26 January, 1999
Tonight was another wonderful night to fly. But tonight we spent much more time hiking (yes!) than flying. I hope to be able to scan in a map of this valley so that you can follow where we were and what the features were that we were looking for.
As we flew over the sea ice we noticed many open lines where the ice is cracking. Greg, our pilot pointed to one big cut in parcticular, and he bet that we'd see it broken off when we returned. By big I mean bigger than a football field.
After fuelling at Marble Point, we flew up Wright Valley - remember that this valley is between the Asgards and the Olympus Range. We flew and observed features of the Labyrinth, so we were now low in the valley - not like the other night when we were looking at the flood features of the ranges.
To my delight we landed on top of the plateaus that are cut by these deep channels. The area was composed entirely of dolerite, but it was quite different than the dolerite in Beacon. This dolerite did not have the deep desert varnish of the Beacon rocks and the terrain was easy to navigate on the plateaus. The channels are indeed deep enough to land a huge cargo plane in and when you see the pictures you will catch your breath just as I did.
We saw many haystack features. These are composed of standing remains of fractured dolerite - the whole area, as you can see from the pictures is heavily fractured. Dr. Denton and Dr. Sugden considered the idea that they might be fractured by great hydrostatic pressures that built up in a subglacial flood.
We next went to the South Fork of the Labyrinth. The surface here reminded me of what we saw in Arena Valley. The cover was full of sandstone and was golden in color, although the sandstone was not as quartzified as in Arena.
We flew to the North Fork, but close to the Dais. We ate our flight lunch in the helicopter and were ready to go on a walk. This was an eerie world. There was a gorgeous colluvium that contained many ventifacts, but many many large boulders. This was definitley the place that seemed the most timeless to me. As we hiked up from the helicopter, Dr. Sugden noticed one of the famous mummified seals. These seals somehow walked up here, became stranded and died. The ones we saw were at least 25 miles from the sea. One was well preserved and the rest were in scattered bits - testifying to the power of the winds here. I know that some of these seals have been dated at several thousand years old.
We entered an area where we surrounded by rock glaciers on both sides. This was quite odd. They had never seen this before.
After we climbed on an old till, I called up Greg on the helo and he came to pick us up.
We went to refuel at Marble Point. There is only one "fuelie" (the person that helps with pumping the fuel) there, so we had to wake him up-it was 3 am. We flew home over the ice edge again and yes I know it is getting so boring - but we saw at least 30 killer whales.
One of the pods just looked like they were having fun - they were diving and leaping. The other pods looked more serious somehow.
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