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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1973-74: VUWAE 18


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The following are the narrative accounts of the five main groups as previously listed. Several of these groups combined for part or all of the season when working in the same areas.


At 1.30 a.m. on September 5, Kyle and others of the N.Z. Dry Valley Drilling Project (DVDP) drill crew took off in a U.S. Navy C130 Hercules from Christchurch. This, the third of four winter flights (Winfly) landed at McMurdo Station at 9.25 a.m. in clear calm weather to a rising sun and a temperature of - 25°C.

During the next 9 or so weeks Kyle was site geologist at DVDP 3. After ice was drilled from the casing of DVDP 2 the Longyear wireline drill rig was moved 3 m to the north and on September 20 DVDP 3 was commenced. Drilling continued until October 19 when the rig was dismantled for transportation to Marble Point. All the core was examined and logged in the Earth Science Lab. At McMurdo Station.

Following several false starts, P. Kyle, Ross Cooper (D.S.I.R. field assistant) and Sam Treves (DVDP project scientist) flew by helo to Mt. Erebus on November 11. After establishing camp the party climbed the 120 m to the crater to inspect the crater. The weather was clear and calm with a view of the inner crater only partly obscured by steam and vapour. This was the best view in two years of visits that Kyle had ever had into the crater. A dramatic sight greeted the observers. On the north-eastern side of the inner crater lava was flowing westward from a vent into a partially frozen lava lake. The surface of the 8 - 10 m wide flow was partly congealed green-grey flow banded ropey lava. As the highly viscous lava slowly flowed the surface would break revealing the deep red molten lava lying beneath the thin solidified skin.

The inner crater is divided into half by a small ridge running east-west. Lava was first observed on the northern side of the ridge during the 1972-73 season by a NZARP party which included Kyle. During the present visit the lava was still confined to the northern side of the dividing ridge; however it was apparent that a considerable amount of lava had flowed into the area. Much of what was irregular crater floor dotted with fumaroles in 1972-73 was now flat frozen lava. The southern side of the inner crater was snow-covered with a few groups of small, nosiy fumaroles.

After inspecting the crater the party returned to the camp. In the early evening Treves returned to McMurdo by helo. Cooper and Kyle had both developed thumping headaches by evening as a result of the altitude change. Following a good, but very cold, night's sleep the headaches had subsided. In deteriorating weather an inspection of fumarolic ice towers was made next morning to find a site to install a slow recording seismograph. In the afternoon 70 kg of equipment was carried to the site in a warm (+ 1°C) underground ice cave, 400 m downhill from the camp. The seismometer did not operate, however, and had to be returned to camp for repairs. We were exhausted by the heavy work but apart from that did not seem to suffer any altitude effects.

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Severe blizzard conditions for the next four days restricted any movement from the tent. Attempts to repair the seismometer were unsuccessful and so the main scientific objective of the visit was over.

Over the next week poor weather allowed only trips a short distance from the camp. The crater rim was visited almost daily; however dense cloud and vapour obscured any view of the inner crater and the lava. Depth measurements of the main crater floor were made using an inclinometer and a 50 m measuring tape. A depth of about 130 m was estimated. Heavy snow cover around the crater rim limited any geological work. On the evening of November 24, Dr. Haroun Tazieff and Sam Treves arrived by helo. In very cold, windy conditions the party visited the crater; cloud again completely obscured any view into the crater. The following day the party returned to Scott Base by helo.

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VUWAE 18B (includes C, D, E until Nov. 23)

On November 12 a party of seven set up camp on Shapeless Mountain. Of these Crump, Plume, Rowe and Blackwood were to spend 8 weeks at Shapeless mapping and investigating the Mawson Breccia, and doing some work on the Beacon sediments. R. Kyle, McPherson and Keys planned 10 days work on, respectively, palynology, Aztec Siltstone, and salt distribution, before moving south to the other localities. However bad weather, an extraordinarily heavy snow cover, and illness allowed a total of five days work only at Shapeless.

During the first 2 weeks the whole party experienced, to various extents, what was later determined as CO poisoning. The symptoms included headaches, dizziness, vomiting and collapse. At the same time high winds, then heavy snow prevented anything more than reconnaissance being done. A one-day toboggan trip to nearby Mount Fleming was undertaken by Blackwood, Crump, Keys, McPherson and Kyle on November 19. Here McPherson examined the Aztec Siltstone, though this was poorly exposed due to snow cover, and Kyle collected coal samples and tried unsuccessfully to drill sandstone for palaeomagnetic study.

On November 23 Kyle, Keys and McPherson left by helo for the Lashly Mountains. For the next 3 days Blackwood, Crump, Plume and Rowe carried out reconnaissance of the area. Early on the morning of November 27 Plume and Blackwood experienced dizziness and almost lost consciousness. By 9 a.m. that morning they had been evacuated to McMurdo for a check-up. Fresh supplies of kerosene and replacement primus stoves were delivered from Scott Base, but the remaining members of the party continued to suffer from headaches and faintness. The poisoning seemed to be accumulative, and with the bad weather conditions and little chance of outside work, this had become a real hazard. On December 1 Crump and Rowe were taken by helo to Vanda to recover.

An attempt to transport the whole party back to Shapeless on December 5 was unsuccessful because of bad weather. Since this seemed likely to continue, alternative areas of study in the Wright Valley, suitable for Honours projects, were worked on. On December 14 the weather cleared and Blackwood, Crump, Plume and Rowe returned to Shapeless. As the polar tents used in the first part of the season were of a heavier material than usual and were possibly causing or aggravating the carbon monoxide problem, they were replaced.

Bad weather and heavy snow again prevented any work, and delayed a pull-out until December 28. From then until the end of the season the party worked on sedimentary rocks in the Olympus an Asgaard Ranges bordering the Wright Valley.

Division of time in the field

Spent on geology 30 days
Lost due to bad weather, health, and heavy snow cover 24 days
Spent on helo shifts 6 days
68 days
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At 1300 hrs. on 23rd November, Keys, R. Kyle, and McPherson were shifted by helo from Shapeless Mountain to a platform below the South face of Mt. Crean, in the Lashly Mountains. Two sections, measured and described by an earlier VUWAE party (Barrett and Kohn, 1971), were studied during the next 8 days by R. Kyle, and McPherson, whilst Keys collected salts throughout the region. High winds from the Polar Plateau confined the party to the camp site for 2 of the days.

On December 2, the party was shifted by helo to Aztec Mountain, where a camp was established for Keys and McPherson. R. Kyle went on to Scott Base. Heavy snowfalls (up to 6 cm), both prior to arrival and during the 5 day stay at Aztec Mountain, made geological work on anything but the vertical faces extremely difficult, more especially the salt collecting. However, a detailed study of sections described by VUWAE 13 (Barrett and Webb, 1973) was carried out.

A helo shift to Mt. Metschel was achieved on December 7, but high winds (up to 50 knots) made it necessary to put down approximately 1 km to the East of the Mountain. These high winds continued for much of the stay at Metschel, but did not greatly interfere with the detailed geological investigation of the area.

On December 13 the party was shifted to the Alligator Peak region, and excellent weather permitted 5 days of detailed geological re-examination of sections described by VUWAE's 13 and 15 (Askin et al., 1971; Barrett and Kohn, 1971; Barrett and Webb, 1973). An attempt at drilling some of the massive red beds for palaeomagnetic samples failed due to the highly fractured and friable nature of the material; however block samples were obtained.

A move by helo to Rotunda was made on December 19 and after establishing the camp, the helo lifted the party the 700 m to the top of the measured section at Rotunda (Askin et al., 1972; Barrett and Webb, 1973). Three successful days of geology were achieved before the return to Scott Base by helo on December 22. The return was via the snout of the Taylor Glacier, where a stop-off for 1 1/2 hours enabled Keys to make a study and collection of the Taylor Red Deposit (Allis et al., 1973), visited by him the previous season.


Allis, R., Crump, J.M., Hunt, T.M., Keys, J.R., and Kyle, P.R. 1973. Immediate report of Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1972-73. Wellington, New Zealand. 39 pp.

Askin, R.A., Barrett, P.J., Kohn, B.P. and McPherson, J.G. 1971. Stratigraphic sections of the Beacon Supergroup (Devonian and older (?) to Jurassic) in south Victoria Land. Antarctic Data Ser. 2, Victoria University, Wellington. 88 pp.

Askin, R.A., Barrett, P.J., Kyle, P.R., and Laird, M.G. 1972. Immediate report of Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1971-72. Wellington, New Zealand. 37 pp.

Barrett, P.J. and Kohn B.P. 1971. Immediate report of Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1970-71. Wellington, New Zealand. 32 pp.

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Barrett, P.J. and Webb, P.N. 1973. Stratigraphic sections of the Beacon Supergroup (Devonian and older (?) to Jurassic) in south Victoria Land. Antarctic Data Ser. 3, Victoria University, Wellington. 165 pp.

Division of Time

Spent on Geology 19 days
Spent on helo shifts 4 days
Bad weather 6 days
29 days

DVDP Assistant

On arriving in the Antarctic Paul Luckman spent four days in the field examining the volcanic geology of the Turk's Head - Tryggve Point area. He then worked for several months with the Dry Valley Drilling Project, as an assistant geologist on site and in the Earth Sciences Laboratory in McMurdo where he helped log and photograph the core.