Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
A penguin recovery success story on this former polar base site
Information about Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
Seabee Hook is a large, unusually flat spit of land made of volcanic ash and rock. It pushes out about half a mile from Cape Hallet, off the coast of Victoria Land.
Its unusual name is derived from the initials CB (pronounced “Seabee”) which stands for Construction Battalion - referring to naval engineers who surveyed the site for a possible base in the 1950s. It’s called a Hook because it’s shape is very much like that of a billhook.
It has been used now and again since the first survey as a base for exploration or scientific discovery, but this caused the resident Adelie penguin colony to suffer.
In what has become an Antarctic “good news” story, since the base was dismantled and the Hook turned into a protected area, the Adelies are bouncing back, and scientists regularly monitor them to try and ensure the recovery continues.
Because of the fragility of the colony, there are strict rules in place to make sure no contaminants are brought onto the Hook by visitors, so be prepared to have your boots carefully cleaned before coming ashore here!
As well as the Adelies, watch out for south polar skua nests - another species that takes advantage of this curiously-shaped spit.
Interesting facts about Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
The site is bordered by Antarctic Specially Protected Area No 106.
Pictures of Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
Highlights Close to Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
Cape Royds is a rocky strip of land that marks the westernmost point of Ross Island in McMurdo Sound. It was discovered, mapped, and named by the British expedition of 1901. Charles Royds was the expedition’s meteorologist.
Cape Royds has two claims to fame that draw Antarctic explorers. The first is that it is home to the world’s most southerly breeding colony of Adelie penguins. The unique conditions in McMurdo sound mean that there is always some open water among the ice that allows them easy access to fish, hence their presence so far south.
The other aspect that draws people here is a human one - Shackleton’s hut. Shackleton entered McMurdo Sound in 1908 and sought somewhere to take refuge for the winter where his team might have a chance of surviving. Cape Royds is where they overwintered.
When spring arrived, and the expedition was ready to go further afield, the hut was stocked with sufficient provisions and equipment to enable 15 men to survive for a whole year if needed. A note was left explaining where everything was located and then the hut was left.
Today, the inside of the hut is like a time capsule from the early 20th century. It’s quite eerie to realize that you will enter a space that would still be instantly recognizable to the men who lived here over 110 years ago. The hut at Cape Royds still held some secrets, though - in 2006 a whole case of whisky was found buried under the hut! It’s now in a museum being preserved.
Taylor Valley was created by the passage of the Taylor Glacier. The valley itself runs from the glacier in the west to McMurdo Sound in the east, a distance of about 18 miles. It’s one of three dry valleys in the Transantarctic Mountains of Victoria Land and was first discovered by the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1903.
Taylor Valley is a flat area, usually ice-free, that has a very dry climate year-round, but has moist soils in summer and even small melt pools close the glacier’s edge.
This unique environment makes it an important site for Antarctic mosses and some of the tiny creatures that survive on and in them, including the remarkable tardigrade (also known as water bears). These fascinating creatures are virtually indestructible, being able to survive for years entombed in ice, or desiccated without any water until conditions become favorable again.
Despite the short-lived moist conditions in summer, the valley has an incredibly dry and cold climate. As a result of this, there are the mummified remains of several seals across the site. Some of them have been “sandblasted” down to the bone by the force of dust blown in gale-force winds. There are also eerily “carved” boulders as a result of this same severe wind erosion.
Taylor Valley is a geologically fascinating landscape, with unique climatic conditions found nowhere else in Antarctica.
Animals in Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett
Our trips to Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett