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

[VUWAE 17B - Part 2]

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.