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Home* Triplogs with photo galleriesAntarctic blog → Dry Val­leys: Tay­lor Val­ley

Dry Val­leys: Tay­lor Val­ley

No, we have not just slept through the 28th. It did not exist. The date line.

The wea­ther just can’t get bet­ter than it is today. That is the oppor­tu­ni­ty for our long­st heli­c­op­ter ope­ra­ti­on, the flight into the Dry Val­leys, name­ly Tay­lor Val­ley. The Ort­eli­us is in New Har­bour, on the wes­tern side of McMur­do Sound, pushing its bow firm­ly against the edge of mile of fast ice sepa­ra­ting us from the real coast. Ahead of us we have got the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins, this immense moun­tain chain with count­less wild peaks stret­ching hundreds and hundreds of miles from Cape Ada­re to well bey­ond 80 degrees south. And in the midd­le of it, the­se weird val­leys which are too dry even for the gla­ciers.

It is a lot of work today for the pilots to fly almost 100 peo­p­le from Ort­eli­us to Cana­da Gla­cier in Tay­lor Val­ley. By the way, the last visi­tors befo­re us, apart from sci­en­tists, will also have come from Ort­eli­us, in Febru­ary 2013. It is, gene­ral­ly spea­king, not an over­c­row­ded place.

Canada Glacier, Taylor Valley

As ever­y­thing here, visits to the Dry Val­leys are strict­ly regu­la­ted. The­re is only one small visi­tor zone, ever­y­thing else is gene­ral­ly off limits. The bot­tom of the lar­ge val­ley is com­ple­te­ly cover­ed with anci­ent morai­nes, a huge, colourful open air muse­um of the regio­nal geo­lo­gy, a wide desert. A litt­le melt­wa­ter stream is run­ning from the gla­cier to Lake Fry­xell, which is of cour­se fro­zen. You won’t find any traces of life here, you would have to have a micro­scope to dis­co­ver any­thing ali­ve, with big­gest chan­ces for dis­co­veries in the streams or lakes. Don’t expect trout or sal­mon, though, but har­dy micro­bes. But even some seals have made it up here ages ago, more than 10 km away from the coast, just to find out that life in the Dry Val­leys is no good for a seal. The con­di­ti­on their sad remains are in are silent wit­nesses to the raging sand­storms that are fre­quent in this hosti­le place.

Apart from seal mum­mies and gla­ciers, the moon must be quite simi­lar, I guess.

Penguins and Orcas, McMurdo Sound

As a con­trast, the­re is ple­nty of wild­life at the ice edge, whe­re others are crui­sing with zodiacs, the day is long and lea­ves time for more than the flight into Tay­lor Val­ley. Seve­ral pods of Orca are tra­vel­ling in the chan­nels bet­ween the big ice floes, slight­ly ner­vous­ly wat­ched by Ade­lie pen­gu­ins, who are stan­ding every here and the­re in small groups. The zodiacs are some­ti­mes in the focus of peaceful atten­ti­on of the­se migh­ty pre­da­tors. A litt­le walk on one of the ice floes, which mea­su­re met­res in thic­k­ness and are hard as con­cre­te, with Mount Ere­bus pro­vi­ding a more than appro­pria­te back­ground, rounds the day off.

last modification: 2015-02-18 · copyright: Rolf Stange