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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1992-93: VUWAE 37


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Antarctica New Zealand November 1992 - December 1992

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The objectives of the 1992/93 season for the K-048 party were to collect xenoliths from a number of key localities in the vicinity of Ross Island and the foothills of the Transantarctic Mountains. The localities had all been visited previously by Gamble (1982/82, 83/84,84/85 seasons) but sample sets were incomplete as the visits (in some cases) were helicopter supported and of short duration. The aim therefore, was to add to and expand our xenolith collections so that we could begin to make meaningful comparisons with the extensive collections made in West Antarctica (Marie Byrd Land) as part of the WAVE project (field seasons 1989/90; 90/91).


Planning for the Antarctic Ross Sea Lithosphere Study (ARSLS) was a logical extension of the successful work in West Antarctica on the WAVE programme and began in 1990 and led to a science proposal being submitted to RDRC.

Following approval of the project, further planning was undertaken at the Tekapo orientation meeting in August 1992. There, field and helicopter requirements were discussed and put in sites detailed.

Medicals were undertaken in September 1992 in the Student Health Centre of Victoria University.

Travel to Antarctica was organised via the Antarctic Research Centre of VUW and NZAP. We experienced a delay of 1 day owing to poor weather conditions in McMurdo Sound.


A sealed box of cargo accompanied the VUWAE equipment for K-042 to the ice. This was unpacked for us by the K-042 personnel and store personnel had set it aside for our arrival. We encountered no difficulties with cargo handling at Scott Base and congratulate the two base staff on the efficient manner in which they handled helicopter loads and rock samples to be returned to New Zealand. In all we packaged some 12 rock boxes (~10001bs) of samples for return to New Zealand. These boxes were numbered, addressed, weighed, sealed and banded before being loaded into a large carton and palletised for transport.

Event Personnel

Members of the K-048 party for the 1992/93 season were as follows:
  1. John Gamble (Event Leader, principal investigator) Dept. of Geology, Victoria University of Wellington.
  2. Richard Wysoczanski (PhD student) Dept. of Geology, Victoria University of Wellington.
  3. Jonathan Brooker (BSc Hons student) Dept. of Geology, Victoria University of Wellington.page break
  4. Vivienne Taylor (Scott Base Staff) casual field assistant, Cape Bird only.

Preparations for the field

The K-048 party assembled in Christchurch on Sunday 8th November 1992 and kitted out at NZAP headquarters in preparation for a flight south on Monday 9th November. This flight was subsequently delayed by 1 day owing to bad weather in McMurdo Sound. We flew south on Tuesday 10th November and began preparations of our field gear that evening. On 11th - 12th November, Wysoczanski and Brooker attended field training. Gamble participated in the rope work, crevasse extraction and shelter building exercises but otherwise continued with field gear preparations. During field training all tents were pitched and stoves and radios (both HF and VHF) tested. This course was extremely well presented by knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic instructors.For field programmes it is an important reminder of the ever present hazards on the ice.

We had excellent and valued support from the Scott Base field store throughout our preparations.

Field Transport

Transport to and from Antarctica was by LC-130 Hercules transport aircraft operated by VXE-6 (to the ice) and RNZAF (from the ice), both trips were event free.

Field transport on Saturday 14th November 1992 was via two Bombardier Alpine II skidoos to a number of localities along Hut Point Peninsula. These vehicles performed faultlessly.

Transport to an from other field locations was by helicopter (either VXE-6 or RNZAF) and on the ground, by foot.

Event Diary

8th November 1992 Gamble, Wysoczanski and Brooker (K-048) to Christchurch.
10th November 1992 K-048 to McMurdo after delay of one day due to bad weather at destination.
11th - 12th November K-048 attend field training and prepare field equipment, food, etc.
13th November Official briefing at Scott Base with SENZ Rep, Ops Manager and Base Manager. Finalising field preparations.page break
14th November K-048 to Sulphur Cones, Turtle Rock by Alpine II's over sea ice. return via Hut Point Peninsula and ski-field. Weather excellent.
15th November Gamble packed rock boxes from previous day. Wysoczanski and Brooker on "Fam" trip to Cape Evans and Cape Royds.
16th November K-048 to Black Island Camp by Helo. Weather, cloudy with 20 knot wind.
17th November Sampling xenoliths. Weather; Light snow overnight. Wind from south around 20 - 25 knots.
18th November Sampling xenoliths. Weather; high cloud with wind to 25/30 knots from south. Return to Scott Base in late afternoon by Helo.
19th November Scott Base, drying tents, sleeping bags and reorganising food for next field put in. Packing rock boxes.
20th November K-048 to Foster Crater (early p.m.) by Helo. Setting up camp and early exploration of field area. Evening calm and clear.
21st November Xenolith search at Foster Crater. Weather high scattered cloud clearing through day to cloudless. Wind increasing overnight.
22nd November Xenolith search at Foster Crater. Clear sky but blowing snow and winds increasing throughout day to 30 - 40 knots by 20.00 hrs.
23rd November Tent Day. Wind and blowing snow continued to increase overnight to a constant 60 - 70 knots by 05.00. By 08.00 it was impossible to stand outside the tent and gusts were estimated at in excess of 80 knots. Polar tents began to show effects with guys loosening (impossible to tighten up), snow and food boxes being blown off tent valances. One tent suffered a badly bent pole on the up wind side. Stitching on the guy joins later showed evidence of beginning failure. K-048 personnel evacuated from site at 16.45 by VXE-6 helicopter piloted by Cmr Keho.page break
24th November Scott Base. Gamble returned by Helo to Foster Crater site with Saxby and colleague to retrieve camp. Wind had dropped to around 20 knots. Tents survived the battering and all camp was intact apart from a few rock box lids, some flags and sample bags.
25th November Scott Base. Verbal report to Ops Manager and SENS Rep on the Foster Crater pull out. Preparation for Cape Bird.
26th November Scott Base. Foster Crater rock boxes packed for return to N.Z.
27th November K-048 party (+ Vivienne Taylor) to Cape Bird Camp (Cinder Hill), by Helo. Weather fine, high cloud with gentle northerly wind to 10 knots. Evening hike around Cinder Hill, new xenolith locality discovered in lava flow south of Cinder Hill.
28th November K-048 party to Cape Bird Hut and return, examining coastal volcanic exposures en route. Weather; clear skies, gentle 10 knot northerly.
29th November Visited cones south of Cinder Hill up to level of Cape Bird Ice Cap. Weather; clouded over during day.
30th November Helo anticipated at ~11.00, delayed to 13.30 then 15.00, then 16.30 and then cancelled due to fog bound at Black Island.
1st December Helo arrived at 10.00 for return to Scott Base. Day spent cleaning and returning field gear.
2nd December Scott Base. Day spent cleaning and returning field equipment. JAG undertook task of having clearance form validated by various section heads, filed "event debrief form" and completed article for "Antarctic Times". Party "bag dragged' to McMurdo at 19.40 for the ritual weigh in.
3rd December K-048 return to NZ on RNZAF LC-130 Hercules. Excellent Flight.
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Event Map

The sketch map below shows the localities visited and camp sites used by the K-048 party during the 1991/92 season.


The K-048 party was working out of Scott Base and was not issued with a standard "Met Book". In general the weather we experienced was similar to that at the Scott Base, however on the upper Koettlitz Glacier (Foster Crater) we encountered winds of quite extraordinary velocity over a 36 hour period.

The situation began to develop on the morning of 22nd November when wind speed picked up to permit snow to start blowing. This in itself was not a great problem although it was rather unpleasant to work in. By afternoon the wind had picked up to around 30 knots and snow was clearly visible cascading off the high peaks surrounding the Koettlitz Glacier. By late evening wind had increased to a steady 40+ knots and blowing snow was engulfing the tents. The velocity continued to increase through the early hours of 23rd November so that by the normal radio sked at 08.00, I could barely hear the radio operator at Scott Base and could not stand up outside the tent. I estimated the velocity at 70 - 80 knots, it was remarkably constant. Interestingly, it was not bitingly cold - or was that simply the adrenalin? Between 08.00 and 12.00 the wind showed no signs of abating, and if anything increased, such that we went on to 1 /2 hourly reports to Scott Base. One of the Polar Tents had suffered structural damage (bent poles) and I doubted the ability of the camp to withstand a further 24 - 48 hours of these conditions (forecast by Mac Weather to Ops Manager, Scott Base). As a result, a helicopter was dispatched to do a personnel only pick up and the party was returned to Scott Base. Needless to say, the extreme conditions did not persist and we were able to recover the camp the following day, with no difficulty.


None to report.

Field Equipment

Our experiences at Foster Crater only serve to reinforce opinions as to the incredible strength of Polar tents. In the 1990/91 WAVE season, a USAP tent suffered bent poles in winds of slightly lesser, but more variable, intensity than those experienced on the Koettlitz Glacier. Our tents at Foster Crater had been dug into a flattened platform of snow. Hollow steel pegs were used to secure all the main guys and the steel reinforcing rod pegs used for the tent valances. Some of the latter were bent. All the heavy snow blocks we had piled on the valances were blown away by the wind which was then able to lift the valance and get underneath, thereby lifting the tent.

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Event Map The Ross Sea Embayment area showing details of localities visited by the K-048 (ARSLS) party during the 1992/93 field season.

Event Map The Ross Sea Embayment area showing details of localities visited by the K-048 (ARSLS) party during the 1992/93 field season.

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All our other field gear performed satisfactorily but some comments are in order:
  1. The brown polypo gloves are a success. All of us found them to be excellent. I do not feel that they should replace the blue ploypro gloves - these are finer, make better mitten liners and still allow more feel for jobs such as tying knots.
  2. Better firmer insoles are needed for the "tent slippers" I used the blue insoles provided for the sorels - they were excellent.
  3. I recollect Bill Atkinson and myself making a few comments about the prussicks on the Polar Tents in our WAVE 1990/91 report. This is still a problem and we encountered it in the high winds on the Koettlitz Glacier.
  4. The large jackets have problems with the zippers and we all encountered this at one time or other. The problem is that the zip eats up the lining and gets jammed - a real nuisance when it's −20 and blowing snow!
  5. Field Food Boxes We had some boxes of Muesli which were "best before" 1989! Who knows, if cost cutting continues, we may get some boxes out of Scott's Hut!
  6. A weld failed on one of our Primus stoves and it was necessary to replace it with another unit. The failure occurred where the filler sleeve contacts the main reservoir tank of the stove. Failure was reported to field store manager.

Radio Communications

From all of our camp sites we were able to communicate directly with Scott Base via VHF radio; reception was always excellent. On Black Island our position behind Mt Aurora necessitated leaving the tent to establish communications. This was also the case at Cinder Hill on Mt. Bird, where we could receive Scott Base, but could not transmit from the camp site due to it's position in a natural hollow. It was a simple task to climb to a suitable vantage point. At Foster Crater radio communications were excellent and we could receive and transmit from within the tent. Using the high gain antenna improved both reception and our ability to transmit. From Mt Bird we used the Erebus Repeater with success. From Black Island and Foster Crater Channel 4.

We encountered a few problems with the battery contacts at Black Island and Foster Crater during extreme cold. This was not a problem at Mt Bird.

At Mt Bird we also set up the HF set and on one occasion communicated with Scott Base (at the put in), otherwise we did not use the Codan set.

Scott Base and Arrival Heights Laboratory Facilities

J. Gamble made us of office space in the Hatherton Lab on several occasions during our stays at Scott Base. I did have an initial problem in gaining access to a Mac computer. Also, as I did not have a personal password, this proved a problem as I only wished to use the Mac on a short term basis and confidentiality was not a concern.

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Refuge Huts and NZAP Remote Stations

During our visit to Mt Bird volcano we had occasion to visit the refurbished Cape Bird Hut.We found the hut to be in good condition well supplied and very weather-proof. We did not use the hut apart from having lunch inside. We left the hut as we had found it.

Environmental Impact

See report on the enclosed forms.

Historic Sites

All the K-048 party visited the Hut Point site of the Discovery Hut and both Brooker and Wysoczanski visited the Cape Evans and Cape Royds huts with a Sunday "Fam" trip.

Antarctic Geographic Place Names

Not applicable at this stage.