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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1970-71: VUWAE 15


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The party of eight with 9,000 lbs of equipment was put in to the Skelton Neve 4 miles north of Mt. Metschel (Lat. 78°13′) (Long. 159°08′) on November 17th, November 18th was spent organising equipment and supplies for the three week journey to Boomerang and Warren Ranges. Departure was delayed on the 19th by Barrett and McPherson being almost overcome by fumes from the primus. While McPherson had complained of a headache, Barrett experienced no warning symptoms apart from a stiffening and loss of control of muscles just before losing consciousness. Both victims recovered more or less completely in about 5 hours. The journey to Metschel took until 2300 hrs, on November 20th, because we took a circuitous route in an attempt to avoid the worst sastrugi. The sastrugi were hard and up to 3 ft. high, making travel slow and difficult. We suffered our first broken sled runner and had trouble starting No. 1 toboggan. Also the track came off No. 3.

We spent three days at Mt. Metschel, measuring and sampling the Devonian fishbeds and the Permian glacial beds. Good fish were obtained mainly from the south end of the nunatak. Grapes and Reid worked on the dolerite sill capping Mt. Metschel.

The journey to Allemand Peak was again unexpectedly long (11 hours) because of extremely hard large sastrugi for 2 miles and because toboggan No. 1 stopped and could not be started. The weather at Allemand Peak was either very windy (Young was blown off the outcrop but with no ill effects) or whiteout and snow. However we measured and sampled three stratigraphic sections and Ritchie and Young obtained excellent fish. On November 27th Grapes and Reid were taken to Mt. Warren for several days work and Ritchie recovered the fish jaw observed on the 1968/69 VUWAE trip. After Grapes and Reid were brought back front Mt. Warren on December 1st, the rest of the party moved down the Deception Glacier to work in a previously unexplored area north of Mt. Wise, The weather deteriorated shortly after our arrival and the 1,000 ft, section was measured as it was being covered by a heavy snow fall.

December 4th was very windy and we decided to carry out only reconnaissance geology, Kohn and Ritchie were investigating a slope about 2 miles north of Mt. Wise when Kohn lost his footing, presumably because of an unusually strong gust of wind that Ritchie noted at the time, and fell about 200 ft. receiving facial cuts, concussion and severe bruising. When Barrett and Young returned it was decided that Barrett and McPherson should sledge hack to the big radio at Allemand Peak and call on the 1815 schedule. Kohn had fallen about 0930 hrs, and it was now about 1300 hrs. The victim's condition and location were successfully passed to Scott Base and helicopter evacuation was achieved at 2115 hrs. December 5th was windy and we spent the day recovering from the two previous 24 hour "days". Ritchie and Barrett returned to the scene of the accident to collect Kohn's equipment and to photograph the face. The others continued collecting fish and plants.

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We left on the journey to Base camp at 0300 on December 7th under whiteout conditions following our three-day-old tracks. After 3 miles toboggan No. 5 stripped the rear bearing so Barrett, Askin and McPherson continued on No. 2 to Allemand Peak. Grapes and Reid returned, and by tightening the drive chain, got No. 5 mobile, arriving at Allemand Peak by 2300 on December 7th.

We left Allemand Peak after sleeping and repacking the load and attempting repairs to a broken skid rail on No. 3. Within the hour at 1400, December 8th, the main track on No. 3 had come off and jammed solid and the drive sprockets on No. 5 had sheared off due to the bearing failure. Barrett, McPherson and Askin continued on No. 2 to No. 1 seven miles on, which had been abandoned two weeks previously. It started first time. A report on the two immobile toboggans was passed to Scott Base and a decision was made to ferry them by helicopter to Base camp. After reaching Base camp Ritchie and Grapes returned with one toboggan and sleds (No. 2 had developed an electrical fault the previous day). Eventually we got both machines running and arrived at Base camp on December 10th between 1715 and 2000, about the same time as the helicopter. The following day was mostly whiteout and snow, which cleared just in time for the scheduled re supply at 1000, December 12th.

Division of time
Spent on Geology 11 days
Spent on ground (toboggan) shifts 6 days
Spent on air (Hercules) shifts 2 days
Days lost (bad weather, toboggan repairs) 6 days
26 days