20th December 1999
Christmas draws near to the land where the sun has not set in months. Hard to believe that in about a week and half the holidays will have come and gone. Without the barrage of advertisement and steady advancement of darkness, the Christmas fever has not reached me.
As for the rest of my life down south in the Dry Valleys I have nothing to complain about. Summer has come to the valleys with full-force as I heading towards the end of my second month here. This past week has been warm with temperatures near freezing and lots of warm sunshine. Enough to start the streams flowing off the glaciers. I have been going to bed at night with the sound of water cascading off the Canada Glacier and the Anderson Creek flowing along the toe of the glacier. To celebrate the warmth we have had several beach parties out on the spit of sand along the front of the Canada Glacier. The best time to sun bathe is in the evening when the sun shines down the valley (see attached photo). The first time on the beach it was warm enough to wear shorts and kick off the shoes and run around playing Frisbee. Occasionally the Frisbee would land on the ice, which posed a problem for us barefooted folks. Some brave or fool hearted soul would have to walk out to retrieve the Frisbee. With the ice been thin along the margin of the lake it is almost guaranteed that the retriever will break through. Even with the occasional break through, the warmth of the sun is very gracious to our bodies. From what I hear this ritual of sun bathing will continue through the summer. A life full of contradictions for sure.
Currently I am up at Lake Bonney, which is the furthest lake up-valley from the Ross Sea. I am helping out another team on the Long-term Ecological Research project drill some ten inches holes on the lake. The lake ice is especially thick this year (up to 6 meters thick) and trying to pull up so many flights of augers is difficult. It has given me an excuse to come up to this end of the valley and do a little exploring. The first day we were drilling on the west lobe of the lake, we were invited after we were finished over to the Kiwi's camp, which is located at the end of the Taylor Glacier. Nothing like visiting your only neighbor 4 kilometers up the valley for a beer and some food. Great thing here is that it doesn't get dark, so whatever time we drove the all terrain vehicle back across the lake it was still light.
A few days ago on my day off the cook and I hiked up to the top of the Matterhorn, which is a 1800 meter peak just north of camp. The weather was unfortunately bad, so I visibility was poor. It was too bad since the view I have heard is spectacular from the top. Since the two of us were at Lake Bonney for a short while, we opted to go on the hike anyway. We had a view of the valley for most of the hike up, but it was cloudy up top. We did have one moment at the top when the clouds broke and we were faced with this amazing view of the Taylor Valley. Too bad it did not last long.
I am heading back to Lake Hoare tomorrow and will be there till just after the new years. I will celebrate Christmas at Lake Hoare, but it will not be the same. Usually gifts are exchanged by putting one gift in and having folks pick a gift. The gift can be kept or traded for another that has already been pick. It is a fun way to give out gifts and there is no pressure to get gifts for the ten people or so who will be around for Xmas. I am not sure what were are doing for the New Years yet.
After the big Y2K celebration, and after we recover from the lack of email access, I will be back on the glaciers making measurements. We will be measuring a surface channel on the lower part of the Taylor Glacier, which is located at the end of the valley. I will also be making the second round of stake measurements on Taylor Gl. and 5 other glaciers in the valley. The other task I need to complete before I head to New Zealand is service the meteorological stations in Taylor, Wright and Victoria valleys (all part of the Dry Valleys). Then I will spend a little less than a month in New Zealand, soaking up the warmth and reacquainting myself with plants and animals.
Have a delicious Christmas and a sparkling New Years. Hope to hear from you soon.