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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1972-73: VUWAE 17


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On the afternoon of November 22 Kyle and Shorland with one Johnson toboggan and two Nansen sledges travelled to Cape Evans. After a short detour to inspect the geology at Hutton Cliffs (on the northern end of Hut Point Peninsula), camp was made alongside that of three Canterbury University zoologists on the beach at Cape Evans. The geology of Tent Island and the Razorback Islands was inspected on November 23 and 24 respectively. Seven Scott Base staff arrived on November 26, in deteriorating weather. A continued worsening of visibility forced the Scott Base party to have an unscheduled overnight stay at Cape Evans. The following morning the weather cleared allowing their return to Scott Base while Kyle and Shorland inspected the geology of the Turks Head area.

Kyle and Shorland returned to Scott Base on November 28 and the following day were flown by helicopter, with a Johnson toboggan, to a campsite on the western slopes of Mt. Erebus (77°31′ S; 166°51′ E; map elevation 1800 m). After establishing camp the geology of Abbott Peak and the surrounding area was investigated. Crevasses limited access to several outcrops. Low cloud and whiteout conditions prevented work on November 30; however on the following day the geology of the Hoopers Shoulder area was inspected. On the same evening it was decided to move camp while the weather remained settled. Heavy sustrugi and sledge overturns slowed progress but camp was made after a six hour trip. The geology of Cape Royds and Mt. Cis was inspected before returning by helicopter to Scott Base on December 4.

Division of time

Spent on Geology 5 1/2 days
Travel days 3 1/2 days
Tent days 3 days
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On December 12 the party (G. Lyon, Institute of Nuclear Sciences, D.S.I.R. - leader; W. Giggenbach - Chemistry Division, D.S.I.R.; J. Shorland - field assistant, Antarctic Division, D.S.I.R.; and P. Kyle, Victoria University) were put in by U.S. Navy C130 Hercules on the Campbell Glacier (74°18′S; 164°15′ E; map elevation 700 m). The same evening Giggenbach and Kyle reconnoitred a route on to the north ridge of Mt. Melbourne laying a depot of fuel and food at a height of 1200 m. Whiteout conditions prevented travel on December 13, but the following day the party travelled to a base camp on the north flank of Mt. Melbourne (74°18′S; 164°38′E; map elevation 1400 m). With one sledge towed by two Sno-Tric toboggans in tandem we managed to put in a high level camp to the south of a prominent parasite cone on the north flank of Melbourne (74°20′s; 164°38′E; map elevation 1950 m). The same evening we climbed to the summit of Melbourne examining the geology en route. On December 16 Kyle and Shorland examined the geology of the summit area and north east flank of Melbourne. The party returned to the lower base camp on December 17, and the following day attempted to gain access to the base of the north eastern flank of the mountain. Crevasses however made this impossible. The party travelled to the Campbell Glacier landing site and returned to Scott Base by C130 Hercules on December 20.

On December 24, two helicopter trips put Kyle, Giggenbach, Lyon, Lowe and Shorland, with equipment for six, on to an old lava flow on the west side of Mt. Erebus, approximately 130 m below the main crater rim. During a preliminary look at the state of the crater the next day, incandescent areas on the floor of the active area of the inner crater were seen for the first time. However at this stage it was uncertain whether the sounds coming from the volcano, and the apparent activity, were due to eruptions or to avalanches, similar to that seen by Kyle in January 1972. Lowe and Giggenbach returned to the crater rim on the 26th but found too much steam there. The other three worked lower down around to the north side of the mountain. It was decided later in the day to perform the winching into the main crater from the western rim above the camp. Here the rim was lowest, nearest the camp, and the distance down the crater wall to easy ground inside the crater was shortest.

On the 27th the five began ferrying the heavy winch and support gear up to the crater rim. Since they were still acclimatising, they found this exhausting work. During the afternoon an eruption was heard and material was seen to be ejected 40 - 50 m into the air from the region of incandescent areas. That evening Kyle and Giggenbach investigated an ice cavern system under an ice tower near the camp. Preserved ash and lava layers were found and the temperature was + 1.5°C. On the afternoon of the 28th Keys arrived, bringing the number to six, which was considered sufficient for the planned lowering of people into the crater. By the evening of the 30th the winch anchors and shelter tent were in position ready for the lowering. Snow on New Years Eve and New Years Day delayed the proceedings. On New Years afternoon Lowe went into a coma after carbon monoxide poisoning complicated by altitude effects. Oxygen was administered and support requested from Scott Base and McMurdo, who sent a helicopter. This had to break through a considerable amount of cloud and landed in poor conditions, Lowe, now conscious, was flown to McMurdo hospital and quickly recovered.

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The trial lower of Shorland on January 2 went smoothly and then Giggenbach went down with gas sampling equipment. He spent two hours away from the crater rim and returned safely, with four gas samples from a fumarole, 4 salt samples, and several geological specimens. The following day was spent ferrying all the gear back down to the camp. Shorland and Keys then investigated the ice caverns further and took several samples.

Over the next two days Kyle and Keys sampled around the Erebus cone and the Side Crater, south of the camp. Surprisingly large amounts of salt were discovered as well as recently ejected volcanic material. The last circuit of the crater rim, before the helicopter arrived on the 6th, gave the best look at the region of incandescent areas in the inner crater. At least nine incandescent areas were observed. Three of these were lakes of molten lava, up to 10 - 15 m in diameter, and the central one was observed to eject lava at one stage. By 9 p.m. on the 6th the whole party was back at Scott Base.

The height of Mt. Erebus and the camp are both uncertain. Helicopter altimeters, zeroed from sea level pressure, gave the altitude of the camp as 3800 m (12,470 ft.), and that of the summit as 4020 m (13,200 ft.). This latter height agrees with the height given for Erebus on the map N.Z.M.S. 166 Sheet ST 58-61/5. However the USGS map of Ross Island ST 57-60/6 gives the height of the summit as 3794 m (12,450 ft.). This is the generally accepted altitude.

It was found that the altitude had a severe effect for at least four days until acclimatisation had progressed far enough for headaches, loss of appetite, dizzy spells etc. to lessen, Kyle reported severe altitude effects in last year's report (Askin et al., 1972), but did not spend as much time in the summit area as did this year's party, Lowe had had altitude trouble before his sickness which caused him to be flown down to sea level, and Giggenbach ate no solid food for the two weeks he was on the mountain. Lyon suffered from morning and evening headaches for the whole period, Shorland, Kyle and Keys had fewer troubles, having had a longer time in Antarctica to get fit. The latter had the least trouble since he had spent the previous five weeks walking considerable distances in the Dry Valleys, However he missed out on almost all the heavy work of ferrying gear to the winching site, and this work possibly had a detrimental effect on the other five.

Generally five hours' work at that altitude was found to be enough for a day, although this time was extended later in the fortnight.

Askin, R.A., Barrett, P.J., Kyle, P., and Laird, M. (1972), Immediate Report of Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1971-72, Wellington, N.Z. 37 pp.

Division of Time

Spent on Geology 9 1/2 days
Travel days - toboggan 4 days
Travel days - aircraft 4 1/2 days
Tent days 5 days
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Adams and Cole arrived in Antarctica on January 8 and were joined by Kyle who had returned from Mt. Erebus on January 6. All were accommodated in the USARP hotel at McMurdo Station for the duration of the Dry Valley Drilling Project (DVDP). Prior to the commencement of drilling on January 21, the Earth Science Laboratory at McMurdo Station was set up as the headquarters for DVDP, Logging procedures were discussed and the geology of the drill site and of Hut Point Peninsula were examined.

On January 13 Adams, Cole, Kyle and Dr. Sam Treves (U.S. Site Geologist, DVDP) in a half day helo close support examined the geology of six localities on the flanks of Mt. Erebus.

Cole returned to N.Z. on January 19.

Adams, Blackwood plus 2 NZARP members examined the geology at Rainbow Ridge, Brown Peninsula from January 21 - 26. On the afternoon of January 21 camp was established near Lake Auger after a 30 minute helicopter flight from Scott Base. Excellent weather allowed the completion of field work in the first two days and showed the rocks of the ridge to form a sequence of older basalt - trachyte - basalt - younger trachyte. Two further days were spent in a traverse across Brown Peninsula to observe the nature of erratics in the extensive moraines. Scheduled liftout on January 25 was cancelled in the morning and a helicopter that arrived in the afternoon did not make contact with the party in the field. Liftout was effected on the morning of January 26.

With the commencement of drilling on January 21, Kyle and U.S. geologist Treves were responsible for logging and describing the core from the two holes drilled near McMurdo Station. Adams was invaluable as an assistant and spent much time preparing thin sections of core samples.

On February 4 Kyle, Treves plus U.S. geologist Stuckless spent 5 hours on the summit crater of Mt. Erebus. They were fortunate in witnessing a rare eruption of Mt. Erebus.

Drilling of DVDP hole 2 ceased on February 20 and Adams and Kyle returned to U.Z. on February 23.

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On the evening of October 24, Blackwood and Keys with one Johnson toboggan and two Nansen sledges travelled north from Scott Base to Cape Evans. At the tide crack south-east of Tent Island, a lengthy toboggan stop was caused by a split fuel pump diaphragm. The following day and a half were spent sampling over Cape Evans, where the only reported (Keys, 1972) Antarctic nahoslite deposit was found in 1969. After a replacement Sno-tric toboggan was brought from Scott Base by power wagon, we proceeded north and sneaked past Cape Barne on a narrow strip of sea ice to Cape Royds. A blizzard kept us hut bound for the next three days and caused the sea ice to break out early, cutting off our return route. This, and snow-covered ground, meant that October 31 was devoted to a reconnaissance of an overland route to Cape Barne and either the sea ice south of it or Cape Evans. This was found to be unfeasible owing to the slope of the terrain, hard ice, and the lack of icecleats and power of the toboggan.

The ablating blizzard snows revealed interesting snow derived salt deposits, as we worked the next two days at Cape Royds, before a second storm arrived. After this, a day's work was done before we were transferred to Cape Evans by helo. Here, we collected a second Johnson toboggan, and with this field tuned by Blackwood, lengthy day sampling trips could be made easily. With this toboggan we covered all the exposed ground from Cape Barne to Turks Head and the Dellbridge Islands, from our base at Cape Evans. On November 8 we finished the sampling at Cape Evans in blowing snow which introduced the start of another two day storm. On the afternoon of the 11th, still in poor conditions and with D, Greenwood (Canterbury University) and K. Mason (Field Assistant) in convoy, we returned to Scott Base, spending most of the last hour of the journey towing the Canterbury University Gnat, which had a broken drive chain.

The following four days were spent at Scott Base, prevented from sampling by bad weather. However during this period the VUWAE crates were unpacked, the sleeping bags extracted, unfrozen and dried, expedition members' personal gear unfrozen and dried, and the VUWAE shed cleared of equipment which was placed in the extended VUWAE shelves in the hangar. Much of the preparation for the following VUWAE programmes was done during this period. It was also during this week that the delegates to the Antarctic Treaty Conference were at Scott Base. Blackwood and Keys were involved for a day guiding the delegates over the nearby snow caves.

On the afternoon of November 16, Keys and Mason travelled out to the craters near the Scott Base ski field, but were forced to return, after only a few hours' work, by a whiteout. However the 17th was fine and was spent sampling over the Hut Point Peninsula's exposed ground north of Castle Rock.

Division of Time

Spent on salts 10 days
Spent on toboggan shifts 2 1/2 days
Spent on helicopter shifts 1/2 day
Spent at Scott Base 4 days
Lost due to bad weather 8 days
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Soon after the main VUWAE party arrived from New Zealand on November 18, Freeman and Keys with Blackwood, Crump, Allis and Hunt and three Scott Base personnel, travelled north on two Johnson toboggans with two Nansen sledges. Camp was made at Cape Evans. Most of the party then visited Cape Barne with Freeman and Keys to investigate the well known mirabilite deposit. The entire party returned to Scott Base the following day.

Weather and other helo flights delayed the departure of Freeman and Keys until November 23 when we were put into the Pearse Valley near an old VUWAE 8 camp. That night and the following five days saw five sampling traverses made, although gale force katabatic winds and flying gravel kept us tentbound for most of the 26th. No mummified animal carcasses were found in the Pearse Valley, On November 28th a helo transferred us to Lake Bonney, via the western end of the Kukri Hills and a five minute sampling stop. That night the Taylor Red Deposit and surrounding glacier were closely examined. The coloured strata exposed in the ice were traced back up the glacier until they disappeared. The following two days saw traverses up each valley side completed and detailed sampling of a nearby moist area.

On the afternoon of December 1 we commenced a three-day walk to Marble Point, Camps were made at Lake Fryxell and New Harbour by a stream off Hjoth Hill, On December 4 a helicopter picked us up from Marble Point and flew up the Taylor Valley to recover gear at Lakes Fryxell and Bonney, before flying over to the Wright Valley. En route to the Upper Wright area, we laid dumps at Vanda and Don Juan Pond before being dropped off near the north-eastern end of the Upper Wright Glacier.

We were considerably hampered by snowfall on most of the six days spent in the area. Traverses were made through the Labyrinth and into hanging valleys on each side of the main valley. On the morning of December 11 we walked down to Don Juan Pond, sampling en route. After a few hours sampling and sleeping, we continued to Vanda Station on the 12th, accompanied by the leader of Vanda, J. Fowler, who had come up to Don Juan to film the area and to help carry our gear.

For the rest of our time in the Dry Valleys we were affected by heavy, unseasonable snowfalls. On December13 five centimetres of snow lay on the ground at Vanda. The following day we were taken by helicopter to the Lower Wright valley floor opposite the Meserve Glacier, and then to the peak east of that glacier. Thus we could complete that valley side traverse in a very short time. Wind, cloud and snowfall kept us tentbound during the 15th, but on the 16th, despite the thick snow cover above 1000 m, we sampled to a height of about 1500 m on the Olympus Range. After returning to Vanda on the 17th we had to wait until the night of the 19th before the snow cleared sufficiently for us to work up the slopes of Mt. Odin and set up long term salt collection buckets.

A helicopter returned us to Scott Base on the 20th, and the following day took us to Cape Bird, via a four hour sampling stopover in the Trachyte and Cinder Hills area. Three further days were spent sampling at Cape Bird, and one day awaiting the helo, before we returned page 15 to Scott Base on the 26th. December 27 was spent sealing salts inside capillary tubes for crystallographic examination in Wellington, a precaution taken to ensure that the structure of the salts was not changed irreversibly during their removal to New Zealand. Freeman returned to New Zealand on December 28, while Keys joined Kyle and the others on Mt. Erebus as described in VUWAE 17A, Part 2.

Division of Time

Spent on salts 21 days
Spent on helicopter shifts 4 days
Spent shifting camp by foot over areas sampled previously in 1969/70 2 days
Lost due to bad weather or snow lying on ground 6 days
Awaiting helicopter 1 day
34 days
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After several false starts, Allis, Blackwood, Crump and Hunt left Scott Base on November 22. The three helicopters were unable to land at Shapeless because of low cloud and the party were left, with field gear, at Vanda Station. The next four days were (pleasantly) spent on stand-by waiting for visibility to improve and wind to drop. On Monday 27 three helicopters made a total of four flights to Shapeless carrying, as well as the VUWAE team, the D.S.I.R. team of Lowery and Lefever who planned to work in the same area for the next six weeks. Camp was set up in high winds and heavy drift, these having prevented the scheduled aerial reconnaissance over Shapeless Mountain and Mistake Peak.

Bad weather forced the party to spend a total of 18 days in tents, while a further 5 or 6 possible working days were lost due to the unusually heavy snow cover. While Blackwood and Crump sampled and mapped the Mawson - a volcanic breccia overlying Beacon sediments - Hunt and Allis worked together to obtain drill core samples from this same formation. Work was usually closely co-ordinated and best use made of the one toboggan available. Allis also took magnetic and gravity readings in the area.

Initial problems with operating the drill in such cold conditions - mainly freezing of valves and hose - were overcome, and both geophysical projects were completed by December 27. Hunt and Allis then arranged for their transport to Lake Vanda where they were to spend several weeks measuring the pattern and velocity of the lake currents. Pick-up was delayed by poor weather at McMurdo, and Hunt and Allis finally left by helicopter on December 29.

On January 5 Lowery and Lefever set off on a toboggan traverse to Mt. Fleming. Crump and Blackwood remained at Shapeless to continue geological work, but were hampered during the next two days by petrol blockages in the toboggan. As the Fleming party were also having problems with their toboggan, the Scott Base engineer was flown by helicopter to Mt. Fleming and Shapeless Mountain on January 7. Both toboggans were soon back in working order.

High winds and snow prevented any more work until January 11, scheduled flying-out day, which was perfect weather at Shapeless. Poor visibility at McMurdo delayed pick-up and constant radio scheds made only very local work possible, Lowery and Lefever arrived back at Shapeless in the late afternoon of January 11, and requested transport to Vanda as soon as possible. The next day, in heavy drift and wind gusting to 40 knots, one helicopter ferried all four people, two toboggans, and most of the gear down to Vanda Station, After about 5 hours of non-stop work by the helicopter crew, Crump and Blackwood were flown back to Scott Base.

Division of Time

Spent on geology 26 days
Lost due to bad weather and awaiting aircraft 22 days
Lost due to toboggan beeakdown 1 days
Spent on airshifts 2 days
Spent at Scott Base 5 days
56 days