Erebus, Mount

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 77.5333°S / 167.16660°E
Additional Information Elevation: 12447 ft / 3794 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano on Earth and the second highest volcano in Antarctica. 3794 metres (12,448 ft) high, it is located on Ross Island, which is also home to three inactive volcanoes, notably Mt. Terror.

The volcano has been continuously active since 1972 and is the site of the Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory run by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The crater is home to one of three permanent lava lakes in the world.

Mount Erebus was discovered in 1841 by polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross (whose ships were named Erebus and Terror; these ships were also used by Sir John Franklin on his disastrous search for the Northwest Passage), and first climbed (to the rim) by members of Sir Ernest Shackleton's party in 1908.

Getting There

The American base and airfield at McMurdo Station is located on the SW corner of Ross Island, less than 25 miles (40 km) from the summit. Air service is provided by the US Air National Guard and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The US Air National Guard flies transport planes from Christchurch New Zealand to one of three runways.

Red Tape

The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty became law in 1998 after legislation in each of the member countries. One of the ways in which this protects Antarctica is by only allowing visitors to Antarctica by member nations as long as they are given a permit to do so. The granting of a permit is dependent on the visitors agreeing to adhere to certain rules and guidelines. Each nation's rules are not the same in the detail, though they are similar in the general principles.

There is a protected area around the plane wreckage near the summit of Mount Erebus. Special permits are required in order to enter this area.


When To Climb

Summer is warmer and the Sun is above the horizon, so it is a preferable season. It lasts from December till March. Monthly mean temperatures at McMurdo Station range from -28° C (-18.4° F) in August to -3° C (26.6° F) in January.

Since the mountain is permanently glaciated, the technical difficulties won't vary too much.

Naturally, it's not a good idea to climb during a violent eruption.



The USAP Lower and Upper Erebus Huts are located approximately 1 km to the Northeast (3400 m) and Southeast (3612.5 m) respectively.
Upper Erebus Hut was abandoned in 1984 due to high danger of volcanic bombs.

Refuge Huts

Cape Royds Hut
-Region: Cape Royds, Ross Island
-Latitude: 77°33'02.5”S
-Longitude: 166°10'20”E
-Medical facilities: Survival box
-Accommodation capacity: 2 person
Cape Evans Hut
Region: Cape Evans on the west coast of Ross Island at the northern entrance to Erebus Bay

When you camp, remember that this is Antarctica - leave absolutely no waste behind.


Mountain Conditions

Weather conditions and forecast for the McMurdo Stadion:

This site is full of interesting and up to date information, including an activity log and live video from the volcano:


Geology and Volcanic Activity

From: Newhall and Dzurisin, 1988, Historical Unrest at Large Calderas of the World: USGS Bulletin 1855

Mount Erebus is an intraplate volcano, situated at the southern end of the Terror Rift within the Victoria Land basin, a major sedimentary basin with over 12 kilometers of fill and underlain by 21-kilometer-thick crust. The basin is bounded to the west by the Transantarctic Mountains, with 40-kilometer-thick curst (Cooper and Davey, 1985; Fitzgerald and others, 1986).

An older cone of Mount Erebus (Fang Volcano), composed largely of benmoreite, was partly destroyed by an unknown event, leaving a caldera of about 6-kilometers diameter. The modern cone of Mount Erebus, composed largely of anorthoclase phonolite (Kyle, 1977), has largely filled the older caldera, leaving only Fang Ridge (north of Mount Erebus) as a relic of the older cone. A roughly 5-kilometer-diameter caldera developed at the top of the modern cone, and it too has been largely filled (Berninghausen and Neumann van Padang, 1960; P. Kyle, written commun., 1987).

Most historical activity has been confined to the younger caldera. A reported exception was increased fumarolic activity in April-September 1908 and on 17 June 1908, near Abbot Peak, 10 kilometers north-northeast of the summit of Mount Erebus (cited in Berninghausen and Neumann van Padang, 1960). A seismic swarm in roughly the same area was recorded in October 1962 (Ueki and others, 1984; Kaminuma and others, 1985).

A lava lake discovered in 1972 grew slowly until 1976, when it was circular, about 60 meters in diameter. It remained relatively constant until September 1984. Larger-than-usual Strombolian explosions occurred in September to December 1984. Earthquakes were felt, and glow and increased steaming were observed from McMurdo Sound (37 kilometers southwest of the volcano) (P. Kyle and others, in Smithsonian Institution, 1984). The summit crater lava lake was buried by ejecta between 13 September 1984 and October 1984. When the lake was exhumed in December 1985 it was 15 meters in diameter, and it grew to 20 meters in diameter by December 1986 (P. Kyle, written commun., 1987).


The Lava Lake

Some information from the Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory

Location: Inner crater of Mt. Erebus
Latitude/Longitude: 77°32'S - 167°10'E
Elevation of lava lake: ~3700 meters above sea level
Petrology: Anorthoclase Tephriphonolite containing up to 10 cm-long anorthoclase feldspar crystals
Characteristic activity: Strombolian Eruptions (several times per day), Ash Eruptions (infrequent), Lava Flows (rare; observed for the first time in 2000-2001)
Size: 10-40 meters in diameter
Shape: Round to dumbbell-shaped
Temperature: ~900° - 1130°C


The Plane Accident

On November 28, 1979, at 12:49pm NZDT, flight TE901 collided with Mount Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew members. The aircraft altitude at the time of the collision was just 1465 feet (445 metres). The dead included 200 New Zealanders, 24 Japanese, 22 Americans, six British, two Canadians, one Australian, one French, and one Swiss. Forty four of the victims were not identified.

The accident is exceptional in that, to this day, controversy exists over the true cause of the accident, and in the amount of responsibility, the airline and crew should assume. Public opinion also remains polarised. The crash of flight TE901 remains New Zealand's deadliest disaster followed closely by the Napier earthquake. The small size of New Zealand meant that nearly the entire population was affected by the disaster, personally or by association.

A wooden cross was erected above Scott Base to commemorate the accident. It was replaced in 1986 with an aluminum cross after the original was eroded by low temperatures, wind and moisture. Almost all of the aircraft's fuselage and components still lie where they came to rest on the slopes of Mt. Erebus, under a layer of snow and ice. During warm periods when snow recedes, the wreckage is still visible from the air.


McMurdo Station

McMurdo Station, located at 77°51′S 166°40′E, sits on the southern tip of Ross Island in Antarctica, on the shore of McMurdo Sound, 2,200 miles (3,500 km) due south of New Zealand. It serves as the logistics hub for half the continent and is currently operated by Raytheon Polar Services (a subsidiary of Raytheon). All personnel and cargo going to or coming from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station first pass through McMurdo. The station is located within New Zealand's Ross Dependency Antarctic claim.

The station was established in 1956, when it was called Naval Air Facility McMurdo, on the original site for British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and is now Antarctica's largest community. Scott's Hut is still standing and lies at the outer part of McMurdo, adjacent to the harbor at Hut Point. Features include a harbor, 3 airfields (2 seasonal), a heliport and over 100 buildings. The primary focus of the work done here is science, but the summer residents (approximately 1,000 in the summer, shrinks to less than 200 in the winter) process the cargo brought in to support the field camps.

Facilities at the station include:
* National Science Foundation Headquarters
* Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center (CSEC)
* Observation Hill
* Scott's Hut
* Williams Field airport
* Memorial plaque to Three airmen killed in 1946 while surveying the territory.

Recently there has been a lot of criticism leveled at the base regarding its disposal of untreated refuse, its treatment of non-United States nationals, and its construction projects: in particular the McMurdo-South Pole highway. Despite this, McMurdo (nicknamed "Mac-Town" by its residents) continues to operate as the hub for American activities on the Antarctic continent.

McMurdo Station is about 5 km away from Scott Base, owned by New Zealand.

For further information or contacts:
Raytheon Polar Services Company
United States Antarctic Program

Virtual tour - Mc Murdo

Scott Base

Scott Base is a base located at 77°51′S 166°45′E in Antarctica, operated by New Zealand. It was named after Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Royal Navy, leader of two British expeditions to the Ross Sea area of Antarctica. Located near Mount Erebus in the Ross Dependency, it is New Zealand's main base in Antarctica. It was set up as support to field research and the center for research into earth sciences, but now conducts research in many fields.

The base is made up of a neat collection of lime-green buildings which are linked by all-weather corridors. These buildings can accommodate 85 people over summer, with a skeleton staff of between 10 and 14 people remaining over the winter.

Along with several other bases, it is operated by Antarctica New Zealand. It has an extensive scientific research program, focusing on the fields of Antarctic physical environments, the Southern Ocean and Antarctic ecosystems.

The base has fairly typical weather conditions for Antarctica, with minimum temperatures around -45 degrees Celsius and summer maximums only occasionally above freezing point. It is exposed to the full strength of southerly blizzards, although overall it is less windy than nearby McMurdo Station. The maximum wind velocities experienced have been gusts up to 185 km/h with steady velocities under blizzard conditions of 95–115 km/h.

For further information or contacts, please visit the website of Antarctica New Zealand:


Historic sites around Mount Erebus

By National Science Foundation

Scott's Discovery Hut ("Scott's Hut").

In January 1902, the British Royal Navy's Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his crew of 50 men arrived aboard the 700-ton vessel Discovery. During this expedition, Scott's party built the "Discovery Hut" (often called Scott's Hut) near the site of McMurdo Station as a land base for sledging treks on the island and onto the ice shelf. Scott also named many prominent features including Mt. Discovery and the Royal Society Range (for his sponsors). An attempt to reach the South Pole by sledge accomplished a farthest south of 82o71' on 30 December 1902. Before the polar attempt, a three-man party made a 6-week mid-winter sledging journey around the south side of Ross Island to Cape Crozier to collect emperor penguin eggs.

The next occupants of the "Discovery Hut" were Ernest Shackleton and three companions in 1909. In 1907 Shackleton arrived aboard the Nimrod at the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf to begin an expedition to the South Pole. Decided this location was too dangerous for the approach, Shackleton sailed further south. On 3 February 1908, he landed at the Cape Royds where he built his base. After an exhausting man-hauling sledge journey of 17 weeks that included discovery and ascent of the Beardmore Glacier, he and his three companions came within 97 nautical miles of the Pole; to have gone farther with their depleted rations would have meant death on the return trek. They returned to the "Discovery Hut", barely reaching the site in time to catch the Nimrod on 1 March 1909 as it prepared for the return to England.

Scott returned to McMurdo Sound in January 1911. Unable to get to his former base at Hut Point because of the ice pack, he landed at a point 20 kilometers to the north, which he named Cape Evans in honor of his second- in-command. The objective of his expedition was again both scientific and to reach the Pole. During this expedition (British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913), the "Discovery Hut" served as a supply depot for the journey south.

An advance sledging party placed supply depots along the way, as far as the polar plateau beyond the head of the Beardmore Glacier. Shetland ponies and Siberian huskies were used during the first half of the journey. One by one, the ponies were shot and used for meat for the dogs and men. The journey was completed by man-hauling the sledges. After 2-1/2 months, they reached the Pole on 18 January 1912, only to find that Amundsen's party had preceded them by more than a month.

Vince's Cross and Our Lady of the Snows Shrine.

Immediately above Scott's Hut on a small knoll overlooking the bay is Vince's Cross, a wooden cross erected in 1902 to commemorate Seaman George T. Vince, the first man to lose his life in McMurdo Sound, following a fall into the water from a steep, icy slope nearby during a blizzard. Also above the hut is the Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, a madonna statue that com- memorates Richard T. Williams, a Seabee tractor driver who drowned off Cape Royds in January 1956 when his 30- ton tractor broke through the sea ice. Near this shrine is a monument erected to commemorate Raymond T. Smith, a Navy petty officer killed during a ship unloading accident at McMurdo in February, 1982.

Raymond Smith Monument.

This marble monument, just below Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, commemorates Boatswain's Mate First Class Raymond Thomas Smith (1944-1982), US Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group, who was fatally injured in a cargo handling accident 6 February 1982 on board USNS Southern Cross at McMurdo.

Observation Hill.

A steep-sided, 228-meter volcanic knoll reached by a 20- to 30-minute climb above McMurdo, Observation Hill offers a splendid panorama. At the top, a large 3-meter- high cross of jarrah wood erected in 1913 commemorates Scott and his polar party. Halfway up the hill are buildings of the nuclear power plant constructed in 1961 and used until 1972. A shieldwater leak in 1972 plus the questionable economies of operation resulted in the plant being shut down, dismantled, and returned to the United States in 1973-1975. In 1979, the Department of Energy authorized releasing the site for unrestricted use. The buildings currently are used as a back-up water plant.

Chapel of the Snows.

Admiral George J. Dufek wrote in Operation Deepfreeze, "It had been planned to hold religious services in the mess hall [in 1956] because there were no plans or materials for a church. But as the construction of the buildings at McMurdo progressed, a mysterious pile of lumber, planks, nails, Quonset hut sections, and assorted materials began to accumulate on a knoll overlooking the camp." The chaplain and some volunteers had begun gathering odds and ends for a church that the chaplain believed to be the first ever erected in Antarctica. In that year Father John C. Condit's parish was by far the world's southernmost. The chapel was constructed by volunteer labor. Dufek wrote, "The men, after a hard day's work, would drift over to the church site. Before the main camp was finished a tidy neat church with a steeple was to stand on a ridge overlooking the camp. Later it even had a bell, procured from a small gasoline tanker." The Chapel of the Snows has been relocated and built anew two times since its original construction. It now overlooks Winter Quarters Bay.

Richard E. Byrd Memorial.

This memorial has been placed temporarily near the west side of the National Science Foundation Chalet during construction of McMurdo's new science laboratory. Formerly, the memorial stood just north of the Chalet in International Square, a commemorative area displaying flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations; this area also has been removed to make way for the new laboratory. The memorial is a bronze bust of Richard E. Byrd on a polished black Norwegian marble pedestal. It was donated by the National Geographic Society and erected in October 1965. During the XVth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, representatives recommended that this monument be added to the list of protected historic sites in Antarctica.


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