

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    In Antarctica, the ice of the polar cap or the glaciers is of a milky blue color. That is because it is old ice, more dense and with less air bubbles than new ice. New ice reflects almost all light so it is white, while old ice absorbs more light and reflects mainly blue light. The fact that Antarctica is a desert means rare precipitation and new ice is added very very slowly. Plus the wind ablates the ice, especially near mountains, exposing older ice. These blue ice patches are where meteorites are sometimes found.

    Blue ice with dirt band, Miller Range, Antarctica
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    Trapped bubbles in ice

    by XenoHumph Written Jan 21, 2013

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    In shallow ponds on top of a moraine (rock pile accumulated by glaciers), we came across these beautiful bubbles trapped in ice. There is always air trapped in ice, generally tiny bubbles, which help climate scientists reconstruct past climates from ice cores. However, I am not sure how these large (several cm in diameter) bubbles formed! A sudden release of a large amount of gas I suppose but from what? There is no plant matter here that could have released methane. Anybody knows?

    Trapped bubbles in ice Pond with the large bubbles, near Marsch glacier
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    Sastrugi

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 21, 2013

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    Another result of the fierce Antarctica winds: mounds of sculpted snow called sastrugis, sometimes meter-high, on the polar cap. You should not imagine the polar cap to be that flat, the ice is full of bumps and irregularities, and the snow accumulates in places thanks to the katabatic winds! I almost toppled with my skidoo once on a large sastrugi I had not seen in poor visibility conditions. This gave me quite a fright!

    Sastrugi or wind-sculpted snow, Miller Range Irregular surface of the ice sculped by the wind
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    Windscoop

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 21, 2013

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    The unrelenting winds of Antarctica are great masters at carving ice. As a result, a very common site in the interior of Antarctica are these large holes at the edges of the glaciers where ice meets the side of a nunatak (visible part of mountains buried in ice). They are quite impressive and beautiful.

    Windscoop on the Ascent glacier, Miller Range
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    Nunatak

    by XenoHumph Written Jan 20, 2013

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    Eighty percents of Antarctica is covered by ice. Some entire mountain chains are buried beneath kilometers of ice! But when they stick out of the ice, they are called nunataks. In Antarctica you only see the very tip of mountains!

    Nunatak in the Miller Range, Antarctica
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    Skua

    by XenoHumph Written Jan 20, 2013

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    Skuas are big (53 cm in length or 21") brown gulls that can be found everywhere on the Antarctic shores. Their scientific name is Catharacta maccormicki. They are quite aggressive and will eat anything, like penguin eggs for example. At McMurdo, they always try to pick at trash. This behavior resulted in a very McMurdan term for goods that are free to take, such as when people leave the station and want to get rid of something that may be useful for somebody else: "skua". Amongst the billions of recycling bins in each dormitory, one is always called "skua".

    Skuas in McMurdo Skua
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    Heavy coat hangers in McTown

    by XenoHumph Written Jan 17, 2013

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    In McMurdo (affectionately called McTown), you always come in buildings from the cold outside and therefore always wear a thick coat with you, generally the thick issued red jacket called "big red". So everywhere in McMurdo buildings you have these rows upon rows of hangers for the jackets. A very McMurdan sight!

    Actually when I first arrived in McMurdo, I would wear "big red" everywhere because I thought it was so cold. When I came back from the field, I wore the lighter jacket (issued, also red) because I thought McMurdo was not so cold after all!

    Coat hangers for McMurdo cafeteria Coat hangers in the Crary lab (science) McMurdo
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    Working in the rigg

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Stepping up into the rigg or climbing on the masts is possible for passengers any time, as long as they tell someone from the crew. That makes sense for taking photographs from a special angle and it should be no problem for you, as long as your feet are not too wide, or you are able to make a wide jump, just hanging on your arms.
    In any case you will always be secured by a strong rope, that is fixed to your body and also to a rope next to the masts.
    In my photos : my brother Bernie stepping up the mast in order to take his HD-Video from above

    my brother Bernie stepping up the rigg my brother Bernie stepping up the rigg my brother Bernie stepping up the rigg
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    did you ever see blue snow ?

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Here in the Antarctic you will see blue snow at many places and the explanation of our tourguides of the bark Europa was, that the snow gets a different color, when the density of the snow and frozen water is different. ( so it is eighter more fluffy or more pressed togeather)
    At first I had the feeling it has something to do with the reflections of the bright sunlight, but finally I saw that these extra-blue parts in the snow and glaciers will have exactely the same color when it is cloudy and even after sundown,like the one on my main picture, where my brother set his tripod into the snow and then this kind of blue was shining through the snow.

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    a wedding in the antarctic

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    A young couple from Belgium had the idea to celebrate their wedding onboard the Bark Europa, but they were told by the captain, that such weddings are not legal anymore like in the old times, when ships-passages lasted several months and the captain had the power to do weddings, while at sea. So they agreed about an unofficial ceremony and all of us had a lot of fun that way in Peterman island and they got a wedding-cake and some more surprises !

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    Where to walk in the Antarctic

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    It is really quite hard to find a perfect path to walk in the antarctic, because when you walk in the snow, your footsteps will mostly stay much too deep for the penguins and the moss is too precious to walk over, because it needs years to recover, when a shipload of people is walking over it.
    Walking inside such small brooks is a good solution, although you have to be extra carefull there, not to slip or fall.
    b.t.w.It is absolutely forbidden to walk inside of the penguin-paths, like shown in my 4th & 5th pictures !

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    Have you ever heard of an Antarctical Tartan ??

    by globetrott Updated Jul 31, 2012

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    Yes,there is an Antarctical Tartan, it is woven in Scotland and will be sold exclusively here in the Antarctic in the souvenirshop of Port Lockroy. The tartan has a pattern of fine blue and white tones and you will be able to buy scarfs for ladies and geltlemen, but be prepared , they are really quite expensive:
    In 2008 a Lady's silk square scarf made of Antarctic tartan was 50 US $
    A Gentleman's Necktie was 25 $

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Comments (2)

  • Ekahau's Profile Photo
    Apr 6, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Achondrites crystallized that formed 4.5 billion years ago they thought was from Mercury not sure how that turned out .

  • Ekahau's Profile Photo
    Apr 6, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Meteorites in Antarctica maybe a Part of mercury or mars

    • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
      Apr 6, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      Some meteorites are definitely from Mars or the Moon. Mercury, we are still looking, although there was a reasonable candidate described at the last conference I went to!

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