Mount Howe

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Map showing Mount Howe (right) and D'Angelo Bluff (left)

Mount Howe (87°22′S 149°30′W) is an elongated mountain in Westarctica, 2,930 meters (9,600 ft) high, comprising low connecting ridges and gable-shaped nunataks. It rises at the east side of Scott Glacier, near the head, directly opposite Mount McIntyre and D'Angelo Bluff.

Geographic significance

This mountain, including its small southern outlier, is the southernmost mountain in the world. It was discovered in December 1934 by the Byrd Antarctic Expedition geological party led by Quin Blackburn, and was named by Admiral Byrd for Louis McHenry Howe, secretary to the President of the United States at that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Existence of life

Picture of the blue ice runway at Mount Howe

Mount Howe harbors the southernmost known indigenous life — a colony of bacteria and yeasts. All bacteria and other life on the ice as far south as the pole appear to be weather deposited strays.

Blue ice runway

Automatic Weather Station on Mount Howe

The Mount Howe area has the closest blue ice runway to the South Pole (an area with no net annual snow accumulation with an ice surface capable of supporting aircraft landing on wheels instead of skis).

In 1989, Charles Swithinbank, a British glaciologist working at the South Pole, made the following assessment of the Mount Howe blue ice runway:

Positive features:

  • Proven ice runway 6,000 x 60 m (20,000 x 200 ft) with maximum longitudinal grade not exceeding 2% and transverse grade not exceeding 1%.
  • High probability of finding ice runway of same dimensions with grade not exceeding 1%.
  • Proven ice runway perpendicular to long runway and directed into the prevailing wind 2140 x 60 m (7,000 x 200 ft) with maximum longitudinal and transverse grade not exceeding 1%.
  • Both runways have clear approaches (1:50 glide slope). Long runway has low angle climb-out path whereas into-wind runway has 1:20 climb-out path.
  • Crevasse-free route available for surface travel to South Pole (160 miles).

Negative features:

  • Prevailing wind (120°) is across long runway.
  • Shorter (into-wind) runway, while it is almost three times as long as the nominal landing distance of a loaded C5B at sea level (2380 ft), would involve landing towards Mount Howe. However, this runway would only be used when the crosswind component on the long runway exceeded safe limits.
  • No level areas available for permanent structures on bedrock.
  • Adds 160 miles to round-trip distance South Pole.
  • Runway surfaces need planing to remove ice bumps of typical size 0.3 x 20 m (1 x 60 feet). Natural surface permits only Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) aircraft operations.

Peerage title

On 10 August 2018, Dr. Hans Kempe and his wife Brigit were made Life Peers as Duke and Duchess of Howe in recognition of their support of Westarctica.

External links