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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1990-91: VUWAE 35


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New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme 1990/91

Antarctica New Zealand December 1990 - Jan 1991


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The objectives of this seasons Beacon Studies project (K047) were to:
a)Resolve the apparently enigmatic occupance of sheet sandstones in a meandering river sequence observed during the 1988-89 field season (Woolfe 1989*)
b)To determine to process responsible for the formation of hummocky cross stratification and swaley cross stratification in a nonmarine regime.
c)To document and sample for paleoclimatic studies the extensively exposed Permian high-latitude forest.
d)To produce a 1:20,000 scale geological map of Allan Hills and an accompanying text.

All of these objectives were met beyond our original expectations. In addition evidence for the existence of a previously unrecorded Jurassic glaciation was uncovered and detailed paleocurrent measurements are expected to provide new insights into the depositional modes of meandering rivers.


At all stages planning proceeded efficiently. No problems were encountered either before, during or after Tekapo. Valuable assistance was provided by DSIR Antarctic staff during this phase of the event.

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Cargo to Scott Base was consigned along with equipment for other VUW project, It consisted of small items of field equipment and air photos.

Approximately 250 lbs of rocks and general cargo were returned to Wellington at the end of the season. An additional quantity of rocks (about 600 lbs) were shipped indirectly to Leeds.

All cargo, both two and from Antarctica, arrived at its destination on time and intact.


Dec 1 - Jan 23
Ken Woolfe Field Leader Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University P.O. Box 600, Wgtn.
Malcolm Amot Geologist Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University P.O. Box 600, Wgtn.
Jane Francis Paleoclimatologist Geology Dept, University of Adelaide,
Jan 3 - Jan 23
Peter Barrett Event Leader Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.page break
Norman Smith Sedimentologist Geology Dept, University of Illinois, Chicago.


Preparations for the field proceeded smoothly, thanks largely to the efforts of the Scott Base team.


Helicopter Operations:

There were no problems with the put it flights to Allan Hills. The Apple was under-slung and was flown at up to 60 kts, but even so it still required two lifts from C. Roberts to Allan Hills.

All helo operations proceeded on time and with on undue problems. An unscheduled visit from US Navy staff provided an opportunity flight to transport two pax plus a total station to Baldrick.


Nov 28 Amot and Francis to Christchurch.
Nov 29 Woolfe to Christchurch.
Nov 30 Aircraft delay.page break
Dec 1 Aircraft delay, Francis and Woolfe collect wood samples near Arthurs Pass.
Dec 2 Arnot, Francis and Woolfe to Scott Base.
Dec 3 Event briefing and field preparation.
Dec 4 Preparation for field, Francis on Survival School.
Dec 5 Amot and Woolfe to Survival School.
Dec 6 Amot and Woolfe to Allan Hills, accompanied by P. Harding (Base Engineer).
Apple Hut moved from C. Roberts to Allan Hills by helo.
Dec 7 Francis to Allan Hills, Harding returns to Scott Base. Local geology and recce in late afternoon.
Dec 8 Party leaves for short recce of Feistmantel Valley before lunch, but becomes so excited by the discovery of a possible Jurassic tillite that lunch is cancelled.
Dec 9 Party measures paleocurrent and describes tree stumps and logs in Wce western side of Feistmantle Valley.
Dec 10 Paleocurrent measuring and section description in Pond Valley.
Dec 11 Fine, freshening southerlies. Party visits Feather Bay, easy travel across blue ice in Manhaul Bay. Logs and tree stumps along with silicified peat rafts discovered in Feather Conglomerate.
Dec 12 Fresh southerlies, Amot and Francis locate and describe Permian tree stumps and logs on Wce platform just east of camp. Woolfe measures ripple and bar orientations in Pond Valley.page break
Dec 13 Fine and calm, party examines Mawson Formation west of Feistmantel Valley, documenting evidence for a Jurassic glacial event. Comms with Scott Base fade out during Tx.
Dec 14 No comms with Scott Base this morning. Freshening southerlies, party to Roscollyn Tor, via ridge to the north of Trudge Valley and Windwhistle Peak. Strong winds make sample collection and description impossible, party returns to camp late evening.
Dec 15 Strong southerlies with blowing snow on the peaks forces an office day. The Apple really proves its worth, enabling the party to work in comfort on what otherwise would have been a pit day. Weather clearing late afternoon, Francis examines trees in Wce, Arnot and Woolfe measure paleocurrents close to camp.
Dec 16 Cloudy and calm, strong southerlies by late afternoon. Arnot and Francis examine paleosols in first embayment north along eastern arm ("Paleosol Valley"). Woolfe maps Trudge Valley and eastern ridge of Watters Pk.
Dec 17 Fresh southerlies, party revisits Mawson exposures west of Fiestmatel Valley to
collect samples, including plants. Late evening, Amot and Woolfe recce Watters Peak.
Dec 18 Calm at first! Party works on paleosols in Feather exposures south of Trudge Valley.
Dec 19 Mostly light winds, passing snow showers. Arnot measures sections, Francis investigates trees and Mawson Formation and Woolfe looks at paleocurrents, all in Fiestmatel Valley.
Dec 20 Fine and sunny, cold fresh southerlies. Party splits up to thrash the trees, ripples page break and sections in Fiestmatel Valley some more.
Dec 21 Fine, light winds. Francis lake sediments and trees, arnot section measuring,
Woolfe paleocurrents.
Dec 22 Light winds, mostly cloudy, snow flurries. Amot to Trudge Valley, Francis to Fiestmantle, Woolfe to Jacquie.
Dec 23 Light winds, mostly cloudy, snow flurries. Amot continues section measuring, Francis to Jacquie, Woolfe to Pond Valley.
Dec 24 Fine and calm. Francis to Watters Peak and work around Camp. Amot and Woolfe complete mapping circuit of both the western and eastern arms.
Dec 25 Fine light winds. Rest day.
Dec 26 Mostly fine with light winds, team to examine wcf split eastern side of Pond Valley.
Dec 27 Fine, cold southerlies. Amot plots up section data at camp, Francis works between camp and Pond Valley, Woolfe to Paleosol Valley returning via Hidden Ponds.
Dec 28 Fine, fresh southerlies with blowing snow on ridges, brief northerly change late in the day brings light snow. Local geology.
Dec 29 Fine, fresh southerlies easing, Amot and Francis to Roscollyn Tor, Woolfe drafts map text.
Dec 30 Fine fresh southerlies becoming strong. Amot and Woolfe to Trudge Valley, section and paleocurrent measuring. Francis paleobotany between camp and page break Westend Platform.
Dec 31 Northerlies developing, mostly cloudy intermittent light snow. Party maps south arm as far south as Alex.
Jan 1 Fine, light southerlies. Arnot to Fiestmantle Valley, Francis local geology, Woolfe to Trudge Valley.
Jan 2 Fine, cold southerlies. Party to Feather Bay. Barrett and Smith to Scott Base after a boomerang earlier in the day.
Jan 3 Mostly cloudy light winds, Arnot to Pond Valley, Francis and Woolfe to Fiestmantle. Barrett and Smith survival training.
Jan 4 Mostly cloudy and calm, passing heavy snow showers, snow lying. An office day due to lack of exposure. Barrett and Smith finalise their preparations for the field.
Jan 5 Mostly calm with scattered cloud. Hourly met obs from 0630 NZST (about 0200 Allan Hills time!). Barrett and Smith arrive Allan Hills by Helo. Party reviews local geology.
Jan 6 Fine, southerlies fresh at times, Arnot and Woolfe to Fiestmantle Valley and then Baldrick. Barrett, Francis and Smith examine trees on wce platform east of camp.
Jan 7 High level could, southerly strong at times. Arnot to Hidden Valley, Barrett and Smith to Pond Valley, Francis to Fiestmantle, Woolfe works on wcc.
Jan 8 Strong to gale southerlies, blowing snow on ridges. Mostly an office day, team visits lower Fiestmantle Valley in afternoon.
Jan 9 Fine, strong southerlies easing. Arnot and Woolfe take opportunity flight to page break Baldrick and return leaving total station on site, establish ground marks at Camp, Lisa and Jacquie, then return on foot to Baldrick and survey in local control. Barrett and Smith to Trudge Valley, Francis hunting Vertebraira.
Jan 10 Fine and calm, late afternoon cloud. Arnot and Woolfe surveying, Barrett and Smith to Trudge Valley, Francis to Westend Platform.
Jan 11 Fine southerlies becoming strong. Arnot and Woolfe surveying, Barrett and Smith to Pond Valley, Francis to Westend Platform.
Jan 12 Strong southerlies, Arnot to eastern end of Trudge Valley, rest of team work locally.
Jan 13 Fine, fresh southerlies, Amot samples coal for DSIR Geology and Geophysics, Barrett and Smith to Pond Valley, Francis local geology, Woolfe to Wee Saddle.
Jan 14 Cloudy with light winds, light snow later. Amot and Woolfe to western end of Trudge Valley, Barrett and Smith to Pond Valley, Francis local geology.
Jan 15 Cloudy passing snow showers, mostly light easterlies. Amot, Francis and Woolfe survey western Fiestmantle Valley, mission abandoned before lunch due to poor visibility. Amot and Woolfe to Hidden Valleys, Barrett and Smith to wcl, Francis works at camp.
Jan 16 Mostly cloudy with light winds, Amot to Hidden Valleys and Jacquie, Barrett and Smith work on wcl, Francis western Fiestmantle, Woolfe local geology.
Jan 17 Fine and calm. Amot to eastern Trudge Valley, Barrett and Smith to Westend Platform, Francis local geology, Woolfe to Balance Peak, Roscollyn Tor and Scythian Nunatak.page break
Jan 18 Fine with light winds, Arnot and Francis pack samples, Barrett local mapping, Smith to Pond Valley, Woolfe to Pond Valley then Ship Cone.
Jan 19 Fine at first cloudy and light snow later. Party to Westend Platform and vicinity. Smith to ridge south of Baldrick.
Jan 20 Light winds, passing snow flurries, Arnot, Francis and Woolfe start breaking camp, finish packing samples and stage loads at helo pad. Barrett and Smith local geology.
Jan 21 Fine light winds. Party returns to Scott Base leaving all non-essential cargo at Marble Point.
Jan 22 Preparing for departure, Smith to CHCH.
Jan 23 Arnot, Barrett, Francis and Woolfe return to CHCH.


The party experienced "good" weather for most of the trip. During this time several patterns emerged which greatly aided daily planning.

Fine weather with easterlies or northerlies was almost invariably followed by cloud (usually stor sc at about 8000′) very light snow and gentle breezes.

Clear skies with fresh to strong southerlies v/ere the norm. These conditions may continue for days with out significant change.

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Low level clouds were observed on several occasions lying along the Mawson and lower Odell Glacier but these had little or no effect on the weather experienced at Allan Hills.

On most days sc and st built up durring the afternoon and evening over the higher parts of the Convoy Range. While this near daily pattern had little or no effect on field work at Allan Hills it can make helo operations difficult.

In general morning weather was better, and the Convoy Range clear.


All field equipment functioned without problem. With the exception of a grey Brunton Compass (belonging to Woolfe), which was lost, all items were returned from the field.

Several pairs of crampons suffered point losses as result of prolonged use on blue ice. This emphasis the need for parties working in known blue ice areas to carry extensive crampon spares.


As usual issued field gear was of a high standard and functioned well. The use of the Apple Hut warrants specific mention.

Apple Hut.

The apple proved to be an ideal deep field structure and without it we would not have been able to so readily achieve our objectives. We were provided with a small lpg heater but on sunny days the heater was not necessary and a primus was sufficient to heat the apple to a comfortable level for computing.

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The hut was positioned on flat rock and secured by metal pegs placed in 20-30 cm deep drill holes. These were cemented in place with water. Care must be taken when opening the door in windy conditions. Ideally the hut should be orientated so that the door opens back to the prevailing wind direction.

There can be little doubt that the apple made a significant contribution to the success of the expedition. The use of such structures in the future should be encouraged.


HF communications with Scott Base were generally good and no problems were encountered with the Compac. The comms operators at Scott Base and the Vanda crew provided excellent support and their tolerance of our "flexi sked" is appreciated.

With the increasing amount of communications taking place between Scott Base and other non-NZARP stations (both bases of other nations and ships) there is a need for a clear statement on traffic priory. On a number of occasions we were kept waiting at our prearranged sked time while Scott Base management chatted to ship-borne observers. On one occasion the delay exceeded 45 minutes. It is suggested that field party skeds be given priory over social or routine . communications between other bases and ships.

Tait hand helds were used from time to time in the field. These were invaluable during surveying operations and at times when the party was widely spread.

Three solar panels were used to charge batteries for both the three hand helds, the compac and a 12 volt gel cell for the computer.


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The event returned to New Zealand on time. All rocks samples and other general cargo has I subsequently arrived safely in Wellington and Cambridge as required.

All materials, with the exception of the Apple, were returned from Allan Hills prior to our departure from the field. On leaving Scott Base the apple was still at Allan Hills but this has been subsequently returned to Cape Roberts. It is not known whether the metal pegs were recovered at this time.