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Report on the Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1960-61: VUWAE 4


page 4



Three base camps, each with a satellite food dump, were established along the length of the Koettlitz area and from these the two parties - geology (Blank, Willis and Cooper) and glaciology-gravity (Bull, Wheeler) - each worked the surrounding territory. The base camps and dumps were “laid out” with assistance of a United States Navy helicopter after a reconnaissance in United States Navy “Otter” aircraft.


First Bull and Wheeler were left at the southernmost base to mark and measure the Radian glacier for movement measurements. When the second party was flown in three days later the first party was picked up and deposited with them at the northernmost camp, Lake Péwé to begin the exploration of the Koettlitz area from north to south. It was found that as the parties worked southwards and away from Scott Base radio communication by pack radio set became unreliable and the Leader of Scott Base had two “sledge sets” or “557” flown in to us together with a gravimeter which had just arrived. Bull and Wheeler took advantage of this aircraft and were flown back to near Cape Chocolate in northern part of the Koettlitz to start a gravimetric survey with the newly arrived gravimeter. On re-uniting, both parties worked south from camp to camp along the Koettlitz area. At Christmas the two teams were together by Lake Miers from Christmas Day to 29th December. The helicopter (due after Christmas) to pick up “557” radio for delivery at Camp III (the third base camp) arrived on 4th January, by which time the two parties had moved to Lake Ward further south. The opportunity offered by the arrival of the helicopter allowed a geological party (Willis and Blank) to be dropped to the north (Hobbs Glacier area) and complete an area abandoned earlier due to poor weather. On the same flight another geological party (Cooper, Wheeler) was placed on the Miers-Marshall ridge some miles away to complete work there. On the return of these parties at Lake Ward a further roshuffle occurred, Bull and Cooper continuing gravimetric, glaciological and geological work on the Koettlitz Glacier coast and Blank, Willis and Wheeler carrying out geological and glaciological work on the inland area.

At about this time (early January) it became imperative that Bull who was about to take up a position with the Institute of Polar Studies, Columbus, Ohio, should be uplifted to return to Scott Base and New Zealand. Bull and Cooper carried out work in Pyramid Trough in some extremely bad weather and Wheeler, Blank and Willis after a brief stay at Camp III (Walcott Glacier district) set out for a survey of Heald Island. Cooper and Bull joined the party there until Bull returned to Camp III to complete the Gravity traverse and measurements of glacial movement. Meanwhile the four-man party, Blank, Willis, Cooper and Wheeler, after a reconnaissance of Pyramid district, climbed to a high altitude camp southeast of Mount Dromedary and covered this area. Snow and zero visibility in low cloud prevented work for two days but the area was successfully examined. The party split, Willis and Cooper taking a northerly route 4-5,000 feet to Camp III and Blank and Wheeler a southerly route up to 7,000 feet via the Mount Dromedary area. The reunion at Camp III with Bull was short, as a bare eight hours after the 2 a.m. arrival of the Dromedary party on 19th January Bull was uplifted by helicopter and returned to Scott Base. Then Cooper and Blank carried out two major excursions, one to Rücker Ridge to find the Beacon sandstone contact at the foot of the Royal Society Range and another to Auster Pass to geologise there. During this trip they camped at 6,000 feet and recorded temperatures around −6°F. Willis and Wheeler at Camp III made local sorties carrying out geological, paleomagnetic, glaciological work and packing, preparatory to leaving, work until immediately after the return of the Auster Pass party (Cooper, Blank) the whole party of four was returned to Scott Base by helicopter.

Return to New Zealand was made by ship U.S.S., “Alatna,” an ice-breaking oil tanker which rolled markedly and caused the party fresh from the open air, to pine in an indoor temperature of 70°F plus. The outward trip had been by page 5 "Globemaster" aircraft lasting some ten hours; a contrast to the seven-day return sea voyage. The outward and inward voyages (totalling over 4,000 miles) cost the Expedition about £5 per head only (cost of rations) for which we are grateful to the United States Military Air, and Sea, Transportation Services and the United States Antarctic Research Programme.