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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2001-02: VUWAE 46

LOGISTIC REPORT K047: Climate and Landscape History from shallow Drilling in the Dry Valleys 2001-02

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K047: Climate and Landscape History from shallow Drilling in the Dry Valleys

Antarctica New Zealand

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A model to explain the occurrence of ground ice in glacial sediments and bedrock at high altitudes (>1000m) throughout the Dry Valleys where liquid water is rare was developed from work on Table Mtn. (Dickinson, 1997; Dickinson and Rosen, 2002). Although this model may apply at Table Mtn. for the very old glacial sediments of the Sirius Group, it has yet to be tested at other locations in the Dry Valleys.

The sampling programme of the 2001/02 season aims to test the Table Mtn. model by examining soils and ice cemented sediments from three geologically different locations, which are in close proximity to each other in the Dry Valleys. The three areas included: Beacon Valley for its polygonal ground, glacial sediments and old ice, Arena Valley for its potentially old, non-glacial soils, and Pearse Valley for its abundance of young glacial sediments at a low elevation. Evaluation of analytical results may lead to shallow core drilling of certain sites in the future to test the Table Mtn. model.


Name Designation Organisation Departed Chch Returned Chch
Warren Dickinson Event Leader Victoria University 9 Nov 2001 21 Dec 2001
Karyn Hopkins Technical Support VUW 9 Nov 2001 8 Dec 2001
Sarah Tammik Student VUW 9 Nov 2001 8 Dec 2001


i.No suggestions to change the application process
ii.Antarctica NZ staff are excellent
iii.No suggestions on maps and aerial photos
iv.Pre season information is generally good except it would be most helpful if the first aid/field manual could be sent prior to arrival and kit-up in Christchurch. Most all of the new comers would read these manuals with enthusiasm in trying to figure out what to pack and expect in Antarctica.
v.No suggestions on change to the medicals etc.



Reception and planning for your event:

The K047 primary objective supported by Antarctica NZ was to carry out a reconnaissance program of soil and permafrost sampling in Beacon, Arena and Pearse valleys. Because there were only 3 people associated with the event, logistical planning was minimal. Selection of actual campsites in each of the valleys was accomplished largely during helicopter fly-overs. Criteria for camp selection were, in order of importance, central location to the valley, snow packed area, flat, sunny aspect and sheltered from the wind. The HNZ pilots were extremely helpful in camp selection and Scott Base personnel provided excellent support.


Availability and condition of equipment received:

The equipment made available to K047 from Scott Base was in good condition and performed well in the field. All Scott Base equipment was tested and repacked at Scott Base, note on preparing hydrocarbon contaminated cores. However, it was difficult to obtain equipment that was not on the original request list, prepared 3 page 2 months in advance. The reason is largely because of the limited resources at Scott Base and the large number of field parties that must be supported. Each field season I have to supplement Scott Base field equipment with personal equipment. Obtaining equipment (because of an altered situation) at the last minute is always problematic.


Field training:

Field training required for Karyn Hopkins was carried out after her sprained ankle had healed sufficiently. Dickinson and Tammik had the AFT refresher course.


Delays at Scott Base, whatever the cause:

There was a delay of one to two day in getting into the field due to the sprained ankle of Karyn Hopkins which occurred at Scott Base shortly after arrival from Christchurch. Her AFT was delayed for about 2 days while her ankle healed. Return to Christchurch for Dickinson was delayed 8 days due to weather, clearing of the ice runway and mechanical problems with the arriving herc.


Safety and Risk Management Processes:

These processes were discussed with Jim Cowie, operations manager, prior to departure for the field.

*Event Diary

Date Main Activities and Location Other Comments
9 NOV Lv Chch 6 am, Av SB 12pm; AFT brief and refresher Hopkins sprains ankle
10 S SB, cond 2: mtgn w/ Cowie for plans and needs Pizza dinners
11 Su SB, re-packed shipped boxes to ready for field BBQ
12 M SB, Hopkins cleared for AFT; sorted food boxes, wts to Cowie Marked VUW exams
13 T SB, tested hammer drill for field sampling, mods needed Shopping at McM
14 W SB, mods to drill at SB workshop, final packing of field gear Packed personal gear
15 Th SB, to Univ Vly 2pm; risk mgmt w/Cowie; camp & dinner by 10p ST & KH cold at nite (-18)
16 F UV, recon main valley floor 11- 7p; WD to Farnell Vly, 9p rtn Long day; lite winds in BV
17 S UV, dug 2 soil pits in UV to test methods; left UV-1 open for 4 days Sun on camp 9a-to 10p
18 Su UV, dug 1 pit in main Beacon Vly; found Univ Wash wx sta ctr of Vly Early night
19 M UV, Walk to Farnell Vly, dug 1 pit; WD climb Brawhm Pass VHF comms difficult
20 T UV, Walk to Friedman Vly, dug 2 pits on Rx Glacier; VHF aerial broke Long day, late nite
21 W UV, WD climb So Beacon ridge to get comms; girls dig pit BV Pack boxes for moving
22 Th UV, to Arena Vly 3p, lost VHF hand radio at UV camp, set camp AV S. Tammik cuts finger 9pm
23 F AV, 10p ST to McM for stitches in finger, KH & WD recon AV ST delay to MCM no stch
24 S AV, cond 2 @ camp; reading and writing; cleared by 10pm ST @ SB until Wed
25 Su AV, recon upper AV; WD recon Altar Mtn area Early nite; strong wind in AV
26 M AV, dig 1 pit in Moraine lwr AV; examined desert pvmnt Early nite
27 T AV, dig 2 pits in lwr AV Talked to Wellington
28 W AV, dig 1 pit in paleo dune ptn gnd; ST rtn 5p; Envi inspection group ST for dinner!
29 Th AV, dig 2 pits transect from paleo dune Early dinner and bed
30 F AV, WD recon New Mtn area; ST & KH dig shallow pit upper AV Packing for camp move
1 DEC AV, to Pearse Vly 10am; VHF coms up hill; camp set 5p, WD recon Camp by House Lake, water!
2 Su PV, recon dunes N side of vly; dig 1 pit found clear ice @ 50cm! PV camp is warm! mod winds
3 M PV, dig several pits to find extent of ice cored moraine Early nite
4 T PV, recon to Lake Joyce; dig 2 pits in ctr of PV; old camp site by lake Sun on camp 7a to 12a
5 W PV, found east extent of ice cored moraine Big cook up for last nite
6 Th PV to SB for ST and KH; WD to Table Mt. 10am; WD sample at TM A Pyne & P Houston at TMpage 3
7 F TM to SB 2p, repairs to temp probes complete and re program for 2002 Nite at SB; talks at McM
8 S SB to Chch for ST & KH; WD cont' put away field gear; Talk w/ HNZ directors
9 Su SB, work on field report, talk w/ Bruce Koci; walk to Ob Hill Warm, cloudless windless day
10 M SB, melted ice samples; work on field report Late nite
11 T SB, work on field report; observed ice drilling Windless Bight US scientists for dinner
12 W SB, bag drag for 1a flite; flite cancelled @ 3p, worked on field report Living out of hand carry bag
13 Th SB, flite cancelled 11a; working on manuscript Videos at nite
14 F SB, cond 1 all day; working on manuscript Videos at nite
15 S SB, cond 2, working on manuscript and videos Take out pizza nite
16 Su SB, cond 1 then 2; walked to McM for arts festival Videos at nite
17 M SB, clearing; waiting on roads and runway to be cleared; SB getting crowded
18 T SB, working on manuscript, clear calm day, ski herc arrives Bernard Hallet for dinner
19 W SB, flite sched for 1a; at Pegasus by 11p, mech. prob, flite cand Av SB at 5a!
20 Th SB, flite sched for 9p, rest for most of day, walk up Crater Hill Takaway dinner to herc
21 F Chch arrived at 4:25a, de kit and 8am flite to Welly


Figure 1. Topographic map of Beacon and Arena valleys.

Figure 1. Topographic map of Beacon and Arena valleys.

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The Beacon Valley camp (fig. 1) was located on a small patch of snow on the southwestern flank of University Valley (1650m; S77°51.368′ E160°41.987′) and was selected for the snow patch and central location to the valley. However, due to the rugged terrain and subsequent slow walking, it probably would have been more convenient and as climatically comfortable to camp adjacent to the main valley bottom on the southeastern flank. Winds during the field visit were generally down valley and less than 10 knots, however, diurnal up-valley winds were also encountered.

The Arena Valley camp (fig. 1) was located at the western end (generally the leeward end) of a linear snow patch at the northern edge of Ashtray Basin (1130m; S77°51.593′ E160°56.915′) and was selected for the snow patch and central location to the valley. Winds, generally down valley, were 10 – 15 knots stronger than Beacon Valley during the field visit and probably averaged between 15 and 25 knots. Wind strength and duration at this location was about average for the valley floor.

Figure 2. Topographic map of Pearse Valley.

Figure 2. Topographic map of Pearse Valley.

The Pearse Valley camp (fig. 2) was on an alluvial terrace located at the eastern edge of Lake House (325m; S77°42.101′ E161°26.924′) and was selected for its proximity to a source of water. Wind direction and strength seems highly variable throughout the valley and diurnal variations were common. During the field visit, winds did not exceed 20 knts and seemed strongest from 2 – 5 am. In general wind strength and duration were inbetween those of Beacon and Arena valleys.


For the 22 days in the field the weather was generally good. Field movements by helicopter were not constrained by the weather. Nov 24th was the only day in which field reconnaissance and sampling was not possible because of poor visibility and blowing snow. Temperatures in Beacon Valley ranged from −25°C at night to −12°C during warmer days. Arena Valley was slightly warmer and ranged from −18°C to −8°C, but windier than Beacon Valley. By comparison, Pearse Valley was warm with night temperatures about −6°C and day temperatures about −1°C.

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Accident #1: Occurred at Scott Base, 3pm Fri 9 Nov at the bottom of the administration stairs outside entrance. Karyn Hopkins slipped and fell on ice at the base of the stairs. Initially her ankle was sore, but 1-2 hours later it became swollen and was diagnosed by the Scott Base nurse as a moderate sprain for which it was treated. On Mon 12 Nov, Hopkins was medically cleared for AFT provided a splint was applied to the ankle. The timing of this accident was such that it caused no delay to the event.

Accident #2: Occurred at Arena Valley camp 8pm Thurs 22 Nov in a Scott Polar tent. While attempting to open a frozen can of mushroom soup, Sarah Tammik cut the middle finger of her right hand. The cut was about 2.5 cm long and 3-4 mm deep. Although medical supplies were frozen, the wound was washed with boiled water, dried and bound with plastic suture strips. It was dressed with antiseptic cream and wrapped with gauze. Because the cut would not heal properly without stitches, Tammik was medivacked to McMurdo Station at 10p the next day. Due to a weather delay at Marble Point, she did not arrive at McMurdo until 4p that day. Because it had been significantly longer than 12 hrs since the incident, the doctor on duty decided not to stitch the wound, which would now require daily cleansing. Consequently, Tammik did not return to the field until Wed, 28 Nov. During her absence, Dickinson and Hopkins were able to carry out field work in Arena Valley with only minor inconveniences of not having our third member of the event.


VHF radio communications at each of the valley campsites was extremely limited. At Beacon and Arena valleys the VHF high-gain aerial worked in selected places, but there was a fault with the connector pin fitting and this made the antenna unreliable and not usable. Although this problem was eventually fixed, Pearse Valley was too isolated for the aerial to work. Here communication was possible only with the HF 'butterbox' or by climbing .5 hr to a suitably high location.

In addition to poor communications, a hand-held VHF radio was lost at the Beacon Valley campsite during the helicopter landing and loading for the move to Arena Valley. A limited search for it was made with the helicopter waiting during the move to Pearse Valley.

Field operations in Antarctica now require reliable and quick communications with Scott Base. Because of this, I strongly recommend that satellite phones be provided to field parties that are out of VHF radio contact.


*Sites Visited

Site name University Valley (Beacon Valley proper)
Site location S77°51.368′ E160°41.987′
Dates occupied 15 – 21 Nov 2001
Total days (or hours) at site 7
Maximum number of people at site 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 21
Main activity undertaken Recon, soil sampling and description
page 6
Site name Arena Valley
Site location S77°51.593′ E160°56.915′
Dates occupied 22 – 30 Nov 2001
Total days (or hours) at site 9
Maximum number of people at site 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 27
Main activity undertaken Recon, soil sampling and description
Site name Lake House (Pearse Valley proper)
Site location S77°42.101′ E161°26.924′
Dates occupied 1-5 Dec 2001
Total days (or hours) at site 5
Maximum number of people at site 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 15
Main activity undertaken Recon, soil sampling and description
Site name Table Mountain
Site location S77°57.011′ E161°59.350′
Dates occupied 6 Dec 2001
Total days (or hours) at site 1
Maximum number of people at site 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 3
Main activity undertaken Repair/programme temp probes; soil spling

Geological Material

For more detail, see table of samples in Scientific Report
Name and Location of Soil Pit Total Quantity of Sample from Pit (kg)
UV-1; S77°51.397′ E160°42.536′ 1.4
UV-2; S77°51.859′ E160°42.925′ 1.0
BV-1; S77°50.708′ E160°3.361′ 1.0
FV-1; S77°52.577′ E160°39.879′ 1.6
FRV-1; S77°53.553′ E160°30.278′ 0.8
FRV-2; S77°53.414′ E160°30.768′ 1.4
BV-2; S77°51.070′ E160°39.289′ 1.2
AV-1; S77°50.287′ E160°58.876′ 2.4
AV-2; S77°50.508′ E160°58.476′ 2.8
AV-3; S77°50.699′ E160°57.327′ 1.2
AV-4; S77°52.042′ E160°56.602′ 2.0
AV-5; S77°51.986′ E160°56.500′ 0.2
AV-6; S77°51.958′ E160°56.497′ 1.6
AV-7; S77°51.967′ E160°52.487′ 1.0
PV-1; S77°42.168′ E161°30.340′ 1.6
PV-2; S77°42.094′ E161°30.380′ 1.0
PV-3; S77°42.274′ E161°30.257′ 2.0
PV-4; S77°42.670′ E161°29.422′ 1.4
PV-5; S77°43.127′ E161°35.611′ 1.6
PV-6; S77°42.002′ E161°29.540′ 0.8
PV-7; S77°42.378′ E161°32.785′ 1.2page 7
PV-UD; S77°41.734′ E161°31.132′ 0.2
PV-MD; S77°41.904′ E161°30.319′ 0.2
PV-SP; S77°42.060′ E161°30.422′ 0.2
TM-1-01; S77°57.011′ E161°59.350′ 0.4

Equipment installed/left in field

Type of equipment/marker installed 2 temperature probes 2 m deep
Location of installation left in field S77°57.011′ E161°59.350′ (install Table Mtn. 2000)
Size of items left in field (2 m deep in ground, 0.25m3 on surface) × 2
Number of items left in field 2 probes
Date of intended retrieval Nov 2004

*Differences from original Preliminary Environmental Evaluation (PEE)

Environmental impact from the 2001-2002 season was well within the limits of the PEE which was approved 13 Oct, 2001. For example, the PEE approval for total sample weight was 80kg but only 35 kg was taken during the season.