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In 1990, in the middle of the Antarctic winter, Kristin Larson and a colleague left the warmth of McMurdo Station and set out on the Erebus Ice Tongue, a sliver of glacial ice flowing off the nearby volcano. It was 30 degrees below zero. She had been cooped up for months, so she and her partner rejoiced in the opportunity to throttle up their snow machines. Still, they stopped every 20 minutes to be sure that the sea ice was thick enough to support their 500-pound machines. At one check, many kilometers from shore, Larson’s ice auger went right through. They turned and raced back to solid land.

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