Saturday, January 9, 2010
Long Walk from Taylor Glacier/ Blood Falls to Lake Hoare Field Camp-Text
Yesterday, Devin (geologist), Luigi. (biologist-microbes) and I took a very long walk down the Taylor Valley. We were dropped off by helicopter at Blood Falls—where the cascading water is red and stains the Taylor Glacier over which it falls. This year was not a banner year for the color—but it still turned the glacier rusty red due to iron oxide. The explanation--“Poorly soluble hydrous ferric oxides are deposited at the surface of ice after the ferrous ions present in the unfrozen saltwater are oxidized in contact with atmospheric oxygen. The more soluble ferrous ions initially are dissolved in old seawater trapped in an ancient pocket remaining from the Antarctic Ocean when a fjord was isolated by the glacier in its progression during the Miocene period, some 5 million years ago when the sea level was higher than today.” (from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Falls)
Our first part of the walk was on the north side of Lake Bonney-across from the falls. We walked, for two hours, on the frozen lake, stabilizers (cleat like attachments) Velcroed to our boots. Mount Matterhorn and Mount Thompson towered over us. On the south side of the lake, up the side of the mountain, were some renowned ventifacts—rocks transformed by the wind and elements into a variety of sculptural forms. However it was too far out of our way to see them—perhaps I will go back.
After Lake Bonney our walk took us along a stream and the valley opened up. We passed the LaCroix Glacier above us to our south. Devin explained the rock formations—great having a geologist with us—Luigi added to my understanding of the presence of microbes in this harsh setting.
We walked around Mummy Pond, where the water was unfrozen and flowing. Then we came upon the Seuss Glacier—for all of us the most spectacular part of our hike. We walked through the narrow chasm named the Defile. The glacier walls were carved like pillows with regular scoop-like indentations. There were long icicles hanging along the ice walls. From here we descended into the Lake Chad/Hoare Valley and walked on the lakes, stabilizers reattached, back to camp—twelve miles in total.