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Home* Triplogs with photo galleriesAntarctic blog → The Dry Val­leys – Febru­ary 26th, 2017

The Dry Val­leys – Febru­ary 26th, 2017

Today is final­ly the days that sees us arri­ving in McMur­do Sound, a key area for our voya­ge. This is pro­ba­b­ly what most peo­p­le think of when they ima­gi­ne the Ross Sea.

We hope to start with a place that is cer­tain­ly very high on the wish­list of most, if not ever­y­bo­dy here: Tay­lor Val­ley, one of the famous McMur­do Dry Val­leys. This moon­like, hyper-arid area within the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins which has been too dry even for the gla­ciers sin­ce mil­li­ons of years. The moun­ta­ins keep the inland ice away, only some smal­ler side gla­ciers reach down to the val­ley bot­tom. A fasci­na­ting part of our pla­net! (click here for some 360 degree impres­si­ons of the Dry Val­leys)

But hard to get to. The first ear­ly mor­ning look out of the win­dow is not too pro­mi­sing: grey, grey, grey. Ice floes and whir­ling snow. Not good, as our birds need to see some­thing in order to fly.

Pati­ence is the one and only thing that helps. Fre­quent­ly, I meet with the pilots and the Cap­tain to assess the wea­ther deve­lo­p­ment. Slow­ly, slow­ly the visi­bi­li­ty is impro­ving and we can see the Trans­ant­ar­c­tic Moun­ta­ins just a few miles away, but the clouds are still han­ging low.

Gal­lery – The Dry Val­leys – Febru­ary 26th, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

In the late mor­ning, chief pilot Feli­pe sug­gests to make a recon­nois­sance flight to check the con­di­ti­ons on loca­ti­on. Feli­pe makes some loops over the Cana­da Gla­cier and hovers a few met­res abo­ve the pro­jec­ted landing area, che­cking the clouds abo­ve and the tur­bu­len­ces near the ground. Final­ly he gives his thumbs-up. Back on bord, anxious eager­ness gives quick­ly way to joyful anti­ci­pa­ti­on after I have made my announce­ment. Some final pre­pa­ra­ti­ons are quick­ly made, a bana­na has to be enough for lunch, the first heli­c­op­ter for the field team is soon rea­dy for depar­tu­re, the­re is no time to lose. Who knows how long the wea­ther is going to last!

It is a flight of 19 miles over bro­ken sea ice, bar­ren land deco­ra­ted by ice wedge poly­gons, the Com­mon­wealth Gla­cier and then Lake Fry­xell befo­re we reach our area near the Cana­da Gla­cier. We unload the man­da­to­ry safe­ty equip­ment and then we are rea­dy. Mean­while, heli­c­op­ters num­ber two and three are pre­pared on board, and soon the machi­nery is run­ning. Ever­y­bo­dy is coming out in small groups, heli­c­op­ter by heli­c­op­ter, one by one. It is a long ope­ra­ti­on, taking quite some time. Peo­p­le come fly­ing in, get off and remain in awe for a litt­le while.

We have to redu­ce time on the ground to a mini­mum for safe­ty reasons, we have no idea how long our wea­ther win­dow will last and we don’t want to have too many peo­p­le out here in case we need to get out of here quick­ly. This is real­ly not a place to get stuck in bad wea­ther. But the wea­ther remains sta­ble, it even impro­ves, the sky is clea­ring up a bit, expo­sing some love­ly blue spots, with sun­beams illu­mi­na­ting the sce­n­ery as with spot­lights.

Final­ly we can hap­pi­ly finish a long, gre­at after­noon. Ever­y­bo­dy has had the rare chan­ce to fly into Tay­lor Val­ley. We were very likely the first peo­p­le after our own last visit two years ago, the­re is no other ship car­ry­ing heli­c­op­ters (and on the pre­vious trip, just a few weeks ago, Ort­eli­us did not have a chan­ce to get any­whe­re near this area, as the who­le McMur­do Sound was still full with solid fast ice).

last modification: 2017-03-30 · copyright: Rolf Stange