Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Hercules Dome

Hercules Dome, Antarctica

I am off to Antarctica again shortly to a site called Hercules Dome. Is it called Hercules Dome because of the effort to get there? Maybe. To get there from Seattle, I will fly to Christchurch New Zealand, before going to McMurdo Station and then South Pole. And then one last flight back north to Hercules Dome.

Hercules Dome is about 250 miles north of South Pole. It’s in the direction of the Antarctic Peninsula and South America and labeled HD in the map below (with a bunch of other ice core sites which might get mentioned over the course of these blog posts).

Is Hercules Dome named after airplanes used to move people and stuff all over the continent? The Air National Guards flies LC-130s, which specialized versions of the C-130 Hercules aircraft for polar field work. The Hercs can be fitted with skis and able to land both on groomed runways and on smooth portions of the open ice sheet. So maybe Hercules Dome is named because it’s a nice place for Hercs to land. To my knowledge, no Hercs have landed there, but it is flat and minimally affected by wind, so early pilots may have recognized it as a potential emergency landing strip.  

We are headed to Hercules Dome to determine where best to drill an ice core. In future posts, I’ll explain how we look through the ice to the rock underneath; how we look at the ice itself; how we will model how the ice flow; and lots about what goes into doing Antarctic field work.