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Heels 1978

Midsummer Night's Dream (Antarctica, Summer 1977-78)

page 32

Midsummer Night's Dream (Antarctica, Summer 1977-78)

As a place, I guess it's the furtherest one can get from the usual experience of so-called "civilised living", a landscape of unreal magnitude where man still hasn't really wiped his dirty feet. The climate is such that he must survive artificially, supported by tenuous supply lines, always aware of a degree of vulnerability.

We went in at the deep end, starting our travels at the head of the Taylor Glacier, the edge of the polar plateau, and what might be inadequately described as a far-out place. Cold though, when the wind blew, it certainly wasn't easy to work or to travel - fortunately our three days were near windless and we departed in fine spirit. Tobogganing down glaciers was quite an exceptional buzz - slots wide enough and sufficient in number to lose your breakfast over. Fortunately they stood out clearly, irregular white depressions in the scalloped blue glacier ice. We were relative novices at handling sledges and toboggans, five degrees of slope meant near total loss of control on the smooth ice. I think that day I lived on pure adrenalin.

The terrain stayed breathtakingly beautiful, a glacier miles wide, alive beneath us, spreading and merging into layer cake rock formations and peaks on either side; Beehive, Finger Mountain The Inland Forts and other exotic formations. Clear skies gave us occasional glimpses of Erubus with its plume, probably seventy miles away - big mountains are funny that way; you need to be well away from them to see how massive they really are. If there was a creature inhabiting those

was a creature inhabiting those parts it would find amusement in these grossly overdressed intruding analysts, puttering about, shutter happy and exuberant, lost in the dimension.

We meet briefly with another Vic. party, share their company and their 'rabbit el Mexico'. I can't quite recall the details but the recipe was on the back of the box - 'Ranch reared rabbit' conjured up wierd visions of round-ups and stampedes. The next two days in the Beacon Valley we worked our way up both sides sampling and observing the leveled and weathered strata, spinning out the 24 hour daylight to squeeze the most out of the days. An exhilarating abseil from the glacier edge got us to work each morning and the converse grunt on ascenders got us home in the evening.

Home deserves a short discourse. The classic polar tents are pyramid shaped, double walled, with a ventilator pipe poking through the apex - little different in external appearance from the tents of Scott. They are poorly ventilated if the entrance is closed - a trap for the unwary with less than perfect primuses and thus fumes and monoxide are always about.

Down the glacier we trundled, just idling the toboggan and working hard to keep the sledges behind it. In ten days we had reached the glacier snout two days work on the surrounding slopes and the glacier tongue; we awaited the chopper to shift us into the next valley. A short shift (for a helo ) but late in the day when they arrived, the weather rolled clear down like a south-page 33erly front and a three day blizzard began. Helicopter and all we ended up stuck on a small isthmus called Marble Point. Marble Pt. is another saga - however I don't think any other area left us with the awe and exhilaration of the Taylor, with its carved valleys, peaks, and that massive glacier.

Those memories stand out in what was a marvellous Antarctic summer of memories - cold place though.

Party was: Jim Johnston, Nick Logan, Joss Lang, Jim Metson.