Oobleck and the sea of ice is a rather tricky one. It is located on the summit and crater rim of the southernmost active volcano on Earth, the mighty Mt. Erebus. This mountain towers at the gate to the coldest, highest and driest continent on our planet. Temperatures on this mountain will drop below -60°C in the winter, when almost six months of darkness blanket this place, and blizzards with speeds well in excess of 200 kph will rage over this lonely peak in a sea of ice. Not only is it one of the most remote places on earth, but it also reaches some 3794 metres above sea level, with the thin atmosphere at the pole sometimes generating a pressure altitude of almost 5000 metres.
Yet you can make it if you really try hard. During the summer months, temperatures will climb up to -35°C and the wind can stop to almost zero on a good day. Getting there will be a bit of a challenge though, since it either involves a combination of helicopter rides and some climbing (the better option) - or a long and strenuous hike through the icy and crevassed slopes of Mt. Erebus (a bad idea). One waypoint for you should be the McMurdo station, run by the US Antarctic program, or the New Zealand operated Scott Base, both located at sea level at the base of the mountain, only a few tens of kilometres away.
If you make it to the summit of Erebus, you will be rewarded by what is probably the most stunning and magnificent view on this planet: a sea of ice surrounding you from horizon to horizon, from the icy peak of Mt. Melbourne in the North to the cold and lonely plains of the Ross Ice Shelf in the south, luring the way to the pole. Right in front of you the McMurdo sound, the bizarrely shaped Erebus ice tongue, Hut Point peninsula, the benign twins of black and white island, and, towering above all, magic Mt. Discovery.
But beware. This can be a dangerous place! “Oobleck” might come down from the sky. Inspired by a fairy tale by Dr. Seuss, volcanologists gave this name to the 1000°C hot lava, which is restlessly bubbling and twirling in the large active lava lake right at the bottom of Erebus' crater, waiting to burst into a ferocious explosion when you least expect it. On the infrared live video camera of the Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory (MEVO, http://erebus.nmt.edu/), the hot lava looks like green goo, like the Oobleck made by King Derwin's magicians. And it will indeed rain from the sky in large and evil chunks if you happen to experience one of the occasional eruptions from the lake at the wrong spot on the crater rim. Therefore, if you choose to come here, check with the volcanologists from MEVO before, or you will put your life at stake! The location of the cache itself has not been hit by Oobleck for many years, so it can be considered comparatively “safe”.
In December 2007, the contents of the cache were:
· one pair of AA batteries
· one pair of polypropylene glove liners
· one bar of German chocolate
· one Erebus Feldspar crystal
· three surprises
· one log book
· one pen
To open the cache box, you will need a Philips head screwdriver (medium size). And remember to bring a pen as a plan B.
More pictures from Antarctica and Mt. Erebus can be found at http://www.planet3.de/
Feel free to drop me a note if you reach this cache!
Good luck, and take good care!