Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wright Valley Trip

Yesterday turned out a little better than expected.  We headed out on our way back to F6 so we could be there to help unload the helicopter with all of our gear.  We were driving across Lake Hoare on the ATV, but the ice was already getting pretty bad so we stopped halfway across the lake and started walking.  We were all pretty quiet on the hike, I think we were all pretty hiked out from the day before.  We all waved at a helicopter fly over us while we were walking along side the Canada Glacier.  We waved and joked about how nice it would be if we could hail helicopters like you hail a cab.  About ten minutes later the same helicopter flew over from the other direction, and pretty low.  Then all of a sudden he landed in front of us.  We hit him on the radio, and he asked if we wanted a ride back to F6.  We all piled in and he flew me back to the ATV we had stashed on the lake and took the other two back to F6.  It was a pretty awesome morale booster, and it saved us about an hour of walking and driving the ATV.  It was quite the literal pick me up.  We always joke about how helicopters are like magical gods here.  We completely rely on the helicopters here, they bring us food and supplies to survive, they bring us mail, they take us everywhere we need to go, and they provide all of the good gossip from town.  They also have a pretty good sense of humor, "studying global warming at 110 gallons per hour."

The flight over the Asgard Range into Wright Valley

We arrived back to home sweet home and got settled in again.  Within an hour another helicopter came and dropped off more food and supplies.  We had some time to chat with the pilot.  He served as a pilot in Iraq, and did contract work in Afghanistan.  Not surprisingly he said he was really enjoying the flying down here.  He said these deserts were a little less hostile, and his clients were a little nicer.

Today we flew over to the Onyx River in Wright Valley.  The Onyx is the largest river in Antarctica at about 20 miles in length.  We have a gauge at the outlet into Lake Vanda, and at the beginning near Lake Brownworth.  It was a pretty smooth day.  Everything worked as expected, and the flight to and from Wright Valley is pretty amazing.

Onyx River (not flowing yet) looking downstream towards Lake Vanda

On the way back from Wright Valley we were dropped off at Commonwealth stream which flows off of the eastern edge of the Commonwealth Glacier.  It was actually flowing which was exciting, but unfortunate.  This means that our gauge didn't collect the first couple days of flow data, but that is the way it goes sometimes.

Here we are doing some surveying of the control points and the orifice of the Onyx  Lower Wright gauge (beginning of the river) to make sure our elevations haven't changed from year to year

Tomorrow we are headed to Miers Valley to open our final two unopened gauges.  I am pretty excited because I have not been to this valley yet, and apparently the flight is pretty spectacular.  I'll try to take some pictures.  Anyways, after that trip we are headed to Lake Hoare for Thanksgiving festivities.  It sounds like Thanksgiving is quite a party there.  I am sure it will be fun, but I really wish I was home with friends and family to get uncomfortably full on turkey and stuffing and pass out on the couch watching a bad football game.


  1. I love helicopters too, and think you're soooo lucky to fly all over the valleys in them - I'm green!! Ha

  2. I know I am soo lucky to have these amazing opportunities! I try not to take them for granted. And yeah, the irony they point out about studying global warming is pretty funny.