McMurdo Sound

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The ice-clogged waters of Antarctica's McMurdo Sound extend about 55 km (35 mi) long and wide. The sound opens into the Ross Sea to the north. The Royal Society Range rises from sea level to 13,205 feet (4,205 m) on the western shoreline. The nearby McMurdo Ice Shelf scribes McMurdo Sound's southern boundary. Ross Island, an historic jumping-off point for polar explorers, designates the eastern boundary. The active volcano Mt Erebus at 12,448 feet (3,794 m) dominates Ross Island. Antarctica's largest science base, the United States' McMurdo Station, as well as New Zealand’s Scott Base are located on the island’s south shore. Less than 10 percent of McMurdo Sound's shoreline is ice-free.

Captain James Clark Ross discovered the sound, which is about from the South Pole, in February 1841 and named it after Lt. Archibald McMurdo of HMS Terror. The sound today serves as a re-supply route for cargo vessels and for aircraft that land upon floating ice airstrips near McMurdo Station. However, McMurdo Station’s continuous occupation by scientists and support staff since 1957-58 has turned Winter Quarters Bay into a markedly polluted harbor.

The pack ice that girdles the shoreline at Winter Quarters Bay and elsewhere in the sound presents a formidable obstacle to surface ships. Vessels require ice-strengthened hulls and often have to rely upon icebreaker escorts. Such extreme sea conditions have limited access by...
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