Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lake Bonney, The Dry Valleys

I am currently at Lake Bonney, one of the dry valley camps. It is an established camp with such luxuries as wireless internet, albeit slow, a radio telephone, a microwave oven, and a big jamesway. I am one of two people here right now and will be here for a little more than a week. We we came by helicpoter last Thursday, and being only my second helicopter ride I've ever had, I was quite excited. The movement in the air is quite extraordinary and I loved it all. I had my camera in one hand and my video camera in the other hand. Felt like a tourist, but sometimes you have to do it.

I am here with a scientist who is involved with the studies of the water of Lake Bonney as well as what is known as Blood Falls, a rust-colored stain (and sometimes waterfall) that emerges out of the toe of the Taylor Glacier, which we are camped nearby. (It is neat to be have been on the Taylor Dome and now be at the toe of its glacier.)

The camp is great. I sleep in a tent and when I wake up, I know if it's a sunny day because my the temperature in my tent will have risen about 40 degrees in one hour (usually from 0600 to 0700.) Then on the way down to the jamesway, passing underneath the wind generator, I rotate the two big arrays of solar panels, then come in check in Mac Ops over the radio telephone. After a breakfast of microwaved quick oats, yes, my favorite, we load up the all terrained vehicle (ATV) four wheeler and we drive to blood falls - a 20 minute speed ride across the chopped up ice. I was told by the scientist, named Jill, during my first trick at the helm that I drove like a granny. I hold by my stance that it was out of concern for the precious samples. Nevertheless, I am up to good speed now having gotten my bearings on the ATV, the ice surface, and the required navigation skills. Upon return, I usually spend a few minutes chipping ice from the lake to melt for our drinking and hand washing water.

This valley, Taylor Valley, is incredible. There are large mountains on both sides and glaciers pour over the saddles from all directions, some almost reaching Lake Bonney. The toes and sides of the glaciers all seem to be about 20 meters high. They are incredible. Apart from the glaciers there is no snow and the day we got here I was wearing just a t-shirt outside. Since then it has been mostly cloudy and blustery. I have had some time to hike around the toes of the glaciers and seen all sorts of "ventifacts" or wind carved rocks that take on all sorts of shapes.

Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself that I'm in Antarctica. The sights are amazing. Dodgeball Championships are this Friday, and though I will still be here, I am hoping the team carries on in my absence.


  1. Ben - hi to all. You are having a blast!!! Thanks for postings. The states are well. Tell Greg I check his blog, too. Keep safe, keep on.


  2. The U's from SeattleDecember 20, 2006

    We love your accounts. Much of the Puget Sound Region has been out of power for several days. We have been "roughing it." It has been in the 30's that's plus F, but then we think of you. We hope to write more. Does Santa visit the South Pole too? Let us know. Love, all the U's