16 November, 2003
Glaciers to the left of me,
Rock walls to the right,
Here I am - stuck in the middle again...
(do you know that song?)
Location: Canada Glacier / Lake Hoare, Dry Valleys
We successfully completed all the work that needed to be done yesterday, so today we packed up most of our things and had the afternoon to “play.” What do scientists do on their time off while in the field? Go on a seven hour hike!
We strapped on our ice stabilizers, meandered across Lake Hoare along side the ice cliff from the Canada Glacier, and began our scramble up Andrews Ledge, heading for the Naussbaum Riegel summit! Along the way, Peter pointed out lateral moraines from an earlier glacial advance. All around us were valley glaciers spilling out into the barren landscape below.
We were in search of large ventifacts. As the fierce winds blow through this valley, the loose sand and gravel gets picked up and smattered into the surrounding cliffs and larger rocks that are not yet willing to budge. The constant bombardment by parcticles causes the larger rocks to become very smooth and sculpted into wild shapes. These sculpted rocks are called ventifacts. Ventifacts can be small, but we were in search of the large ones!
As we climbed higher, we entered into an area that had not been subjected to previous lake submersion; lake levels have risen and fallen dramatically in the past. This meant that the rocks here had been sandblasted for longer periods of time: perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, or more. We found the ventifacts for which we searched!
While continuing toward the summit, we passed by mysterious shapes protruding from the surrounding rubble. It was as if these ventifacts were sentries for the mountain watching our advance. The ventifacts allowed us safe passage and before long we reached the Naussbaum summit! We could see the full expanse of the Taylor Valley from this peak. Taylor glacier to the west meandered its way back up towards the polar plateau. Valley glaciers poured into the valley from both sides, and to the east was the Ross Ice Shelf with gigantic icebergs attempting to block passage to the sea.
We celebrated our trip to the summit and then scampered back down the mountain and passed through “The Defile” on our way back to camp. The Defile is a narrow passage made up of the wall of the Suess Glacier on one side and the rock cliffs of the mountain to the right. The winds rushing through the “alley” polish the glacier walls so that it looks like it’s studded with diamonds. Interspersed within the wall are teetering boulders just waiting to be spit into the rock pile at the edge of the ice wall.
Learning about glaciers, about lakes, and having the time of my life!
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