Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deep into the Dry Valleys

So the question was posed by the Nation Science Foundation rep, "Want to go fly for 2 hours to better aquaint yourself with our mission in the McMurdo Dry Valleys?"....silly quesiton, I know.  So once again after work, I threw on my flight gear and hopped down to the hangar with one of my lead pilots and an NSF rep to go fly.  We took up one of our ASTARs which is a Eurocopter design AS350 B2.
Flight path overview (Click for a big picture). The little red "O"s are
some of the posted pics, the "X"  is the LZ we landed at.
The pilot I went up with is the same guy I've gone up with 3 times previously except this time the ride in the ASTAR is much smoother and quieter than the Bell 212 straight out of "Apocolypse Now" where your fillings will fall out if they are loose. 
Up valley along the lower Taylor Glacier just up from Bonney Lake where I flew on a previous flight.

Up the Taylor Glacier Ice Stream looking at the Quartermain Mountains

The Solitary Rocks and Ice Falls where the Taylor and Ferrar Glacier streams meet

Ice Falls between the Cavandish and Solitary Rocks

A high speed Ice flow (it's a relative in glacier streams)

Beacon Valley, which gives off a rather Southwest US feel to its colors

Flying up Beacon Valley

Looking across the Taylor Glacier toward Round Mountain and the Asgard Range.

Flying out of Beacon Valley towards Finger Mountain

Finger Mountain showing a good crosssection of the entire local range (Granite on the bottom overlaid by basalt that intruded between the granite and Beacon Sandstone on top.

Finger Mountain

The Asgard Range

A ground effect white out as we touch down at Round Mountain.  We had to pick up a fuel pump from the fuel cache while we were out here as these field camps prepare for the upcoming winter.

The martain looking landscape near the LZ.

Looking back across the Taylor Glacier toward the Quartermain Range

At the LZ bundled up in my cold weather flight gear, it was around 5 degrees but calm thankfully.

Some neat snow patterns in the dry powder.

Across the glacier.  Not a thing to hear as we stood around.  Amazing taking in the views in such silence.

The ASTAR at the LZ

Crossing the edge of the Asgard range looking at VXE-6 Ice Falls at the head of the Wright Glacier and Valley.  Just to the left is the Polar Plateau and ice at around 8000'.

Looking down the Wright Glacier / Valley from the top of VXE-6 Falls

Entering what's known as the Labyrinth which is a canyon formed by a sub-glacial lake under the Wright Glacier now exposed since it's retreat.

A look into the Labyrinth

Wright Valley's South Fork

Lake Vanda and the surrounding scarred earth

Lake Vanda

 Lower Lake Vanda

Fractured Earth near Bull Pass in the Olympus Range

Exiting Bull Pass into the Victoria Valley

Victoria Valley and the St John's Range

Unique features of Victoia Valley--from the bottom up--Ice, Water, Sand, Dune, Glacier, Sky

A good look at the giant dune near Lake Victoria

More sand dunes at the base of lower Victoria Glacier

Dunes at the base of the lower glacier

Loose pack ice as we flew back along the ice edge back to base.  Weddel Seals, Emporer and Adelie Penguins, Minke and Killer Whales were everywhere along it. 

The dots are Weddell Seals that found this tabular Iceburg surrounded by sea ice and made it home, enter the water via the caves on the left.

Mt Erebus with a now exposed Ross Sea along the sea ice edge.
Another good day at work.  2 weeks left to go!  Then back to New Zealand.  Can't wait to get home!  I miss you all.

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