Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Christmas! A couple days late...

Merry Christmas everyone!  Sorry I was a little late in posting that, but I finally found some time to get around to writing again.  Christmas was amazing at Lake Hoare as always.  Rae, and Renee worked so hard baking, cooking, and decorating.  They really do their best to make things feel as close to back home as possible, and we all really appreciate their hard work.

On Christmas we spent most of the day decorating a gingerbread house and setting up decorations with the classic Christmas songs playing on repeat.  Most years I am driven to the point of breaking with the same old Christmas music on every radio station.  However, without hearing these songs for an entire moth prior, I hate to say I actually really enjoyed them.  The gingerbread decoration took a solid couple of hours.

Lake Hoare gingerbread house
Here is a picture part way through the decoration.  I wish I would have taken one later in the night because it looked amazing with all the lights out in the hut and candles illuminating the hard candy stained glass windows.  I wanted to snap a picture of my helicopter before the frosting failed and it fell apart...  You should take note of the carefully placed chocolate chip behind the reindeer.

When dinner time rolled around Mikey and I were responsible for blacking out the hut.  We put black fabric over the skylights, and closed the shudders on the exterior windows to block all sunlight from entering the hut.  It got very dark very quickly, which was a strange experience when you haven't experienced darkness for a couple months.  We lit candles and dished up an amazing dinner.  We had crab legs, ham, salad, some cheesy casserole dish, and mashed potatoes for the main course.  What a harsh continent indeed.  Even with the amazing ham and crab legs, I have to admit, I think my favorite part was the salad.  It was amazing, I haven't had a fresh fruit or vegetable in what feels like forever.  It is funny because 20 years ago if you asked my Grandma Gail if I'd ever grow up to like vegetables she would have laughed at the thought.  She used to encourage me to eat them against my will, but now I would give anything for a fresh carrot!  Thanks Grandma for teaching me to love my veggies.  I wish you could convince the USAP that your grandson needs more fresh vegetables.

Dessert was so delicious.  We had ginger spice cheese cake, and bread pudding.  I wish I could describe these desserts to do them proper justice, but I that is beyond my abilities this late at night.  Just take my word they were amazing!  Thanks Renee and Dave!

We proceeded to the white elephant gift exchange after dinner.  There were some pretty creative gifts.  One of the popular ones was a bottle of nice whiskey, a tumbler to drink it out of, and a glacier berry for ice.  Another was some wool socks and nice coffee, because everyone truly appreciates the value of those two necessities down here.  I ended up with a homemade crossword puzzle, some Baileys, and some great coffee.  The crossword puzzle was quite creative.  Most of the words in it are unique to life down here, so the clues are pretty funny.  I was happy to discover that I was able to make significant progress on this crossword puzzle, because typically I am only able to get a word or two in the Sunday Times before I give up.  Mikey made a stream team t-shirt, he also included some merino wool socks, and a steamy romance novel "The Bride of a Wicked Scottsman." Rae had knit a hat, and included a flask which was a great gift but impossible to keep from getting stolen.  There was a homemade cribbage board, some silly puddy that changed colors, and another gift I can't fully remember.  Oh and mine was a homemade hammock, which included a merino wool beanie, and some cake batter lip balm.  It was pretty awesome to see how creative everyone was, and I think everyone left the game with a really cool gift.  I should have taken more pictures, I just was too caught up in the moment to bother grabbing my phone.

The day after Christmas was pretty rough weather.  It was cold and cloudy with snow flurries.  Not to mention we were all recovering from our overindulgence in sugar the day before, so we didn't have much motivation for a hike.  We ended up just walking down Lake Hoare to Lake Chad and sampling the few streams that run down on that end of the lake.

The next day we were lucky enough to fly back to F6.  The weather wasn't looking much nicer than the day before.  There was a really low cloud ceiling and it was lightly snowing.  So the pilot was not sure if he wanted to fly up the valley to come get us and risk getting stuck.  Lucky for us he decided to take a shot at it and the visibility ended up being a lot better than he expected.  After we unpacked, and settled in at F6, we took the ATV around the lake to check and see if any streams were running.  It turned out that all of the streams in the Fryxell basin had shut off for the time being.  This is pretty amazing considering we just passed the summer solstice, and now the streams that were raging around Thanksgiving have turned off.  I guess it just goes to show how dependent the hydrologic cycle here is on solar energy.

Our new john boat.
Overnight the weather improved so we set out to check for flow again.  When we didn't find any we decided to take matters into our own hands and seek out new streams that were flowing at higher elevations.  We headed up the west side of Commonwealth Glacier, and hiked up a steep ridge to what is known as Falconer's Ridge.  The ventifacts here were out of this world, and the view of Lake Fryxell was really impressive.  However, we were unable to find any new streams up here, so we headed back down.

Crazy ventifact.
Lake Fryxell from Above
Lost Seal Tributary
On the way down we did find one stream flowing that is a tributary to Lost Seal pictured here.  However, when we made it to the Lost Seal gauging station the flow wasn't anywhere to be seen.  I guess we beat it down the hill.  On our way back to F6 we passed McKnight and Aiken and finally found some flow.  So we went back to F6, re-grouped and headed back out to collect some data.

Gaarwood River

Yesterday we flew over to Miers Valley again.  The flow had slowed down significantly since our last visit.  At the outlet of Lake Miers we measured 1.2 cfs, as opposed to 30 cfs two weeks ago.  We also stopped at Garwood Valley to sample the Garwood River.  This was a spectacular valley that was home to a river with a lot of interesting features.

Thawing ice wall on Garwood River
There is one spot on the river where it runs along and under a buried ice wall that is about 60 ft tall.  The ice wall is melting because the river is undercutting it, and the soil overlaying it is being warmed by the sun.  I was on the wrong side of the helicopter to get a good view, but here is a shot of it.

Garwood River with the Royal Society Range in the background

We flew up the river to the point where it runs along the Garwood Glacier.  The river gets pinched between a mountainside and a glacier.  When the glacier wall breaks off and calves into the stream bed, the river pools up and has nowhere to go.  In some spots the river has tunneled into the mountainside, and in other spots it tunneled under the glacier.  I wish I was able to photograph it better from the helicopter.  There is a location where the river has hollowed out an area underneath the glacier, and the ice above collapsed leaving a massive hole in the glacier.  It looked like something straight out of Star Wars.  We landed above the glacier and sampled below Lake Colleen, shown here.  Just an awesome end to a good day of stream work.

1 comment:

  1. Great descriptions and photos. Check out what the biologists are doing: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/whats-causing-these-antarctic-sea-spiders-become-giants
    Happy new year Zach - hope you get to toast it coming in! xo Natalie