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November 27, 2013

Lakes Bonney and Hoare (Dry Valley Sampling)

by Mary Tilton

After dinner last night we finally heard whether we were going to leave for the Dry Valleys today. In the morning, we packed our ECW and all the terrestrial sampling materials we would need for a full day in the field, and walked down to the helicopter (helo) pad. Once there, we weighed all of our bags and then ourselves with our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing and waited for the pre-flight safety briefing. A short while later, we were led to our helo with our bags, loaded everything in, then prepared for the 30 minute flight to Lake Bonney, the location of our first sampling site in the Dry Valleys.

Lake Bonney is at the western end of Taylor Valley, and was named by the Scott expedition of 1910-1913 for Thomas George Bonney, a professor of Geology.

Our helicopter

Terry and Andrew in the helicopter

The team was kind enough to allow me to sit on the front seat in the helo for the trip to Lake Bonney (the best seat in the helo besides the pilot). The views on the way there were remarkable! The more I saw, the more I fell in love with Antarctica. This was a special trip for the whole team because Terry, Andrew, and Steve have never sampled in the Dry Valleys before. We flew over the Blue Glacier, Thomas Heights, and the Ferrar Glacier and into the Taylor Valley to the Lake Bonney facility zone, which consists of a helicopter pad and five buildings.

Looking toward the Blue Glacier in the Dry Valleys

The Ferrar Glacier

Looking toward Lake Bonney in Taylor Valley

Lake Bonney facility zone

Upon arrival at Lake Bonney, we exited the helo, unloaded our cargo and readied our equipment for sampling. The helo pilot had many other sites to visit, so after dropping us off, he flew off to his next destination, leaving us for about three hours to do our sampling.

Terrestrial sampling is very different to the marine sampling we have done. Coordinates are still pre-loaded into our GPS unit to find our sampling sites, but instead of taking cores and dividing the contents between jars at certain strata, a 1x1 meter area is marked off, and sampling is done anywhere inside the marked area. Andrew used the GPS to find our sampling sites, Terry determined the slope angle and measured the looseness of the soil with a probe, and Steve recorded measurements and coordinates and photographed the site. My job was to scoop the soil from each site into jars with as few large rocks as possible—a difficult task in some places, as the ground is dominated by large rocks.

We trekked up and down hills to our sites, sampled around the facility, and moved from site to site for two hours before breaking for lunch. We took some time to enjoy our lunches, and then packed our bags again for the short trip to our next sampling area at Lake Hoare.

Waiting for our helicopter at Lake Bonney

Our helicopter arriving

Lake Hoare is also in the Taylor Valley, approximately 10 miles (2 minutes flight) northeast of Lake Bonney. The camp sits at the edge of the Canada Glacier. It was named by the 8th Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition in 1963-1964, for Ray Hoare, a physicist and member of the Expedition who studied lakes in the Taylor, Wright, and Victoria Valleys.

The Lake Hoare camp

After we arrived, the inhabitants of the camp invited us into the dining room for a cup of coffee before we started work. We sat and talked with them for several minutes before gathering our equipment to begin sampling again. The temperature was warmer and wind slower at Lake Hoare, so we enjoyed shedding some warmer layers to take samples in the beautiful, sunny weather. The sampling for this site was performed the same way as for Lake Bonney, but we had much more time to relax after we finished sampling around the camp and decided to walk around the area and take some photos before leaving.

Terry and Steve choosing the next site

Mary sampling the sediment

Time for a team photo...

  ...and another

Andrew in front of Canada Glacier

Our helo arrived back at Lake Hoare to get us back to McMurdo in time for dinner. I was exhausted but happy.  

Two of the divers we worked with this season (Steve Rupp and Rob Robbins) will leave for Christchurch tomorrow, so we spent some time with them this evening before they leave tomorrow morning.