I am thankful that I arrived here just in time for the holiday season. It makes the titles to my posts very easy, and it's pretty great to get some time off to explore too!
Yesterday we flew up to Wright Valley which is the next valley to the north of Taylor Valley, where we are staying. We have two stream gages located in the Wright Valley on the Onyx river. The Onyx is a really awesome river for many reasons. It is the longest river that exists on the continent which already makes it cool. It also flows up the valley (away from the ocean) to a closed basin lake, which is unique. It is also some of the most clear, colorless water I have ever seen in my life. Here are a couple pictures of the Onyx.
This was an amazing day trip. We got a lot of good work done on the Onyx, and we were treated to some spectacular helicopter rides. Our pilot yesterday is always game for giving you a great ride, so he toured us around on our way to our destinations and showed us some cool stuff. On the way back from the Wright Valley he flew us close to Gargoyle Ridge, which is a ridge that is completely covered by these rock formations called ventifacts. Ventifacts are rocks that have been wind blown and sand blasted for many years to make spectacular designs. Here is the best picture I could get of Gargoyle Ridge.
He also showed us a fresh seal track way up on a glacier. I was skeptical when he told us about it, but we saw it and it was one main line with little flipper marks on either side. He was right. It was crazy because this seal had to have climbed out of Taylor Valley, up onto a glacier and scooted for miles. I hope he made it, but I think there is a decent chance that he may end up like some of the mummified seals that have been featured in my posts.
We flew back to F6 and dropped off two teammates. Another teammate and I flew to Lake Hoare. I hopped off at Lake Hoare, then my other teammate flew back to McMurdo to partake in the New Year festivities. Every year in McMurdo there is Ice Stock where a bunch of bands get together and put on a show in McMurdo. It sounds awesome, and I was a little bummed I didn't get to see it, but the Dry Valleys for New Years sounds pretty alright to me. The New Year holiday (days off) down here is observed on Jan 2 and 3 this year. I wish this was some cool Antarctic custom with a great history, but instead the NSF didn't like where Dec 31 and Jan 1 fell in the work week so they moved the off days to the weekend. This means I have today, and tomorrow off.
I spent my first day off (today) hiking the Nussbaum which is a ridge to the south of the Suess Glacier. It has a peak on it that offers spectacular views. There are also some awesome looking ventifacts situated all around the Nussbaum.
I then hiked down to the Defile which is a narrow canyon between the Suess Glacier, and the opposing Andrews Ridge. After exiting the Defile I was at the western edge of Lake Hoare. I did some sampling of the Suess glacial runoff via taste (very scientific) and it was delicious, as expected. Then I took the moat ice on Lake Hoare to the Lake Hoare Camp.
All in all, the hike was amazing and just what I needed to start the new year off right. I really enjoy the solo hikes here. I feel like a little kid exploring the woods in the backyard for the first time. I love that feeling of not knowing what is going to be over the next hill, or around the next corner. It is also great being alone because I can just hike along singing my favorite songs, and there is nobody there to hear it!
Tomorrow the plan is to hike Falconer's Ridge with two of my teammates. I am pretty excited, and plan on covering every inch of this valley with my spare time when I get it. My Professor is supposed to make it out here on Monday. I assume when he gets out here I will be much more busy, so I plan to make this weekend count!
Thanks for reading!