Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hiking in the Dry Valleys

It has been a while since I have posted.  I have been pretty busy with exploring the Dry Valleys and building a cribbage board for F6 camp.

Last Satuday me and a teammate hiked up to Bonney Camp from Lake Hoare which is at the midpoint of Lake Bonney on the southern shore (forgot to include on my map).  It was quite the hike.  We left at 9am and returned to Lake Hoare at 7pm.  I came along to help "sanitize" the Lake Bonney Camp.  Lake Bonney has quite the reputation as a really fun camp.  I can't get into details, but people higher up in the NSF got wind of some inappropriate decorations, and they were asked to be taken down.  I had never been there before, but the decorations turned out to be pretty innocent and quite funny, but they were taken down none the less.  Anyways we took a high route home up on a ridge and walked through some amazing ventifacts.  I wish I had brought my camera along to show you... oops.  There was a basalt hillside that had eroded down onto the bench that we were walking along that had created a black landscape.  The only rocks that protruded the ground surface were these amazing ventifacts, which looked like stone swiss cheese warped by time.  These sculptures were up to 12 feet high.  This landscape felt like something out of Star Wars, no wonder they use this place as a surrogate for studying Mars.

This was another long hike the day after I did the Nuessbaum hike, so needless to say I was beat when we got back to Lake Hoare.  We played some cards, had some whiskey and hit the tents.  I planned on sleeping in pretty late because I wasn't supposed to be picked up by the helo until 14:45 which is let's see... carry the one plus three 2:45 pm (I am failing on getting used to military time).  Anyways,  I had slept in until about 9:00.  I walked into the Lake Hoare camp building and found that my flight had been bumped up to 11:00 am.  I started to hustle up my morning a bit to ensure I had everything packed.  I grabbed some quick breakfast and began packing my things to hit the road.  It was 10:00 am when someone walked into the instrument lab where I was packing.  He said hey hurry up helo is going to be here in 2 minutes.  I called B.S. and he said, "no seriously get moving!"  Uh oh!.  I began grabbing everything within reach and stuffing it into my pack.  I jumped into my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear and hustled out to the helo pad a couple minutes late.  We dropped in early on the rest of my team at F6 and it was pretty funny to see them in the same scramble I was just in.  We flew up to Blood Falls again to sample the streams around there.  There wasn't much else notable that happened that day.  We flew to another spot in Taylor that day, then headed home to F6.  

Here is a random picture I took of Mount Ray.  Lake Hoare Camp is located at the base of this mountain where it meets the glacier on the right.  Unfortunately you can't see the camp from here.  I thought the clouds gave the mountain a killer look!

Monday came and I had felt that I just haven't had enough hiking lately.  Someone at Lake Hoare needed some help drilling, and testing the lake water near the inlet of one of the streams to look at lake-stream mixing.  I just couldn't get enough of Lake Hoare so, I hiked over to Lake Hoare from F6 with a couple of teammates.  The Canada Glacier that we were walking around had a couple of spectacular waterfalls cascading off of it.  I tried to capture one here.

We helped out with the drilling, and most of you reading will get a kick out of this photo.  They use an ice fishing auger from 1970 with a person on either side.  Here are a couple of teammates punching holes so I can jig for some elusive Dry Valley walleye.


We finished up drilling late, and had to stay for some delicious dinner.  Me and one of the teammates I left with headed back for F6.  We stopped at one stream that had a high flow on the way back to measure and sample it at about 23:00.  We got in late, had a snack, and crashed.

Yesterday all of the fun, and lack of sleep was catching up to me.  I had to drink an extra couple cups of coffee to get through the day.  We headed out in the Fryxell basin to measure and sample some streams.  While we were out, my professor Mike Gooseff landed at F6 to begin his field season.  It is great to have him out here now, so I can get started on my project, and help him out with all of his endeavors.  I really appreciated the stream team taking me on for a couple of weeks to help out and travel to some exotic locations.

Let's see, what did I forget.  Oh yeah the moats around Lake Fryxell are really melted out now.  We have to use a Zodiak with oars to boat across the moat.  We then use the ice ax to pull the boat up onto the lake ice, and then use the ATVs and try not to get too close to the open water.  This is too much fun.  I love the variety of transportation down here!  I also finished my cribbage board.  It isn't the prettiest board ever made, but it gets the job done.  Here is a picture from F6.  The red thing is our boat to cross the moat, which is convenient because it gets us to our ATV and it rhymes.

Today we went out to my study site and did some great recon.  We set up some time lapse cameras on areas on the banks that are being actively eroded by the stream.  We also took a bunch of photographs with this awesome camera called a FLIR camera.  This thing takes a normal picture that you could get with any old digital camera, but it also takes a photo that captures the inferred spectrum.  This camera is a ridiculously cool toy to play around with.  Here is an example of a set of photographs that I took with it.  This is a snow drift, with the stream flowing out from the end (hard to make out).  That is Lake Fryxell down at the bottom of the drainage.  I will be sure to post more!

The coolest thing that I saw today was when we were walking up Crescent Stream on the branch that my project site is located on.  We were walking up the stream and then all of a sudden, there was a snowbank where the water disappeared under.  We walked around the corner of the snowbank expecting the flow to be on the other side.  It wasn't there.  There was no flow in the channel upstream.  We were absolutely baffled.  The flow was somewhere underground.  We walked about 40 yards upstream and saw where the flow was disappearing into the stream bank.  My mind was blown.


  1. Love the auger ha. You're getting to explore the valleys a lot! Cool. Where's the picture of the cribbage board? :-)

  2. Hey man these pictures are awesome! Real jealous of you right now. It's pretty awful in MN at the moment. On the next post do you think you can give a brief description of your specific research project? I know you told me... but I forgot. I love that FLIR photo. Need one of those for your elk hunting, although that may not be very sporting haha. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hey man sorry to hear the weather sucks in MN right now. If it makes you feel any better it is 36 degrees and sunny right now at 22:14 haha. Such a good point. I haven't really described what the hell I am doing down here yet. Hope your getting some good ice fishing in back home because I am dying missing this season!