Blue ice sculpted by only imagined fierce winter winds carve a 10 story deep funnel at the wind-scoop.
The journey to the scoop starts at Union Glacier, and the vehicle of choice for the glacier travel is our custom made Tucker, a snow machine of some renown. It carries 16 passengers, plus 3 up front, and with a dual set of boom box speakers and a Bluetooth connection, tunes of choice and suitable glacial playlists are all on tap.
The base of the cab is a good 5 feet off the snow and 4 monster rubber tracks assures a level of grip that inspires confidence even on the 10 mile trip. With a top speed of just over 15 mph, it is best to turn up the heat, the music, and enjoy the expansive views out the picture windows.
You don’t so much ride in the Tucker, as rumble. It has a solidity that permeates even through the four independent air shocks, forming a bond with the ice that is almost palpable. It doesn’t steer like a car, the tracks float and move with the ice, and it takes a few hours driving experience over a few days to drive smoothly, reacting intuitively to the rolls, drifts and hard blue ice of the glacier to nudge it into a comfortable straight line.
The way is marked with black flags, while the GPS also tracks along with the route, swinging us way right and then back left to avoid a large crevasse field. Even the immensity of the Tucker is dwarfed by the Antarctic crevasses and we pick our way carefully between them.
A final gentle sheet of bubbled ice leads down to the rocks and we park into the wind to protect from the intermittent blasts of wind.
The ice underfoot is cupped and uneven so before we set off, micro-spikes are stretched over our boots for some essential grip.
The walk to the scoop is along the glacial moraine, a mix of stones thrown down by the waves of rock set into the mountain above. The wind quickly chills, the buffs are pulled up over our cheeks. Yes, this is Antarctica we are frequently reminded.
The scoop reveals itself slowly, the ice dipping down into a canyon in front and the wall building up into a crescendo of ice on our left. It is honed higher and higher, the vortex of the wind shaping it into one long smooth curve of white that towers higher and higher.
The base of the scoop resolves abruptly into a smooth ice-skatable oval with a 15 foot swirl of ice in the middle, like a froth of ice formed at the center of the winter winds vortex.
We spend a chill hour, wandering about atop, surrounded by, and encased in ice and ice wind. The walk back takes us underneath the icefall, where feeling anything less that diminutive is impossible.
Like all the Antarctic vehicles, you don’t just fire the Tucker up for the return. First you turn the Webasto engine heater on for a good half hour, then you actually start the engine and wait another half hour for that to warm-up before setting off.
The trundle home to Union Glacier and dinner passes quickly, the heater on high, the feet rewarming, a return to a warm and less ice infused world.