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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1967-68: VUWAE 12



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Initially the suggestion was for two, four men parties working for approximately ten weeks. This was eventually cut to one, 6 man party to work between the Evans Néve in the South and Frolov Ridge in the North. The Eastern boundary being the Lillie Glacier and the Marazumi Range in the West. The following made up the party:
  • D. G. MASSAM - Leader
  • M. SHEEHAN - Deputy Leader
  • J. DOW - Senior Geologist
  • V. NEALL - Geologist
  • G. C CHAMPNESS - Field Assistant
  • J. GLASGOW - Field Assistant

M. Sheehan's knowledge of the area, having been on the previous Rennick Glacier trip, was of great help especially when working in the broken Rennick Glacier area. Due to the large area to be worked the trip was once again to be mainly reconnoitre.


Three of the party, Massam, Sheehan and Champness flew into Scott Base on the 21st October to prepare the equipment which would be necessary for the trip. One could not help but feel that three weeks was far too long to fill in satisfactorily as it was not until November 11th that we finally got into the field. We had prepared a fuel and food dump to be put in on the Reccy flight on November 6th, this was finally put in an the 9th on the fourth attempt, into the Leap Year Glacier. Members on the Reccy flight Massam, Dow (who with Neall had arrived on the 4th November) and Sheehan. The sixth member Glasgow arrived on the 8th November. Due to Ed. Hillary's party we were forced to take two dog sledges and relash another manhauler before we had enough sledges.


November 11th saw the complete party aboard a C 130 Hercules of the U.S. Navy, heading for the Evans Néve at the head of the Rennick Glacier. This was a combined Reccy and put in flight. Weather was perfectly clear over the Lower Rennick. Explorers Range, and Marazumi so a good view of the area was obtained though we were unable to be put down East of the Freyberg Mountains on the Evans Néve due to cloud so eventually were put down between the East and West Quartzite Ranges at Lat. 72°4′ S Long 165° 7′ E.

FIELD WORK: (4) 11th November to 21st November:

Whole party of six moved from Quartzite Ranges Northwards to Leitch Massif. two men parties made side trips to both East and West Quartzite Ranges, "Neale Massif" and Leitch Massif. We were visited at the Leitch Massif by Skua Gull. Temperature at this stage very cold - 15°F - 32°F.

22nd - 26th November (5):

Proceeded North across the Black Glacier to the mouth of the Leap Year Glacier then up the Leap Year to our Fuel and Food Depot. Very soft snow made the going extremely difficult. Once again 2 man parties made side trips to either side of Leap Year and across the Black to the King Range. Side trips were made from the depot across the Explorers Range to Sledges Glacier and via the Champness Glacier to the Lillie Glacier.

27th November - 20th December (6):

This was the most difficult area we were to cover, from depot we travelled West down an unnamed Glacier to the Sledges, following this to the Rennick. We depoted two 44 gal. drums of fuel off Mt. Soza and continued North to Frolov Ridge. Warm temperatures at this stage forced night travel. This area is very broken and only two outcrops were visited between the Carryer Glacier and Frolov Ridge. The same as visited in 1963-64. From Frolov Ridge we returned to Mt. Soza then headed West to the Marazumi Range. We camped four miles to the East of the Range visiting Littol Rooks enroute. Had our first major breakdown of a toboggan when a wooden track runner collapsed fracturing the chassis and wrenching the holding bolts straight through the metal. Temporary repairs were made and we tried to conserve the use of it except for actual sledging. 2 men parties made extensive trips down the Eastern side of the Range and a 5,500 Ft. granite peak North of Berg Peak was climbed. (Wilson Snow Petrels were seen here). Surface of the Rennick Glacier is very difficult for travel, hard sastrugi and Blue ice knocked the toboggan about very much. We returned to Mt. Soza, collected food and fuel dump and headed back towards the Leap Year Depot. Side trips up the Carryer were made but heavy crevassing and ice falls restricted the areas visited. The lower Sledgers Glacier was not visited as heavy crevassing did not warrant the risk. One toboggan at this stage sheered off a driving gear and had to be towed back to depot on sledge. We arranged for a replacement, also another manhauling sledge to replace one we had broken prior to this to come in on the re-supply. We arrived back at the Leap Year Depot on December 20th to receive our re-supply which was due on the 21st.

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21st December - 5th January, 1968 (7):

Re-supply due on the 21st for various reasons delayed till the 24th December. Left on the 26th for the head of the Graveson Glacier. We felt for the first time we were en exploration party as this area was being visited for the first time. Once again we struck very soft snow conditions. From this point on weather deteriorated very much until the average became one by up day in three. He crossed a high pass from the Graveson Glacier into the Néve at the head of the Carryer Glacier, we named this the "Edlin Néve". Side trips down the Carryer were undertaken though confined because of crevassing. Two days of heavy snow in the Edlin Néve curtailed any further work in this area though one side trip North towards Mt. Sturm was made and two 8,000' peaks climbed. Fossils were found on the slopes of one of these Peaks. We returned the same way with 2 men side trips visiting outcrops. East and West of the Graveson Glacier. On the 5th January returned to Depot.

January 6th - 20th (8)

This was the last stage of the trip from the Leap Year Glacier to the Freyberg Mountain and Gallipoli Heights. We did our longest straight haul from the depot to Galatos Peak in the Salamander range covering 36 miles. Struck good sledging conditions for the first time in three weeks. A visit to Galatos Peak then across the Canham to the Northern side. 2 men parties made side trips up a number of unnamed side Glaciers then we crossed to the Southern side of the Canham and Takrouna Bluff (a day was spent here). Crevassing again became a problem so travel slowed considerably. We travelled up the Canham nineteen miles, a visit by 2 men parties to the Granite in this area was made then we crossed to the Eastern side just North of Mt. Apolotok. We had hoped to be able to make this our pick-up area but found it too rough for a suitable strip.

In poor conditions we crossed the Canham again to a point five miles North of Gallipoli Heights 72° 23′ S long 163° 57′ E. Drifting snow and winds made this part of the trip very unpleasant. Continuous wind blew off the Evans Néve and sledging was made most difficult by the large sastrugi and very hard snow. Visits were made to Gallipoli heights and outcrops North of this. We got our second blizzard during this period which continued for some 50 hours. Our proposed climb of Mt. Apolotok had to be abandoned due to the severity of the weather; our pick-up site was in the Canham Glacier some 21 miles south of Takrouna Bluff. The Upper Canham was found to be unsuitable due to the bad surface conditions.

(9) Mention should be made about the capabilities of the Field Assistants. Without them only a very small part of the Geological programme would have been accomplished. I feel very strongly that on this sort of trip it is imperative that Geologists have Alpine experience. It places too much responsibility on the Field Assistants and at times endangers them needlessly, especially when working in 2 man parties. It does seem at timos that Geological recommendations are inclined to gloss over the difficulties involved in travelling through some of the areas. (This is no reflection on the work done by Geologists Dow and Neall.)

Health of Party (10):

This in all respects was good apart from an occurrence of monoxide poisoning during the one and only blizzard we had. It might be added that the burning of two primus' in one tent is not to be recommended.