The Erven Nunataks in Antarctica: A Little Geography, Meteorology, and History of the South Pole

Nunataks in Antarctica

Examples of  Nunataks; unknown names
Examples of Nunataks; unknown names | Source

Digging Out Byrd Station from the Inside Each Morning

The caterpillar tractors, digging Byrd Station (NBY) out from the inside each morning
The caterpillar tractors, digging Byrd Station (NBY) out from the inside each morning | Source

Life is moving right along...

…and then recently I found out my uncle Ray is “famous”: part of the planet is actually named after him.

My mother got a call from him awhile back saying that he’d just Googled his own name and found that part of Antarctica, not far from the South Pole, is actually named after him and has been for decades, completely unbeknownst to him. Uncle Ray was pleasantly surprised that his scientific work done in 1964 as the meteorologist at the South Pole weather station, as part of the United States Geographical Survey, had been recognized in this way. Apparently when they were handing out names to the geological features on the map, they looked at the people who had lived and worked and researched and risked their lives to do so in Antarctica.

The news of this “new discovery” spread like wildfire among Uncle Ray’s friends and relatives, and there was a front-page article about it in his home-town paper titled "A Cool Honor".

Ray Erven, Meteorologist at Byrd Station in 1964

Uncle Ray at work at Byrd station in 1964.
Uncle Ray at work at Byrd station in 1964. | Source

Ray Erven Today

A recent picture of Ray Erven
A recent picture of Ray Erven | Source

So, what's a nunatak?

Good question—we had to look it up, too.

Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nunatak) had this to say on 5/12/2012:

“nun•a•tak
noun \ˈnə-nə-ˌtak\
Definition of NUNATAK: a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice
Origin of NUNATAK: Inuit (Greenland) nunataq”

Therefore, the Erven Nunataks are a small grouping of these rock outcroppings surrounded in the sea of a glacier. To our knowledge (including his own), Ray Erven never saw the Erven Nunataks that are named after him; he was simply chosen for that honor by working at the south pole as a meteorologist near the beginning of his career in 1964.

A Can't-Miss Video Showing a Glimpse of Antarctica "Condition 1" Weather

Operation Deep Freeze and Byrd Station, Antarctica

Ray Erven was part of Operation Deep Freeze, and he and up to 100 others lived in a giant underground, plowed-out cave in the ice known as Byrd Station (NBY) at 80° S, 119° W: all of them members of the United States Antarctic Research Program.

“Marie Byrd Land hosted the Operation Deep Freeze base Byrd Station (NBY; originally at 80°S, 120°W, rebuilt at 80°S, 119°W), beginning in 1957, in the hinterland of Bakutis Coast.”, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Byrd_Land as retrieved 3/25/2012.

Putting Antarctica into Perspective

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Antarctica, showing the location of Byrd Station and the Erven Nunataks.The segment of Marie Byrd Land from which the detailed photos were taken.The McCuddin Mountain Range in Marie Byrd Land.The Erven Nunataks (upper right corner) near Putzke Peak in the McCuddin Mountain Range.
Antarctica, showing the location of Byrd Station and the Erven Nunataks.
Antarctica, showing the location of Byrd Station and the Erven Nunataks. | Source
The segment of Marie Byrd Land from which the detailed photos were taken.
The segment of Marie Byrd Land from which the detailed photos were taken. | Source
The McCuddin Mountain Range in Marie Byrd Land.
The McCuddin Mountain Range in Marie Byrd Land. | Source
The Erven Nunataks (upper right corner) near Putzke Peak in the McCuddin Mountain Range.
The Erven Nunataks (upper right corner) near Putzke Peak in the McCuddin Mountain Range. | Source

Full Data About the Erven Nunataks

Antarctica ID:
4586
Feature Name:
Erven Nunataks
Class:
Summit
Latitude:
754500S
Longitude:
1281000W
Description:
Small nunatak group 7.5 mi NE of Putzke Peak in the McCuddin Mountains of Marie Byrd Land. Mapped by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from surveys and U.S. Navy air photos, 1959-65. Named by Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) for Raymond D. Erven, U.S. Antarctic Research Program (USARP) meteorologist at Byrd Station, 1964.
Decision Year:
01-JAN-66

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Official Paperwork

Official Paperwork, Page 1
Official Paperwork, Page 1
Official Paperwork, Page 2
Official Paperwork, Page 2

For more information:

More information is available at http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/.

Also, check out their latest news and headlines at the Antarctic Sun: http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/aboutTheSun/ .

See also Geography of Antarctica - Geography, Nature, and Weather ...

About the Author

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All text, photos, videos, and graphics in this document are Copyright © 2013 Laura D. Schneider unless indicated otherwise or unless in the public domain. All rights reserved. All trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners. Note: This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document "Erven Nunataks" (content from the Geographic Names Information System).

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Comments 6 comments

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Considering the technology then to build huge underground communities in solid ice, I can't imagine what they have now almost fifty years later.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

I can only imagine... Although I know that the original Byrd station where by Uncle worked was abandoned after a number of years and re-built a few miles away. It was decommissioned in 1972? but then reactivated in the 1990s if I remember right. They did have an above ground station built there for awile, but it wasn't in use for long--I guess it couldn't handle the weather or something.


somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Antarctica will be free of ice in our life times . . . imagine the fighting that is going to take place over who has a right to settle that land!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

Some of the land has already been claimed by various countries, including Marie Byrd Land, yet Antarctica is the continent with the most unclaimed land in the world.

I wonder if/when that ice all melts the "Erven Nunataks" become the "Erven Mountains"?


Cathleena Beams profile image

Cathleena Beams 4 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

Very interesting article. I learned something new as I had no idea before reading this that a nunatak is a hill or a mountain surrounded by glacial ice. Did you also know that it's a USA company that makes ultralight down sleeping bags? This I found out after asking my husband if he knew what it was. He cheated and looked it up on Google, and that's what he came up with.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

Cathleena--

Thanks for a good laugh ("he cheated"). Yes, I did run into the Nunatak company and after all of the pictures I've looked through of Antarctica I think I want some of their products--it makes you cold just imagining what it must feel like. :-) --Laura

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