12 November, 2004
Over the sound to Lake Hoare we go!
Temperature: 12 * F and blustery!
Location: McMurdo Station and Lake Hoare
We thought our flight to the Dry Valleys may actually get canceled today due to the heavy winds. But, in true Antarctica fashion, the weather changed within an hour, and we loaded up and flew to the valleys! At times, the helicopter swayed from side to side; almost like we were “fishtailing”. I felt like we were in a toy helicopter being “flown” around in the hands of a child. It was never dangerous or frightening, just a bit exciting! It was a beautiful ride over McMurdo Sound, and a stunning trip up the valley.
Through the helicopter window, we could see the various valley glaciers seeping into the barren basin of Taylor Valley. We flew over Lake Fryxell where we could clearly see the “moats” around the lake. The lakes in this valley are frozen for most of the year, but each summer the edges of the lakes melt, creating a moat. The moat ice is smoother than the rest of the lake, thus there is a definite delineation between the two regions.
We landed at Lake Hoare and quickly set up camp. We spent a few moments appreciating the splendor of the Canada Glacier. We could hear the aerie groans and pops from within the glacier as it attempts to push it’s way forward. There are sections of the glacier where quite large sheets of ice have calved off the terminal wall. We questioned how many terrestrial glaciers “calve” like the glaciers that flow into water.
After a brief interlude with the glacier, we got right to work. We loaded up the ATV and headed out onto the lake to start making the dive hole. It will take a couple days to melt a hole large enough to allow divers safe access to the waters below the lake.
To make the hole, we first had to drill a hole into the ice. The goal was for the hole to go deep enough to almost “punch through” the ice. Once the hole was drilled, we would put a hot finger (heating coil) down the hole to start the melting process. That’s all fine in theory. We drilled as planned, but the ice was just a bit thinner than we thought in the area we were drilling. When using the drills, we must occasionally “clear” the hole. Clearing the hole means to quickly raise the drill up and down the hole in order to bring up the loose ice/snow that falls into the hole as we drill. Everything was going along quite easily; a sure sign to keep on guard for something unexpected to happen. Just when we thought this was the easiest hole to drill any of us had experienced, we punched through the ice into the water. The cold lake water immediately filled the hole. The cold lake water quickly turned the “un-cleared” ice/snow in the hole to a sticky glue; almost a cement! We were in a jam. We scrambled to get the drill augers out of the icy water before they froze solid. We made some progress, but the lake was winning. We needed more leverage, so we put a screw driver through a hole in the auger, then placed a chisel handle over the screw driver. It worked like a charm. We were almost free, when the screw driver shattered! We collected all the pieces and then started over.
We drilled another hole beside the “stuck” auger. We are now melting the hole, so the auger will be freed as the hole gets larger. We also had to tie the stuck auger to the generator so that when the ice around it releases its grip, the auger doesn’t fall into the lake. We will monitor the melt progress through the night.
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