Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Harbor

Yesterday a teammate and I made a loop where we hiked out to New Harbor Camp, and then hiked out to the gage at Commonwealth Stream.  It was an awesome hike.  We got to cover quite a bit of new terrain and caught some great views along the way.  Neither of us had hiked this route before, so it was pretty fun walking in a general direction and not knowing exactly where to go.

As the name implies, New Harbor Camp is situated on the coast.  The camp itself was pretty awesome.  I think it houses a lot of divers so there was a bunch of great writing and random stuff hung up on the walls that had to do with diving.  We tagged the signature wall with our stream team alias, The Asgard Rangers.  This name is borrowed from our kiwi predecessors.  They gaged many of the streams that we now gage, and called themselves the Asgard Rangers after the Mountain Range that defines the Northern border of our valley.  Here is the front door to New Harbor, as you can see in the windows, the interior decorating of these camps is second to none.

When we were walking around the camp we saw some of the first signs that we were not alone.  Unfortunately, we never saw the culprit who left these prints.

We hiked along the beach for about a mile up to the mouth of Commonwealth stream.  The beach was amazing, with signs of life everywhere!  There were clam shells stuck in the sand, and the place actually smelled like a beach.  We were greeted by two curious skuas (burly seagulls)  that were not shy in the least bit.  They flew to within about 4 feet of our heads, but they surprisingly weren't aggressive.


There was a small moat of water between the shoreline and the sea ice, and the sea ice was extremely rough.  The melting sea ice really made some amazing sculptures that I tried to capture with my camera, but as with most things the pictures don't seem to do them justice.  Speaking of that, as Natalie mentioned in one of her comments, from New Harbor you can see Ross Island, where McMurdo is located.  Here are a couple pictures where I tried to capture Mt. Erebus, and you can faintly make it out in the background.

We took our time exploring up the beach until we hit Commonwealth.  From here we had to head up stream to near the source at Commonwealth Glacier, where we have a gage box.  This stretch of the hike was another great change of scenery.  There was a pretty cool canyon that was formed by the stream as it cut through the buried ice and sediment.  The canyon exposed layers of buried ice that began to form what are called thermokarst features.  A thermokarst feature is any change in topography caused by the thawing of permafrost or subterranean ice.  Here is a photo of the canyon.

I have realized that I keep referencing these places, but I haven't provided a map.  Here is one I grabbed and added the camps, and location of blood falls.  It doesn't have stream names, but if you are curious and google maps of taylor valley there are some good maps with stream names.

We finally made it up to our gage box and collected the samples and the data we needed to.  Then we began the 2 hour hike home.  When we arrived home we were greeted by a new teammate, and some dinner.  We processed the samples we took during the day, and then crashed.

I almost forgot.  Tonight is New Years Eve here.  Happy New Years everybody!!!


  1. Great pictures - Mt Erebus looks enormous from your side of the sound. Too bad there's not enough open water to see whales :-/. Nice you got to smell open water and beach though and see the cool ice sculptures. Happy new year Zach! On New Years eve 1999 I slept in a snow cave and 15 yrs later you're in a tent in the Dry Valleys! Pretty fun.

  2. I know. The sound is beginning to open up and there are a lot of whales around according to the helicopter pilots. I am hoping that during some of our flights we will be able to see some whales soon! That is crazy! Where was your snow cave?