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View Full Version : Taylor Glacier, Antarctica 2014/15 Field Season


AxleIke
01-22-2015, 06:40 PM
Not technically a 4x4 trip, but a trip report nonetheless.

I spent a month camping out on a glacier doing field work this past December and January, and thought I'd show some pictures from the trip, hope you enjoy!

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Started out in Christchurch, NZ. After clothing issue a team member and I walked around the city for an afternoon. The city is still recovering from the massive earthquake a few years back, and the ruined Church (namesake of Christchurch) was pretty moving.

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The next day it was a very crowded flight down to the ice, but at least it was a wheeled C-130, rather than a ski equipped LC-130, that we took down, which makes it a 6 hour trip rather than 8-9. This one belonged to the New Zealand Air Force.

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A view of the sea ice as we made our way down

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000513.jpg

We landed out on the sea ice, which is known as Pegasus Field.

your's truly.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000528.jpg

Mt. Erebus from the field
http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000525.jpg

We rode in on Ivan The Terrabus, which is actually not that comfortable, but does have 65" tires, so thats cool.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000529.jpg

We stayed at McMurdo Station for 3 days getting trainings and prepped to go out to the field. It looks like any industrial mining town: brown, dirty, and lots of heavy equipment. I liked it!

Satellite monitoring equipment for the US Military. Looks like, and is called, The Golf Ball

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000562.jpg

The Kiwi's have much better trucks than the US. Most of the Cruisers and all of the US trucks and vans are running around on aired down 35's or 37's. I saw BFG MT's, Goodyear MTR's, Trxuss MT's, etc...

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000565.jpg

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000595.jpg

I went over to Hut Point, and checked out a cross dedicated to one of Scott's men who drowned at this location.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000602.jpg

Scott's Hut. It was the worst thing they could have brought to the Antarctic. Designed for tropical expeditions, this hut acted more like a freezer, and kept the men cold inside, rather than a haven from the cold outside. Ah well, they were tough. The Kiwi's are restoring it so it was closed.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000609.jpg

AxleIke
01-22-2015, 06:49 PM
I got a chance to visit Scott Base (the New Zealand base) while I was there. It was really cool, and the gift shop was nice, but didn't get any pictures inside as I wasn't sure if that was cool.

Obligatory sign picture:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000570.jpg

Pressure ridges along the shore in the ice:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000571.jpg

Some LAZY leapard seals. They just lay out there for weeks.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000585.jpg

It was then time to fly to the field camp. We flew in a Bell 212 Helicopter, or Helo, as everyone down there calls them. Guess it sounds cooler. Anyway.

Suited up to fly:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000615.jpg

Iceberg frozen in the sea ice still:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000635.jpg

Glaciers, glaciers, everywhere:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000641.jpg

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Flying up Taylor Glacier towards camp:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000676.jpg

AxleIke
01-22-2015, 07:08 PM
Made it to Camp!

These 4 season mountain tents were cozy but worked well. Mine did come apart a bit during the 4 days we had high winds, but more on that later.

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All of our food and fuel was transported in, and all of our waste was transported out, by helo, usually by sling.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000696.jpg

I have a bunch of shots around camp:

This was "night". We would work through this time because it was colder, which was better for our equipment. It was really from about 1:30 am to 5:30 am, and the sun would just go behind this ridge, call the Coukree Hills.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000711.jpg

This is "sunrise"

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000734.jpg

view

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000783.jpg

A cold morning (cloudy), but pretty

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000788.jpg

"morning time" which was really like afternoon since we were on night shift, but this was around 10:30 am.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000741.jpg

We only ended up taking 1 day off while I was there, but it was a good one. We headed up glacier to Cavendish Ice Fall, and Cavendish Rocks.

Along the way we saw many mummified seals which essentially go crazy and wander up glacier until they starve to death. These ones were likely a few hundred years old.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000802.jpg

This is the ice wall next to Cavendish rocks.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000840.jpg

View back to the glacier from the rocks:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000861.jpg

Chilling on a frozen lake:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000858.jpg

Looking back towards Taylor Dome

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000863.jpg

Ventifact. Formed by the wind only. Similar to how arches are formed in Utah, but without the water.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000875.jpg

On a different day, after work, we took a very short trip to the melt channel, which is a canyon like structure formed on the glacier when melt water comes rushing down at the height of summer. It was only about 30 feet deep, but pretty cool.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000915.jpg

There are many rocks transported down glacier. The warm sides melt the ice away from the edges, leaving them perched on small pedestals.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000931.jpg

AxleIke
01-22-2015, 07:21 PM
As I mentioned, we had some windy weather. Sustained 50-60 knot winds, with gusts up to 100 knots.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000901.jpg

It was tough working, but we managed. Just had to look like serial killers:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000906.jpg

We just told each other to "Scott-it-up", in reference to Scott and his team pulling all their sleds by hand after their ponies died. Same as "nut-up", but more PC for the ladies we had in camp.

We'd usually work between 10 and 14 hours a day, but because there is not much else to do, as you are completely cut off and isolated from the outside world, you really don't notice it. I helped dig a trench (1mx1mx30m). Since the glacier is solid ice (no snow) we'd use chainsaw to cut the sides of the trench out 5 meters at a time and then a breaker bar (heavy iron bar with a chisel at one end) to break the ice into chunks. Then we'd shovel the chunks out, and repeat. It was very rewarding at the end, but went to bed pretty sore a few nights.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000992.jpg

We had a very nice Christmas dinner, and a white elephant gift exchange. It was a lot of fun, but all of us missed our families. We had a nice Christmas tree though:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000939.jpg

Towards the end, we had to pack up all our gear and build sling loads for the helicopters. Myself and a Team mate finishing one up:

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One of the last nights there. I should have brought a better camera. This doesn't do the glow justice:

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We got to see a lot more glaciers on the helo ride out. It was pretty spectacular.

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1010066.jpg

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After getting off the ice, we had 10 days in McMurdo to sort, and get our Cargo ready to ship out. After that, it was an 8.5 hour (we had a ski plane on the way out) trip to Christchurch, the last half of which I had food poisoning for, which made it a VERY rough flight. Ah well.

I'm glad to be back, but this was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, and I hope to go back someday.

Thanks for tuning in!

Romer
01-22-2015, 07:24 PM
Awesome. Thanks for sharing Isaac

60wag
01-22-2015, 08:24 PM
Wow, great adventure and great pictures.

subzali
01-22-2015, 08:48 PM
Great memories Isaac! Thanks for sharing!

TheHoneyBadger
01-22-2015, 09:58 PM
WOW! That looks hell-a-awesome! Also, really cool that there are Land Cruisers down there. :thumb:

So I'm afraid I never knew what it is that you do. What was the purpose of you mission down there?

rover67
01-22-2015, 10:12 PM
Holy Cow that's freakin' EPIC!

I can't even imagine what this was like first hand.

Did you feel like Shackleton? I bet you did.

Thats so freakin' hard core man.

Damn.

The pics are just awesome.

AxleIke
01-23-2015, 12:20 AM
Thanks all,

LOL, Marco, as it turns out, we had one team member whose last name is Shackleton and she was distantly (very) related. One of the other team members was a Scott fan, and thus there was lively discussion about who was the better explorer (all good natured, of course).

Travis, the New Zealand guys have it figured out. Nothing but 70 series LC's with lockers, and most had Toyota spec bull bars. All the US had as a ton of F150's, F250's, and Ford vans. The vans had 4wd conversions, and like I said, were on 37's, but I really wanted to cruise around in a Cruiser.

We were drilling Ice Cores. We study the past atmosphere to learn about how the earth's climate has changed in the past.

Ice on glaciers and in ice caps first falls as snow, and the snow gets buried under more layers of snow. While it is snow, it has air pockets in it. As the snow becomes more compacted, that air gets closed in, and when the snow gets compressed under enough layers, it becomes ice, and the air is trapped as tiny bubbles in the ice:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000750.jpg

Between the several projects going on in camp, we obtained samples from 130,000 years ago, all the way up to 8,000 years ago. Myself and one other team member were working on a carbon 14 system, which took samples from 20,000 years to 8000 years.

Carbon 14 is rare, especially as you go back in time (it is radioactive, so it decays/disappears). We need 2700 kg (or about 3 tons) of ice to obtain a single sample from the ice. In the large pressure vessel we use, we can only load 1 ton per day (lots of heavy lifting), so it takes about 72 man hours (2 people 3 days) to get one sample. The ice must be collected and melted to release the air trapped in the ice (we collect this air and bring it back to the states for analysis). This is the vessel:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000715.jpg

We have to first even the ends of the cores (so they stack nicely) with a chainsaw, then manhandle them around and scrape them with clean, stainless steel tools to clean off any snow or ice that came in contact with the chain saw, (to avoid contamination). We then use a climbing ice screw and a gantry to hoist the cores up and into the melter:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000937.jpg

The melter has a 2 million BTU/hr burner under it, and can heat 120 gallons of water 18 deg F in 4 minutes. It sounds like a jet engine.

I'm happy to discuss more with folks, but its a TON to type out everything we were doing. Perhaps best done over beers LOL.

As for getting the cores, we have an expert driller who is a great guy. This is the drill rig, and you can see cores loaded in the sled (a Nansen sled with a box strapped to the top):

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000758.jpg

And a finished hole:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000759.jpg

AxleIke
01-23-2015, 12:22 AM
Oh, and no showers, so you get pretty familiar with BO while you are out there. After about a week, you don't notice anymore. You just get used to it.

Jacket
01-23-2015, 11:28 AM
Wow. A true expedition (with air support!), and a very unique and rare opportunity. Too cool!

AxleIke
01-23-2015, 12:06 PM
LOL. Yup, expedition for sure.

The logistics for planning this type of thing kinda boggles the mind. Its a HUGE amount of work, that I thankfully didn't have to do!

Inukshuk
01-23-2015, 08:17 PM
I suppose we can forgive you since there is Cruiser Content. Seriously cool report.

Does the base operate in winter?

Not technically a 4x4 trip, but a trip report nonetheless.

The Kiwi's have much better trucks than the US. Most of the Cruisers and all of the US trucks and vans are running around on aired down 35's or 37's. I saw BFG MT's, Goodyear MTR's, Trxuss MT's, etc...

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000565.jpg

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c263/AxleIke/P1000595.jpg

Old40Dog
01-24-2015, 08:05 AM
Thanks for sharing Isaac! Its all been said already...awesome, epic!

AxleIke
01-24-2015, 09:50 AM
I suppose we can forgive you since there is Cruiser Content. Seriously cool report.

Does the base operate in winter?

Yes, they do. Palmer Station and South Pole as well. There are no support flights during that time, so you are completely cut off from the rest of the world if you winter over. There are much more stringent psychological tests that you must pass for winter deployment.

The guy who did our drilling has done a winter over at south pole, and said it was pretty epic. He said they have tunnels under the snow so people don't have to walk outside very much. Apparently, at 100 below frostnip is near instant on any exposed skin, and frostbite isn't far behind.

subzali
01-24-2015, 02:05 PM
Yes, they do. Palmer Station and South Pole as well. There are no support flights during that time, so you are completely cut off from the rest of the world if you winter over. There are much more stringent psychological tests that you must pass for winter deployment.



The guy who did our drilling has done a winter over at south pole, and said it was pretty epic. He said they have tunnels under the snow so people don't have to walk outside very much. Apparently, at 100 below frostnip is near instant on any exposed skin, and frostbite isn't far behind.


If I recall correctly, the population at McMurdo goes from about 1200 in summer to about 200 in winter. South Pole goes from around 100 in summer to around 25 in winter. It takes a certain kind of person, that's for sure.

AxleIke
01-24-2015, 06:20 PM
Yeah, thats roughly what I heard, but I think at the high point they were saying 1500 this year. At South Pole, in the summer, the majority of people are in tents or quanset's, but in the winter, they all stay in station.