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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2005-06: VUWAE 50

LOGISTICS REPORT K047: Dating Relict Ice in the Dry Valleys 2005-06

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K047: Dating Relict Ice in the Dry Valleys

Antarctica New Zealand 2005/06

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The ongoing aim of this project is to understand the origin and paleoenvironmental significance of relict ice from glaciers and lakes, which now lies buried by surficial sediments in many parts of the Dry Valleys. This phase of the project focuses on relict ice, buried in Lower Victoria Valley, which will be used as an analogue for relict ice in Beacon Valley. Of particular value will be the independent dating of sediments covering the ice using a new method of atmospherically derived beryllium-10.

Studies have shown that the use of atmospheric Be-10 to date Antarctic soil profiles gives equivocal results, and an independent test is needed. This requires sampling of a soil profile in a deposit of a known age. Such a deposit was sampled near the Hart Glacier in the Wright Valley.

In this field season, we also sampled the modern environments and stratigraphically recent ice deposits in Lower Victoria Valley as well as the modern and buried ice deposits in Beacon Valley. The main aim will be to analyse the ice for percentages of O2, N2 and Ar in the occluded gas bubbles. Ratios of these gases can be used to distinguish glacial and lake ice. The gas analyses will be used in conjunction with standard chemical (6 cations and 3 anions) and stable isotopic analyses to help characterize the ice. Results from this study will not only help with interpreting the origin of the buried ice but also test Hall's (2002) lake model for Victoria Valley.


Name Designation Organisation Departed Chch Returned Chch
Warren Dickinson Event PI VUW 7 Nov 14 Dec
Ron Sletten Colleague USA Univ Washington 21 Nov 14 Dec
Gretchen Williams Student VUW 7 Nov 17 Dec
Martin Schiller Student VUW 7 Nov 22 Dec


  • Application process

    The application process was organised in a professional and efficient manner. While the review process of the Antarctic Research Committee is rigorous and unbiased, the ranking/grading system lacks accountability, as the ranking results are not provided to the applicant. This also leaves the applicant without a clear understanding for several months of whether or not his/her event will have logistical support for the coming season.

  • Communications with Antarctica New Zealand staff

    Generally good

  • Provision of maps and aerial photographs

    Need for additional LIDAR data

  • Pre-season information

    Generally good

  • Medicals, documentation and flights to Antarctica


  • Environmental Advicepage 2
  • Other comments


  • Reception and planning for your event

  • Availability and condition of equipment received

    All equipment needs to be thoroughly checked out by event personel before leaving for the field. There should now be enough resources in the HFC to allow event personel to select from a variety of equipment.

  • Field training

    For those with previous Antarctic field experience, the AFT refresher is a reminder (in case people have short memories) of Antarctic conditions. However, Antarctica NZ should consider whether AFT is a beneficial and an efficient use of funds for personnel with continuous Antarctic field experience. As I understand, AFT was set up in 1995 for event personnel who had no Antarctic field experience within the last 5 years. It is not clear why this has changed to one of mandatory AFT every 3 years.

  • Field party equipment 'shakedown' journey

    All equipment was functional.

  • Delays at Scott Base, whatever the cause


  • Safety and Risk Management processes

    I have considerable concern regarding the 'new' safety and risk management processes. It is not clear how these procedures contribute to improved safety in the field, which essentially relies on the equipment and judgment of event personnel in the field. These new proceedures should take into account previous experiences of the field party. Implementing these proceedures contributes to a substantial increase in the work load of both the science and base personel without, in my view, clear advances in field safety.

  • General comments about Scott Base

    Scott Base staff were generally up to the usual high standards of 'can-do' and help that I have received in previous years.

  • Other comments

    Comments such at those found on the BM report (11 Dec. 2005) were unwarrented.

*Event Diary

SB=Scott Base; VV=Victoria Valley; VLG = Victoria Lower Glacier; WV= Wright Valley, BV=Beacon Valley; KV= Kennar ValleyWD = Warren Dickinson; GW = Gretchen Williams; MS = Martin Schiller; RS = Ron Sletten
Date Main Activities and Location Other Comments
6 NOV Arrive in ChCh, WD, GW, MS kit-up
7 Mon Depart for SB at 8:45pm C-17, ariv McM 2:10 dinner at SB; Base/AFT briefs
8 Tue SB; WD, AFT refresh & SB paper; GW, MS - AFT Helo wts needed
9 Wed SB; GW, MS - AFT continued; WD weighs helio loads
10 Thu SB; WD, MS, & GW pack field equipment beautiful walk on the sea ice
11 Fri SB, re-weigh field equipment, repacking of food boxes
12 Sat SB; Snow Day stand-by helio day !
13 Sun SB; Sleep in, rec-day Wx clearing
14 Mon SB to Victoria Valley Dunes 9:30am, WD, GW & MS: set up camp; Packard ice water Tour vly, late finish in eve
15 Tue VV, Sampling ice near VLG page 3
16 Wed VV, Sampling ice near VLG; plenty of snow drifts to stor spls New ice drill works great
17 Thu VV, Sampling dune & soils for OSL
18 Fri VV, Walk to L. Vida, examine/spl granites and gelifluction lobes 3hr walk dunes-central Vida
19 Sat VV, Envi audit; spl packard ice and relict dunes Envi audit needs practicality
20 Sun VV, petro drill broken, hand cored dune spls Helo w/ Blake; cuts storge cave
21 Mon WV, move to WV Meserve Gl camp 10a; set up; recon to Hart ash outcrop; Camp needs clean up
22 Tue WV, found Hart ash, dug 2 pits. Early dinner 7pm
23 Wed WV, dug 2 more pits in Hart ash
24 Thu WV, walk 4hr to Prospect Mesa to examine sedimets, GW spl granites Lg dust devel near Bull pass
25 Fri BV, move to BV 10a, RS joins event; set up camp; recon to met sta Beaut lt wind day
26 Sat BV, WD & GW transect counts of clasts; MS & RS met sta & find polygon to spl
27 Sun BV, all walk 3hr to lower met sta. Clast profiles and examine Taylor ice front Blowing 20-30kts all day
28 Mon BV, WD, MS spl polygon at met sta. GW clast counts RS repairs mst sta
29 Tue BV, MS, RS & WD discuss 10Be sampling; GW clast counts RS & WD find bad GPS bolt UV
30 Wed BV walk to Mullens lake; RS measures 8 GPS positions Snowing 4:30
1 Dec BV, GW & MS clast counts Beacon Hts; WD & RS to B-10 met sta Windy!
2 Fri BV, MS & WD collect 10Be polygon spls on Mullins BV04, BV06; GW clast counts Windy/snowy
3 Sat KV, 2p move to Kennar Vly with photo tour of Beacon and Turnabout; set up camp No wind, beaut day
4 Sun KV, spl Metschel tillite; walk around pinnacle ridge 10hr walk; views awsome Beaut day (no wind)
5 Mon KV, Wallk to finger mtn 10hr return along Taylor Gl; Beaut day, again no wind
6 Tue KV, WD & RS spl soil pits cntral KV; MS & GW search for Metschel Morn visit by Eric
7 Wed KV, break camp early; move to SB not poss, too windy/snowy; Winds gusting 40 kts
8 Thu SB, Rob makes it in 9a; pack helo and av SB by 10:45 Winds gusting 20 kts
9 Fri SB, clean equip; Andrill fam to Royds no herc from ChCh; K047 shout bar 1 Herc broke, 1 makes it down
10 Sat SB, cleaning, sorting & packing of field equipment; GW to WV with K064 Beaker Babble talk not attended
11 Sun SB, WD,& MS subsample VVice at HFC, used 18C rm Ob Hill
12 Mon SB, WD, & MS finish subsample ice Bag drag WD & RS
13 Tue SB. WD RS & MS tired of SB RNZAF herc makes it
14 Wed SB, Northbound Herc off 8:30a, hot cramped flt; no water! In Welly by 9:30p


Generally good for field work in the Dry Valleys


None to report.


  • Quality, suitability and performance of field clothing

    All new parkas and wind jackets should be a bright colour (yellow). Black, blue and green simply do not show up in the Dry Valley landscapes.

  • Performance and design of field equipment such as tents, technical climbing equipment, kitchen gear, primus boxes, sleep kits and sledges

    Lots of new gear coming on line, but proceed with caution. The old stuff works well and is tried and tested. Field parties were given choices on the new gear which is a good way to proceed. The new Macpac dome tents should not have been taken into the field without the modified flys.

  • 20 person day ration box system

    page 4

    OK for some uses but generally need to be repacked in to breakfeast, lunch and dinner for longer duration events; Field support people need to be flexible on this; Rationing of certain foods for field parties does not seem appropriate in some cases.


  • Other comments

    Iridium is cheap comms for areas that cannot get VHF; Suggest HF be used as backup. However, the new HF radios are good.


Numerous items have purchased by K047 over the years, but this past season there were 2 issues; 1) A solar panel kit for charging computers in the field was promised by Antarctica NZ, and this piece of kit never arrived. Prudently, I brought my own solar panel charging kit, but this added 40 lbs of cargo to SB. 2) Because of past experience in trying to cram 4 people into a Scott tent for cooking and evening discussion, I purchased an Arctic Oven (AO) tent, which has been used sucessfully for winter camping on the north slope of Alaska. The tent has about the same floor space as an Endura but is half the weight and much easier to set up. Modifications were made to the AO tent to make it more wind resistant, but the tent was deemed to be unsafe for Dry Valley conditions. I was faced with not using the AO and taking an Endura, a situation which would put us over the allowable helio weight. A compromise was reached in that a Scott tent, which just put us under allowable weight, would be used as a backup. The AO tent weathered 40-50kt gusts in Beacon and Kennar valleys without problems.

  • Other comments


*Sites Visited (please fill in a box for each site visited)

Site name Victoria
Site location (coordinates/description) Central to lower Victoria Valley
Dates occupied 14.11.05-20.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 6 days
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 6 days
Main activity undertaken Granite sampling, ice sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no
Site name Central Victoria Valley
Site location (coordinates/description) At 77.37824773°S, 162.21840204°E. Polygon in Victoria Valley.
Dates occupied 20.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 4 hours
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 1 day
Main activity undertaken Soil profile sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no
page 5
Site name Wright Valley
Site location (coordinates/description) Central to lower Wright Valley
Dates occupied 20.11.05-25.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 5 days
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 5 days
Main activity undertaken Granite sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no
Site name Hart Ash
Site location (coordinates/description) Around 77.49694956°S and 162.37238330°E, located between Hart Glacier and Goodspeed Glacier in Wright Valley. About 100 m2 of ash occurrence.
Dates occupied 22.11.05-23.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 16
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 4 days
Main activity undertaken Soil profile sampling
Cumulative impacts observed minor surface disturbance
Site name Central Beacon Valley
Site location (coordinates/description) 77.84823127°S 160.60356494°E, a polygon in central Beacon Valley close to the MetStation
Dates occupied 28.11.05-29.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 2 days
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 4
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 3 days
Main activity undertaken Soil profile sampling
Cumulative impacts observed minor surface disturbation
Site name Mullins Glacier
Site location (coordinates/description) Around 77.88421663°S, 160.54304995°E, debris covered glacier in Beacon Valley
Dates occupied 30.11.05-2.12.05
Total days (or hours) at site 12 hours
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 2
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 2.5 days
Main activity undertaken Soil profile sampling, bulk soil sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no
Site name Beacon Valley
Site location (coordinates/description) (77.86343143°S, 160.59164261°E); whole Beacon V.
Dates occupied 25.11.05-2.12.05
Total days (or hours) at site 7 days
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 2
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 7 days
Main activity undertaken Granite sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no
page 6
Site name Kennar Valley
Site location (coordinates/description) Kennar Valley
Dates occupied 3.12.05-7.11.05
Total days (or hours) at site 2 days
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 4
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 3 days
Main activity undertaken Granite sampling
Cumulative impacts observed no

Geological Material

Location (coordinates if available) weight
Hart Ash 77.49694956S 162.3723833E 4
Hart Ash 77.49596251S 162.37243778E 3
Hart Ash 77.49624859S 162.37364142E 2
Hart Ash 77.49582731S 162.37311353E 3.6
Beacon V. 77.90286116S 160.59456361E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.89881815S 160.58747311E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.89552281S 160.58025009E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.89235939S 160.57461745E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.89052702S 160.57097208E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.88660337S 160.56343926E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.88344541S 160.5584449E 1.5
Beacon V. 77.8864333S 160.55063331E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.88421663S 160.54304995E 0.5
Beacon V. 77.84823127S 160.60356494E 3.5
Victoria V. 77.37824773S 162.21840204E 1.5
Victoria V. - - 5
Beacon V. - - 25
Kennar V. - - 5
Wright V. - - 5
Specimen type Soil, rocks
Quantity (kg) 68.1 kg

Disturbance to ice-free areas

Location (coordinates if available) Hart Ash 77.49694956S 162.37238330E
Hart Ash 77.49596251S 162.37243778E
Hart Ash 77.49624859S 162.37364142E
Hart Ash 77.49582731S 162.37311353E
Beacon V. 77.84823127S 160.60356494E
Victoria V. 77.37824773S 162.21840204E
Nature of disturbance Soil pit (one each site)
Approximate area of disturbance (m2) 12 m2 (12 / 6 sites = 2 m2 each site)
Evidence of previous site use no