Polar Travel

Dog Sledging

We should say something about this because a few years ago the bureaucrats decided to ban all sledge dogs from the Antarctic. A reason I was told was that one might break loose and kill a penguin! Three parties once did a total of 5000 miles in one summer at a cost of 54 pemmican blocks a day costing about $1 each. They now use either ski-doos or turbine helicopters at about $3000 an hour. Consequently not a great deal of field work has been done since. I was never one of the world experts but I have been dog-sledging quite a few times since 1955 and have covered more than a few thousand miles. It used to be claimed that it took a year to train a dog driver but I have trained a good one in two weeks. My own experience was that there was a vast difference between being in front and being No 2 following! But then I learnt “When in doubt, trust your lead dog!”

A well-behaved team resting. We are close to One Ton Depot out on the Barrier. Scott, Wilson and Bowers are buried not far away. Dismal and Fido who led all through 1956-7-8 are still in the lead in 1959. The two rear dogs are in harness for only the 10th time and have settled down to be good hardworking huskies. Zaza with her tail over her nose did the entire Northern Journey three years before as a mere “teenager”.

One may not think that taking a 12ft sled of hickory and ash, lashed together with white whale strips, hooking nine dogs in the front on a centre trace, loading a half ton of supplies on it and taking off for a few months would come under the heading of “fun” but it did.

Some very famous people, (leaving out the Eskimos who have been doing it for about 2,000 years, and Peary and Cook) including Gino Watkins, Quentin Riley, Spenser Chapman, Cortauld, John Rymill, Bingham, Mike Banks, Richard Brooke, George Marsh, Butler, Kevin Walton, Ray Adie, Bunny Fuchs, Ken Blaiklock and hundreds of others, went off in ancient schooners and fishing boats to the Arctic and Antarctic, found a bay, built a small hut and lived there for 2-3 years, mapped the country in, looked at the geology and wildlife, hunted bears and seals and usually survived, but why? Well, one of the reasons was the fact that you had the exhilarating experience of travelling by dog sled.


Blue Glacier after a storm has blown all the snow away- much rougher! Temp. is about -30 (see the long shadows, it is September). In about 30 miles of this I think we broke one deck panel. But on snow we had to ice the runners. Greenland sleds are shod with steel.

The best is to travel with three dog teams and four men, then you carry a ton and a half and have an extra man if something goes wrong. On reasonable going you can guarantee to do 20-25 miles a day, you can cross very thin ice and pack, you can bump over pretty bad sastrugi that would stop a sno-cat. It costs a block of pemmican per day per dog and few things ever break. You can go out 800 or a thousand miles and come home again given a bit of support in carrying supplies.

Amundsen took dogs to the South Pole from Bay of Whales in 1911. He averaged 20.8 miles per day, across the Ice-shelf, up the Axel Heiberg Glacier and across the ice cap and back.

In 1957-8 Dr George Marsh and Sir J Holmes Miller (as he became), sledged even further, (about 1800 miles) at an average of 22.4 miles per day from Scott Base, over the Barrier, up the Skelton Glacier, out to Depot 700, back east towards the mountains, surveyed the Miller range and came home. To my knowledge that was the greatest sledging journey ever. Amundsen has some depots laid before and then killed half his dogs on the way home. George and Bob had some depots laid and at least one flown in, but brought every dog home.

The same year our Northern Party did a mere 1600 miles altogether including Spring journeys but we did a lot of survey work and walked maybe another 500.


A seal is butchered by Richard Brooke for some hungry dogs, (plus some seal liver for us, see on the right!) Spring Journey, at the Stranded Moraines, Sept. 1957

Living off the land as always, is OK for a month or so but is rather lacking in intellectual stimulation. Conversation dies completely. You do not waste time saying:

“I say I think I see a seal behind that pressure ridge. If I sneak up and get him would you be so kind as to bring up the dogs and we can get fresh meat for the whole party, we are rather short you know!” and he does not waste time replying:

“I say what a jolly good idea, do be careful my dear chap he may slide back down his diving hole if he hears your bloody great clumping feet!”

Instead of which you catch his eye, point with your chin and he briefly nods, all else is understood, it has all been done a few times before.


Not a blizzard yet, but a head wind of over 20 knots working up. About 200 miles south on the Barrier, the dogs get what comfort they can on a break. See Dismal looking ahead to see what is coming!

Setting up camp after a few weeks on the trail becomes a routine. As evening approaches you hold up an arm to warn the sleds behind, then swing left, “Aaah, dogs, lie down!” The other sleds also swing left en eschelon. You drop in a picket to hold the sled, walk forward unlashing the tent which lies on top, take the shovel the dog span and your ice-axe and walk to the front of the team, push your ice-axe through a ring at the front of the centre trace so the dogs cannot move. Dig two trenches and bury the wooden ends of the wire span. Unclip nine dogs and clip them to the span. They all yelp and howl, knowing feeding time is coming up. Back to the sled, take nine block of pemmican and throw one to each. There are nine incredibly rapid gulps and they are gone.


Fido says: “Gee! How nice of you to notice me!”

Pull out the tent, stand it four square, throw in your sleeping back and the cookbox and tucker box. Your tent mate comes up carrying the radio and vanishes inside, his dogs are already spanned and fed. He slaps down the billies to be filled with snow, and there is a roar as the primus starts up. You dig snow blocks and pile them on the tent flaps, knock in pegs and tighten guys. The sled is packed, skis slid underneath, the centre trace is coiled on the front of the sled, (if left out it may freeze in), a final pat for the dogs and leaving them to curl up, tail over nose, you enter the tent and pull off mukluks and hang the felt liners and anorak at the tent peak to dry.

Your sleeping bag has been unrolled and you sink back in comfort as your companion silently hands you a mug of tea. You sip in silence, then he bursts out in one of the few conversational gambits allowed. “I say, dogs went rather well today, don’t you think? Twenty six miles on my meter, and those few miles of breakable crust slowed us a little. I must say, my lead dog is shaping up rather well!” “Aye, we were lucky that breeze died!” And one relaxes in total peace and quiet, the only sound being a patter of drift on the tent, or a yawn from a dog.

There have been some long trips done by snocat over the icecap but not anywhere near mountains. I do not know of a large scale geological survey being done using ski-doos though one party took them up the Shackleton Glacier and another up the Darwin and McCleary. At any rate they bore me silly!

In general the words of command used to drive dogs are Labrador Eskimo, because that was where Gino Watkins first drove dogs in about 1925. So you scream “Huit! Huit!” to go ahead, “Ahhhh!” to stop, “Rrrrrrrrrr” for left and “Auk! Auk!” to go right. A good lead dog soon works out where you are going, he goes to one side if there is a crevasses below and he will find a way through a pressure ridge without being told.

A replete and smug-looking Dismal. He has carefully left the blubber for tomorrow, but a good driver takes it well away and gives it to the skuas, or feeds it in small bits. Otherwise dogs tend use it as hair lotion and roll in it, matting fur, so that it no longer will keep them warm (and looks horrible). A husky with blubber in his fur is the sign of a bad/careless doggoe.

Gino was drowned when in his kayak near a calving glacier in East Greenland hunting seal for the dogs. It is thought that a piece of glacier fell and rolled him over unexpectedly as he had perfected the technique of rolling his kayak either by hand or paddle. I have never rolled a kayak myself but pretty well everything else I know was handed down to me by successive generations of polar people from Gino Watkins.

A rest when relaying a load up the MacKay Glacier with Sperm Bluff and Queer Mountain and Tent Peak in the far distance. The katabatic wind has polished the ice, the return down was really fast!
The season draws to a close, 1400 miles behind us, less than 200 more to do. The last of an Indian summer in late February or early March, it was still too warm at midday for the dogs, the time here being 3 am. A week or two later Bunny and his boys at this same spot on their way off the icecap and down the Skelton, complained of 30 below temperatures and blizzards.

Dogs can jump quite wide crevasses, or split to one side and run across a snow bridge. You then give a “heave” to get the sledge over before something falls in, hang onto the handle bars and jump yourself. It may sound a little dicey but sometimes it is either that or turn back. Sometimes a dog fell down a “hole” but we always got them out.

Without the husky dog, the polar regions have changed forever. There is no adventure, it is boring and mechanical, self-reliance is no longer needed, a machine takes you there, another machine tells you to come home. The people you meet are, I fear, quite ordinary. It did not used to be that way; if they were not outstanding they would never have got there.

Odd that it never occurred to us that our way of doing things would not go on for ever,

However one must admit that some of vital skills one learned such as sewing up a dog-harness, patching a tent, navigating by sun compass and bubble sextant or breaking trail in soft snow by running like hell on ski or snowshoes do not seem to be in great demand these days, and the few of the old dog-sledders that survive seem to be mainly unemployed. Even mapping country by squinting through a theodolite seems to have been given away.

Huskies have certain rules such as “Never bite a bitch or a young dog even he has pinched your pet seal bone. Never bite the boss unless he has just stood on your foot. Always do your share of work or I will get you. Keep your distance or I will take your ear off, (notice how they are spaced out in the pictures). Die if you must but PULL!”
Huskies make people seem pretty limp.

… And the people who drove them


The Northern Party at Corner Peak, Feb. 1958

The sun, halfway above the horizon seemed intolerably bright after 4 months of dark. -50ºF, about 20 miles out on the Barrier, early Sept. 1957

Richard Brooke, RN, also on a cool morning out on the trail.

Dr George Marsh, our chief doggoe. George was a graduate of Guys Hospital London and came from Shrewsbury. He had already spent two winters in charge of the Hope Bay FIDS base in Grahamland, and had made long journeys down the Filchner Ice Shelf. Why was he back? Well, he wanted to break Amunsden’s sledging record, (which he did). George was not interested in rocks and surveying and all that nonsense, in fact he preferred to be out on the Barrier or the Ice Cap, you could make a better daily mileage. He much preferred dogs to human beings, was witty, urbane and our best story teller by far, a man of many talents, He was also eminently likeable.

Richard Brooke in somewhat warmer weather, in the Upper MacKay area. He was rather proud of his home-made helmet.

Arnold Heine on the summit of Harmsworth, Jan. 1957

Mid-Winters Eve party, 1957.
Our two Field Assistants, both professional guides, Harry Ayres, once my Chief Guide at Waiho, Fanz Josef, member of “The Darwin Party, and Guide Murray Douglas of the Hermitage, a member of the Northern Party. Harry made some outstanding first ascents, the North Ridge of Malte Brun with Bruce Gillies, the South Ridge of Cook with Sir Edmund Hillary.

Murray Robb wintered as Base engineer in 1958 and came down with me in ’59-60 as Sno-cat driver. Marine Engineer, fisherman, born on an outback cattle station, he soon mastered a seismometer. When I had the
crash he took over my dog team and they surveyed the Beardmore – Nimrod area. Admiral Sharpe (CinC, Pacific Fleet) once said to me “Bernie there’s one thing I really do envy ya! Where in hell these days do you find men like that Rob guy?
Also at Midwinter’s Eve, Bob Miller our deputy leader says a few words. Bob, or Sir J Holmes as he later became, was an artilleryman in the desert in the war. He was our “Uncle Bill” a cheerful sympathetic person always ready to give a helping hand. With Dr George Marsh he made the great sledging journey to the Queen Elizabeth and what I named the “Miller” range near the Beardmore, via Depot 700, eighteen hundred miles!
On left is Dr Trevor Hatherton, geophysist and IGY chief. He was on our Ferrar Glacier trip of 1955-6. On right is Dr Ron Balham, our resident biologist. He also was co-opted for a time into driving tractors to the Pole. Trevor later went on a seismic traverse with “Bloody Bert” Crary, and Bob spent another summer in about 1963 sledging in NVL.

Aircraft

Constellation The Super Constellation was a big advance on the old transport planes such as the Globemaster.
The USN “Connie” was fast and comfortable, and in 1959 it was sent down on a special flight to bring the geologists Dr Gunn and James Lowery home after both were injured in a crevasse accident.

Photo: Warren Hamilton
Hercules C-130The workhorse since about 1963, the “Hercs” fly fuel, supplies and more than 3000 people a year to McMurdo, the Pole Station as well as to many remote field parties. Only ski-equipped Hercs land at the Pole. The RNZAF makes half the flights in from New Zealand in the same aircraft.

Photo: Warren Hamilton

Ships

In 1955-6 we had no less than 5 icebreakers, Two were Coastguard cutters, painted white with 6 diesel-electric engines. Here the “Eastwind” lies alongside the ice.

Photo: Warren Hamilton
In 1956 we were breaking a channel closer to Hut Point in the “Glacier” when these two ships began calling for help. The “Wyandot”, (cargo ship) has a large piece of ice against her screw and could not move. We (in the Edisto) washed it away with our propellers. Note the gun platforms; she was a wartime freighter, read more about wyandot by clicking here

Then the Fleet tanker “Nespelen” began yelling for help. An icecake not 30ft long had been drifting slowly past. The ship began to list, a rent 20ft long had been torn in her side, an engine tilted over and 32,000 gals of aviation fuel was lost. No ships were ever lost, but some got home on half a propeller and with large cement patches over rips in the hull.


Wyandot and Nespelen
Photo: Warren Hamilton
The “Glacier” (9000 tons with 8, 2000 hp Fairbanks-Morse engines) opens up a passage towards Hut Point. White Id and Minna Bluff in distance. Once we hit a small bergy bit and half an hour later the Bosun reported 15ft of water up forward. We ran her up on the ice to find a 14ft rent in 5/8″ steel hull overlain by 1 3/8″ in armour plate. The Glacier could break bay ice up to 10ft thick.

Photo: Warren Hamilton
The icebreaker USS Glacier returns homewards in March 1956 in the Ross Sea after a roughish night with much freezing spray flying about. >>


Building the first garage in the Antarctic,
Bates and Ellis in late Feb, 1957.

Bases in the Antarctic

You don’t last long without some form of shelter.

Unfortunately, the materials all have to come from overseas and there are precious few days with ideal conditions for building in. Our bureaucrat organisers decided a garage was not necessary. Unfortunately we had 5 tractors and two weasels which needed maintenance and constant repair and essential things like fuel drums had to brought up from the dump right through the winter. Bates and Ellis showed a bit of good old Kiwi engenuity, fabricated trusses by welding waratahs, made walls out the dunnage from packing cases, built a blubber heater stove from drums and it was used for the next ten years. The “Caboose” was built in it and the tractors modified, so that without it, Sir Edmund Hillary would never have got to the South Pole.

The first sun falls on Scott Base at McMurdo in early September 1957 after 4 months of darkness. Winter blizzards have packed snow about the covered way. See the home-made garage covered in green canvas on right. >>
Vern Gerard, IGY seismologist walks up a snow ramp. Observation Hill trachyte dome in distance. The Yank Camp is over the pass.
Now all is gone except the mess hut, second on the left joined by the covered way to the bunk huts and the scientific hut at the far end. I stand on the roof of the Sledging and # 2 generator hut. >>

Scott Base, Sept 1959.
The new hangar built at Scott Base in 1959 to take the Beaver and the Auster. The Beaver was crashed that year due to some sloppy airmanship, since when the hangar has been used as a store. Two garages have been added to the sledging hut.

Scott Base 1961
Photos here, below: Warren Hamilton
The green hut is the Beaver’s box covered in canvas where the Beaver (plane) spent the winter of 1957.

Scott Base 1959
Scott’s 1901-03 hut. It was bought as a prefab in Australia, in case the “Discovery”, which was moored alongside, caught fire or had some such disaster. It was full of ice but I began digging it out in 1955 and it has since been restored.

Scott’s old Hut

McMurdo 1963
Scott Base lies beyond The Gap.
About 1961. Diesel fuel cost $5 per gal at the ice, and the nuclear plant was to save money. It did not work; radiation caused bubbles of nascent O2 to form on the fuel rod casing forming an insulating barrier. The rods repeatedly overheated and the plant automatically shut down each time. Why this hasn’t happened at other NP plants I do not know. So it was dismantled.

McMurdo’s nuclear power station
Jamesways are an insulated shelter which can be erected quickly, sometimes used in semi-permanent field camps.

Jamesway Huts
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Foot, Ski and Manhauling

In the absence of dogs, travel slows down considerably. In the Dry Valleys one may be forced to backpack for a few days, but the amount of extra clothing, tents, radio etc. makes the loads heavier. In New Zealand one may back-pack for two weeks, even a month if one is prepared to accept a spartan diet and cook on wood fires and drink milkless, sugarless tea. In the South large amounts of fuel are carried. On glaciers of gentle slope one can manhaul light sleds with 2-3 weeks supplies without too much difficulty, but a slower and more monotonous form of travel cannot be imagined, you MAY make 10-12 miles a day but in soft or rough going it can be much less. People have crossed the continent solo with a man-hauled sled, with the aid of parachutes to help sail, and usually frequent aircraft lifts. The invention of the horse collar doubled the efficiency of the horse but no such invention has been made for people, we are a most ineffective draught animal.
On snow, even pulling a sled it is usually better to wear ski, even sinking in a couple of inches is tiring, sinking in a foot is B***y tiring. Sometimes on icy sastrugi, the skis have to be put on the sled, sometimes one has to wear crampons as well.

Skidoos? I cannot comment. My one day on a skidoo bored me to tears, the reek was appalling and the racket more so. Deafness from broken skidoo mufflers is now an occupational hazard for the Inuit (Eskimos).

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Antarctic Penguins

<<The Adelie Penguin is the most common and most likeable of all the wildlife seen in the South. Unlike Over the Other Side, ie Grahamland, South Georgia, and the Weddell Sea, where they have many penguins, the Gentoo, the Chinstrap, the King Penguin, the Royal, the Rockhopper, the Macaroni etc as well as quite few Adelies, we have only two kinds, the Emperor (above right) and the Adelie nesting at or near the extreme southern ice-edge.

Adelie rookeries are on solid land, usually on a point facing the sun with good access to the sea without too much scrambling and of gentle slope. So there are rookeries on the northern side of Cape Royds, over on the eastern side of Ross Island north of Cape Crozier, and near Cape Bird. Further north there is one reported on Beaufort Island, on Inexpressible Island, one at Cape Hallett, and at Cape Adare and I have heard rumours of one on Coulman Island. There are not many on the mainland except at Cape Hallett and Cape Adare, probably because the ice packs in and open water is found close only rarely.

At Adare however, the tides are fierce and the pack gets broken up frequently. The number of birds has been counted every year for decades so we hope to prise these numbers out of someone. One of the ships tour companies reports 17 Adelie rookeries in the Ross Dependency with 55,000 pairs at each of Franklin Island and Cape Hallet with 160,000 pairs at Cape Adare, but we have no way of knowing at this point how accurate these guestimates are.

Adelies are quite capable of walking twenty miles just to have a look at your camp, but they seem to prefer open water or least a good open lead to dive into, not some pokey little seal hole. Through the winter the Adelie drifts north with the pack and stays near the edge of open water, in the spring he works his way south and by November is seen pottering about the ice-edges at the northern limit of McMurdo Sound and not far from the Rookeries.

If the snow on top of the ice is a little deep for walking in, the Adelie falls forward on his tum and pushes with his feet and progresses as a kind of motor toboggan, faster than he can walk. I think they begin nesting in early December, piling up a little ring of small stones, carrying them long distances, or stealing them off a neighbour who does not happen to be looking. They take turns in sitting on one or two eggs, the other going off to sea to stoke up in krill. How an Adelie on returning, recognises his girlfriend among a hundred thousand that you or I would swear were identical I do not know, but they can!


A single Adelie come over to say “hello!” McMurdo Sound, opposite Cape Evans, Dec. 1955. Notice he has just stood up having been sledging on his tum. Luckily the dogs were all tied up.

A snowfall in midsummer can be a disaster, sometimes the eggs become chilled and will not hatch, the Adelies sit on their nests, a head poking through the snow, waiting for it to melt. The chicks hatch about January and have a thick coat of grey down to begin with. Parents come back to the nest to regurgitate krill. Skua gulls hover about attempting to snatch a chick and get beaten off, an intruding human being is likely to get a slap across the ankles from a leathery flipper. By the time the new ice is forming the chicks are almost full-grown and have changed their grey fur for feathers and begin working their way north towards the open water.

Any open lead is likely to have a gaggle of Adelies standing on the edge of the ice, peering down to see if there is one of their ancient enemies, the Sea Leopards, lurking below. They swim by swinging their wing flippers in an oval motion, remarkably fast. Coming out of the water they can flash up at such a speed they can land standing on their feet on the top of an ice edge 3-4 feet above water level. A pursuing leopard merely gets his nose bumped.

They suffer heavily from the depredations of the Leopard Seals in the water and their eggs and chicks from the infernal skuas, but otherwise their life is tolerably carefree. Adelies are one of hardiest breeds of animal I have ever seen.

Rookeries


Photo: Warren Hamilton
<< Adelies nesting at Cape Hallett.

Making nests out of rock? Usually the only other choices are snow and ice!

The pebble “nests” mean that the egg is kept dry above the cold sludge on the ground around, Adelies do not have feet big enough to keep the egg off the freezing ground. One wonders how long it took them to realise that an egg must be kept up off the ice etc.


Photo: Warren Hamilton
An Adelie rookery around Cape Adare. A rare example of Adelies having access to materials other than stones for their nests!

Scotts 1903 hut. The hut behind minus roof MAY be Borschgrevincs.


.
Cape Adare, also showing Borchgrevincks and Priestley’s Huts.
Note the dead penguins lying about, As most of the cruise ships call here
one would like some recent counts. The Finns with Borchgrevinck collected 2000 penguin eggs for omelettes

Photo: Warren Hamilton
<<An Adelie rookery overlooking Cape Hallet Bay.

Cape Hallett Rookery
When the Hallett Base was built in 1956 there were 64,000 pairs of birds. Four years later there were 26,000. The base is now abandoned but no counts are available of any recovery. A tour company claims 50,000 birds so there may be some recovery, but oil leakage from rusting tanks has claimed some. Russian ice-breaker tour ships are shown breaking their way right in Hallett Fiord to give tourists a close look at the country. It seems a Rookery Warden will not only need a six gun and a shot gun, but a 2cm Oerlikon as well!


Photo: Warren Hamilton
The Cape Crozier Adelie rookery overlooking the Barrier. The Emperor rookery is on the bay ice on the far right.

The Cape Royds Adelie Rookery Jan, 2003. Notice the well-worn trails, the subgroups of penguins and how few there are, not more than 400-500 pairs. This rookery has been in use since about 700AD. Notice also people wandering about, inevitably introducing foreign bacteria and virii.

Aerial view of Royds Rookery taken Jan. 2004. Note that of fifty nestingsites, only a dozen are occupied. Notice also the open water, so the excuse that the large tabular berg G16 has prevented the ice going out in McMurdo Sound leaving Adelies no where to feed does not hold. This rookery could be on it’s way to extinction, but as we said before, the Adelie is a tough little tyke though the constant hounding by hundreds of people must impart considerable stress. Panicing of the entire rookery by low-flying helicopters results in hundreds of smashed eggs and in nest desertions. A summer 2004 account says “Our helicopter flew low enough for us to plainly see the yellow patches on the Emperors necks.” Someone else who should be grounded!

|__| Graph of Adelie numbers counted at Rookeries

Durmont D'Urville RookeryDurmont D’Urville Rookery
Urbanisation crowds out the original inhabitants. Adelies at the Durmont D’Urville Rookery in Adelie Land now have to fit in what corners are left. In spite of an airstrip and a rocket launching pad, a few are still raising chicks, but for how long?

We would welcome pix of some of the other 40 “research” stations that crowd every bit of bare rock round the coast.


All Antarctic anmals and birds seem to be the most devoted parents, spending at least half the year bringing up one chick. Arguably, in such an environment, only the most devoted care can result in an offspring surviving, but it is impressive all the same.

The Emperor Penguin


A single Emperor penguin at the ice edge McMurdo Sound January 1957.

Edward Wilson believed for some reason that the Emperor was a very primitive animal. It is fact very highly specialised with the most curious breeding habits that could be devised.

They are quite massive, standing about four feet high or more and must weigh more than a dozen Adelies. Not always being scientifically-minded I have never weighed one, but they are quite hefty, maybe 80lbs. They are also very strong, in a hand to hand battle, rolling over in the snow and trying to pin one down, it is a good idea to wrap arms round his flippers as a clout across the ear will make a large man dizzy and persuade the most aggressive husky that he ought to go back to the doglines. Unless you have some standing at sumo wrestling or tae kwon do, you would be probably wiser to avoid unarmed combat. Emperors are bad losers, they fight fair (don’t go for your eyes) but get in some pretty telling body blows, they simply work in close and pound you!.


Mostly adult Emperors at Cape Washington.
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Mostly baby Emperors.
Tabular iceberg behind.
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Cape Washington with half grown chicks
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Parents’ day out with the kids.
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Cape Crozier Rookery.

This is home usually to about 2400 adult Emperors.
Scott in 1902 found the first Emperor Rookery on fast-ice where the Ross Ice Shelf abuts against Cape Crozier.


Adult Emperor Penguins at the Cape Crozier rookery on a patch of bay ice under the Ross Ice Shelf cliffs. This is taken in about September and the chicks, while still in down are growing fast. Author unidentified, taken 1961.

The overhanging Ice Shelf towering 2-300 feet above protects them from the blizzard and the water out half a mile is almost always clear, a medium breeze at Cape Crozier being forty knots. They lay eggs of all appalling times in the middle of WINTER, and have a special pouch between their feet to keep the egg warm and away from the ice underfoot, which in July in middle of a Cape Crozier winter, would freeze the fires of hades. Edward Wilson, Apsley Cherry Garard and Birdie Bowers spent a month in 1911 journeying to this spot in the middle of winter to obtain an egg.

Cherry wrote a book about it entitled “The Worst Journey in the World” to my knowledge, no one has ever questioned the title. It was the worst journey that men have ever done, to any place anywhere and in any age. Cherry told me the jersey he was wearing had ice more than an inch thick in it when they returned and it weighed about 10 lbs. When they returned to Britain, he took the one precious egg they had been able to get to the British Museum, but none of the curators wanted it! One told him to go away!

Emperors have at least an inch of subcutaneous blubber and they mainly live on this until spring comes. Half way through the incubating period, the female hands the egg over to the male and heads off for a month of guzzling krill. Then the chicks have to be kept in the warm pouch, but come late spring when the ice breaks up, they all raft off into the Ross Sea.


What do the penguins think of it all?

Perhaps as a result, the Emperor is a serious bird; much more stately than the Adelie. A biologist once caught twenty and took them back to America for zoos. The Emperors did not like this, they stood in a ring with their beaks pointed upwards, they refused to eat or to walk or talk and ignored everyone, until they all died, just as a Kalahari Bushman will do if put in prison. I do not like some biologists much; they stick radios, meters, position-locators etc onto some inoffensive bird to track where he goes.

Nobody has ever asked a penguin what HE thinks of all this nonsense, or of not being able to hatch an egg without some ragged-looking thing with outrageously coloured feathers pushing a camera into his face, clumping through the rookery and making loud and offensive remarks like “God! What a perishing stink!” If you don’t like guano, stay away!


Half-grown Emperor chicks in down at Durmont Durville Station.
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

In 1955 we knew about the Cape Royds Adelie Rookery but I never went closer than half a mile; in fact I never really saw it until 1959 and even then never went closer than about 50 yards. As we sledged home a helicopter came over low down to get photos and panicked thousands of birds then came over us at a height of ten feet to get pix of a dog team and panicked my dogs as well as the other two teams behind.

I am quite a mild sort of chappie but if I could have got that pilot by the neck at that moment I fear he would have handled quite roughly! It turned out he was giving a new admiral a look round. The Admiral happened to visit our base that afternoon and I went over to sort of make his acquaintance as you might say and to express an opinion about certain matters, but he beat me to it.


Keeping large chicks warm must be an onerous chore!
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

“Goddam it!”, he says, “I am really sorry about the way we frightened your dogs today, I gave that pilot hell, and told him to haul-ass out of there. Join me in a drink!”
Admiral Tyree, like all good admirals is as much a good public-relations man as a seaman.

Some rookeries now get thousands of tourists rubber-necking each summer. Compared to a good blizzard I suppose a few garishly-clad tourists sticking cameras in your face is a modest cross to bear.
Incidentally, the guano up at the Cape Hallett Adelie Rookery, which is on an old flat sandspit is more than three feet deep! I wonder how many krill THAT represents?

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Landforms – continued

WEATHERING OF ROCKS

The Victoria Orogeny is still active, certain sections of the “Great Antarctic Horst” show displaced glacier flow and discordant ice-flow junctions that indicate differential vertical rock movement within the last 10,000 years more or less. However, the summits of some ranges and the interiors of the Dry Valleys have suffered neither ice-abrasion nor rain or cascading water in perhaps 2 million years, perhaps more.read more about Dry Valleys at https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/blog/dry-valleys-unlike-anywhere-else-on-earth


A dry valley ventifact

The result is a display of weathered rocks forms like none seen elsewhere on earth, indeed nothing is so remarkable about the last half century of “research” in the Antarctic as the failure of scientists to recognise the many unique features of geology and process displayed before their eyes.

Certain isotopes notably of Be are formed by exposure to cosmic bombardment but none seem to have been carried out on the higher summits. Ages of more than 1 myr have been claimed for, eg the ablation moraine on the surface of the Beacon Glacier, but such moraine is formed by rock-fall from valleys walls of highly different exposure times. However the depth of the typical cavernous weathering found in dolerites increases in proportion to the height above valley floors. Some near the floor of the Wright valleys (as may be seen in “Dry Valleys”) still shows undoubted sign of ice scour and polish. As we ascend the mountain sides, hollows and caverns in the rock become deeper until quite grotesque rock forms are seen.

This is a section we would hope to add more to as more precise dating become available.

Rock may be altered and lie in crumbling flakes, but in almost vertical sill faces, while cracked (presumably by ice formation) the dolerite stands as towers 50 – 100ft high, separated from the parental massive rocks but quite fresh, at a depth of only a few mm, no sign of chemical alteration may be seen.

Cavernous weathering in a massive granitic glacial erratic, near Bull Pass, Wright Valley. The more gneissic granite seem more disposed towards cavernous weathering than post-tectonic forms, and coarse grained more so than fine grained.
Photo: Mike Weiss
Dolerite near bull Pass about 500ft above the valley floor, showing a few minor caverns.
Photo: Mike Weiss
Ferrar Dolerite higher up, showing deep weathering. Note the flaking layers.
Photo: Mike Weiss
Dolerite from about 6000ft elevation slightly west of The Matterhorn showing extremely deep weathering.
An extreme seen on a ridge summit. The last two pix were taken by a passing electrician doing maintenance on a relay station.

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Birds of New Zealand

This was not something we thought to include, but the indigenous birdlife is vanishing so rapidly, that unless we do, some may not be well recorded at all. We see that the best Net site available, “New Zealand Birds” uses only copies of paintings!!! On average, the numbers of sea-birds found on our coasts number now about 10% of what they did 60 years ago, in some cases, eg paradise ducks, even less.

A few million years of isolation in a land of moderate climate, in the complete absence of predators, did not leave the indigenous inhabitants with much idea of defence. Shore, sea and migratory birds remained active, the insect-eating and honey sucking varieties kept their flight ability, but nested in vulnerable places while the swamp dwellers and feeders on grass seed mainly lost the ability to fly. The presence of fifty million sheep means that very little grass seed is ever to be found

Not only the giant Moas (larger than the ostrich) but several species of smaller variety, the flightless goose, flightless rails, the ground snipe could exist on the ground only. Even the bright blue long-legged Pukeko swamp rail can fly in a heavy fashion for a short distance but does not bother unless chased. The Kakapo, a ground parrot, was similarly defenceless, and of the two related parrots, the red Kaka is vanishing fast, and only the dark green mountain parrot, the Kea, nesting up in the rocks and fogs where stalking cats do not care to go survives well. Keas fly down to amuse themselves harassing tourists cars and camps. A Kea can pick a tent, or camera case or soft topped car to pieces in half an hour. There is another large flightless bird called the Takahe related to the Pukeko. But I have never seen one. The kindly and friendly grey duck has been hybridized by the imported Mallard and pure stock have ceased to exist. The Blue Mountain Duck was always rare.

On the river flats the Pied Oystercatcher and Black Oystercatcher roamed about in flocks with their “Pip-squeak” call but are now rarely seen, their place being taken by the spur-winged plover which arrived recently from Australia. Nesting sites on gravel river beds are trampled by herds of cattle and sheep. The related black and white “Stilt”, a wader with long delicate red legs that it lifts entirely out of the water as it wades the edges of swamps seems to be much reduced in numbers, the thousands of swamps which once existed now being almost all drained.

Shore-feeding Blue Herons are still seen, the larger graceful White Heron nests mainly at Okarito Lagoon on the West Coast, but the destruction of the podocarp forest behind has allowed severe flooding; as seen from the air, mud flows miles out to sea through the lagoon and the White Heron is now rarer than ever. We are reputed to also have Spoonbills, also from Australia but I have never seen one. Ground-nesting Dotterels and Skylarks had no chance at all, though not yet extinct.

The arrival of the Polynesians spelled disaster as NZ has little in the way of food resources for primitive people. There are large eels in rivers, in the 1930’s a bleeding rabbit thrown in the Clutha could attract twenty eels within minutes, but they are no longer seen nor are the small native trout, the fry of which are probably eaten by the imported Rainbow, Brown trout and Quinnat Salmon. Colonies of seals along the coast which were soon exterminated in the more accessible places but are showing signs of returning in spite of the allowable and not enforced “limit” of 80 seals killed a year as “By-Catch” by trawlers.

The varieties of Moa, swan and geese were hunted in pre-European days by setting lines of fire and driving into groups of men with club and spear. It is argued they may have existed until about the late 18th century but the Maori had forgotten they existed by the early 19th century. Neither the coconut nor the breadfruit will grow here, and the Peruvian sweet potatoes (kumara) only in the frostless north. The main diet became pounded fern root, which is hard on teeth, together with pipis, tuatuas, cockles (shell-fish) and fish caught either in primitive nets or crude wood and bone hooks. A decent meal could only be had by raiding the tribe next door or consigning a slave to the cooking pot! There is no edible fruit, the drupes of a tree called the Karaka contain prussic acid but if this is leached they can be eaten. One wonders how many died to find this out!

The flightless Kiwi (which I’ve been told tastes like “old socks”) was decimated, surviving only in zoos, but a few of its more active cousin, the flightless Weka or “Maori hen” survived.

The song birds, the Tui, the Bellbird, the Waxeye, the Fantail, the Bush Wren, the Grey Warbler, the Shining Cuckoo and Long-tailed Cuckoo largely met their end at the hands of the Europeans pet cats, and liberated stoats, weasels, polecats, liberated in the vain hope they might control the disastrous spread of the introduced rabbit, as well as ships rats who jumped ships. All found feathers easier to catch than a swift bunny.

Bellbirds look like a slim blackbird and toll a bell like note. The greenish Tui has a tuft of white feathers at the throat and was often called “The Parson Bird” or the “Mocky” due to its habit of imitating other birds, or even a shepherd whistling his dog, to perfection. It seems to have lives mainly on flax nectar but the huge flax swamps are now all gone. While not yet supposed to be extinct the tui has become “rare and endangered”

Fifty years ago when camping in the bush, as the sun rose, the forest trilled to the “dawn chorus” of thousands of birds, greeting the new day. It is no longer to be heard. Once to see the active Fantail darting about after insects, it was only necessary to go into the garden. Not any more!

Donald Hay in about 1837 reached the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the mountainsides being covered in centuries of growth of bracken fern, the flats by spiked matagouri. Accidentally (he said) a match was dropped into the fern, and the fires swept the hillsides for days. He and his companion and horses had to shelter neck deep in the lake. He speaks of thousands of “fern-birds”, feathers scorched, fluttering helplessly into the lake. The hills have been burnt every year for a century and a half to clear the fern for sheep, now we are not sure what the “fern-bird” might have been. A whole ecology has been destroyed, not an acre of fern-covered hill was preserved.

South-west of Dunedin 50 years ago the hills between Maungatua and Rock and Pillar were covered in waist-high red tussock. Now all is gone, plowed under, or sprayed and aerially resown, another whole ecology has vanished. There are no reserves except for a small area down near “The Key”, which is grazed by cattle. On the eastern side of the alps were about 64,000 sq miles of silver tussock and snow tussock, now largely gone or severely battered by a hundred and fifty years of burning, over-grazing and rabbit plagues. There are no reserves, a small area at Lindis Pass declared a “reserve” is both grazed and has briar spreading slowly into it. I do not think that anything is known as to what the ecology of the grasslands (once the moas had been exterminated) might have been, In mountain valleys the blue male paradise duck and his white-headed mistress with reddish wing tips are still occasionally seen, but not in the flocks they once were. They nested on the flats in flax clumps now destroyed by cattle as all the lower river flats are now grazed. Once, if you approached their nests or goslings they would dive threateningly, or run in front dragging a “helpless”, “broken” wing to lead you away. Now how did they learn that trick? It would be most effective against dogs, possibly some maori dogs ran wild.

The large and attractive native pigeon is a slow flier and could be caught in nooses on a long pole. We saw one in the remote Cascade Valley in South Westland only a year ago. The smaller imported pigeon has fared much better, it has the wit to nest in cliff-faces and under bridges in the middle of rivers where cats and mustellids cannot go. Similarly European birds nest in the extreme tree tops or on the ends of branches too light to support a cat.

In the north from Farewell Spit to Parengarenga the migratory Turnstones, Wrybills, Godwits, Sandpipers and Curlews gather in flocks before migrating to Siberia. They are still caught in nets between poles as “traditional food” by the natives and now are mainly to be seen only in the far northern tidal harbours.

One of the few birds that seems to be thriving is the Harrier Hawk which may have a wing span of about 3 – 4ft. It lives on carrion and the roads provide plenty of dead rabbit and possum. Its smaller and more active cousin, the sparrow hawk is a hunter and as the flocks of native birds have gone so has the sparrow hawk. The harrier nests high in the rocks and with its shrilling cry and brilliant piercing eyes it would be a brave mustellid that would attack one.

The night owls whose “whoops” used to frighten us as children with their eerie sound seem to have gone completely, even the imported German owl and the once common Morepork; at least I have not seen either for many years.

With cropping, European birds were brought to control insects, including the common blackbird, thrush, sparrow, goldfinch, greenfinch, yellowhammer, magpies, and others and were to be seen in huge flocks. Then the NZ government decided to import cheaper wheat from Argentina, and cropping largely died and so did most of the birds which lived on the grain.

Some History

On the lower Otago Harbour there has been for several hundred years, a native village or kainga, (a “Kaika” in Southern dialect), known to this day as “The Kaik”, the current occupants being called the Kai Tahu. In the early 19th Century, they came down from the Wairarapa area of the North Island and exterminated or enslaved the previous occupants of the whole South Island, who were called the Ngati Mamoe. However, they deserved little sympathy as THEY had also come down earlier and exterminated and enslaved the Waitaha people. Whether the Waitaha were in fact the “Moa Hunters” or whether they had killed off an even earlier unknown people sometimes called the Moriori who hunted moas, is not known.

In about 1827 an even bloodier minded old savage called Te Rauparaha armed his men plus some conscripted Atiawa with muskets, eliminated about 10,000 Kai Tahu at Kaikoura, and another large number at Kaiapoi near Christchurch while Te Puoho, a relative, ravaged the West coast and descended on Southland where he met his end at the hands of a local group headed by one “Bloody Jack” Tahuwaiki, who lived on Ruapuke Id, but had some associations with “The Kaik”. The crew of a whaler who landed near the Otago Harbour entrance in an earlier era were immediately attacked by the locals but the whalers defended themselves stoutly with their flensing knives and got rather the better of the encounter. For two centuries the bay was known as “Murdering Bay” but now has been given a more politically correct name, probably “Welcome Bay!”

Then came Governor Grey, who said “Tut! Tut!” and put Te Rauparaha under house arrest for many years. Trendy historians to this day refer to Grey’s “illegal detention of Te Rauparaha”.

In other words, the local history is sanguine in the extreme and food was always scarce. An omelette of shags eggs would no doubt have been highly acceptable over centuries, so how did they escape? There may well have been an old albatross colony at Taiaroa, but albatross nests are too easily raided. Did the shags just happen to nest on those so convenient cliffs where they could dry their wings, and look down into the deep kelp beds swirling back and forth, or did they awake to a new danger and say “Let us move to an inaccessable place?”

As we can, we will add some pix of what remain. When one considers that the entire South Island east of Alps has had virtually all forest, scrub, bracken fern and much of the tussock grassland destroyed and been fenced, grassed and grazed, it is positively amazing there is a single native bird left. In Otago Harbour some have found narrow strips between tide and roaring traffic.

It is rumoured that Oysterctachers now nest in cypress trees planted as shelter belts. As there are almost no reserves, it is not likely that many will survive the next half century. The horrendous losses to the long-lining industry, (300,000 albatrosses and shearwaters in the Tasman – Southern Ocean area per year) mean that more than half of all albatrosses are on the “Critically Endangered” list. It has been claimed that 13 million hooks may be set in a day to catch tuna. Hopefully, when the tuna become extinct the tuna boats will go home, but in some areas they are switching back to sword-fish. The habit the fishing industry has of “fishing to extinction” means that most albatrosses especially must inevitably disappear. What an insane world we live in!

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Sea Ice

Frazil Ice

In March, if there are clear skies and no wind with the sun low even at midday and dipping out of sight at midnight, the sea which is radiating off heat rapidly, drops to a temperature of 28.5 deg F. and begins to freeze. Small crystals of ice form and the water takes on a soupy appearance. These crystals are called “Frazil Ice”. We used to push through it rather slowly in a steel hulled landing craft called an “M Boat”, but it is not a good idea to stop as the frazil ice can become a thicker “Sludge Ice” and in a few hours, freeze solid, and there you are until next spring. Any moderately strong wind will however break it up, some years the sea may freeze many times and break up, often not until May or even June does it become solid enough to sledge on and then only in bays.

Pancake Ice

As the sea begins to freeze, unless it is VERY calm, it will form platelets growing to plates a foot or two across, with upturned edges where ripples splash and freeze. This is “pancake ice”.

New Ice

This is continuously solid and is only a few inches thick and looks green and translucent. One can sledge on it but it bends down a few inches under the weight of you and your sledge so you travel in a moving trough. Another sledge ahead or behind also forms a trough, so you advance on a moving wave. If one holds an ice chisel, which has a handle 6 ft long at knee height and drops it and it does not go through, it is safe. All the same, wear skiis and keep away from the heavy sled! Keep away from the ice edge, from polynya and places where water is showing. Drowning your dogs is a no no!

Pack Ice


Supply ship in McMurdo Sound, Jan 1956 in fairly open pack ice, but unable to move because of ice against her propeller. We (in the icebreaker Edisto), washed it away. A nearby ship was nearly sunk, but survived with a 30ft gash in her hull. See the skuas after garbage.

Eventually the whole of McMurdo Sound may freeze over into a single green sheet covered with a few inches of snow, but out beyond Beaufort Island, is the Ross Sea, the local home of storms. A gale and swell will soon break an ice sheet into separate blocks six, ten, twenty, an hundred feet across, perhaps six inches thick, perhaps a foot or two, but by the spring, perhaps five of six, even 10 feet thick.

They may pile up against each-other, or lie quite flat touching in places or separated by narrow leads of water. Heavy pack can be sledged over but your dogs must have long traces to be able to jump leads, (or even swim). If heavy pack is jammed quite tightly one can take tractors and loaded sledges across it, but the smaller floes may rock a bit and be sure that every open lead will have a killer whale or two sounding in it. If you are spotted they will follow on the off chance of a free meal. Sometimes half a dozen orcas will sound in a small triangular pool and this is where you can join the “Pat the Whale” club, by leaning out and slapping one on the ear. Do this from behind, not from the side with the teeth!

Do not try to sledge across pack in a strait subject to a strong tide flow for obvious reasons. I belong to the “Antarctic Swimming Club” myself, but the conditions of entry are not pleasant – it is like being smacked across the bare belly with the proverbial wet spade.

|__| Heavy pack
|__| Open pack

Pressure Ridges

A wind or tide will drift pack against a shore or against fast-ice, where it will pile up an a tangled line of blocks as much as fifty feet high. One may have to traverse to one side for miles to find a way through. Alternatively spend an hour or two chopping with an ice-axe. A massive pressure ridge of old pack ten feet thick will stop the biggest ice-breaker! One may be able to travel a mile on flat ice with hardly a crack, and then find a huge pressure ridge, or there may be several pressure ridges with only a hundred yards between them. On sea ice you never can tell. One could usually sledge from Scott Base over to Butter Point in two days, but if enough pressures ridges had formed it might take 3-4 days.

Bay Ice

In bays sea ice may not break up in the summer if it is sheltered from any swell and may remain for 2-3 years or more becoming a small ice shelf perhaps 10 – 20 feet thick. Good to unload cargo onto.

Rotten Ice

By early summer, the pack will be softening and becoming quite rotten losing all its strength. Rotten pack eight feet thick will not carry your weight, you sink through. Rotten ice is especially dangerous to take tractors on, keep your ice chisel handy. Hard ice 8in thick will take a heavy Weasel, rotten-ice ten feet thick will not. Several men have been drowned in McMurdo Sound when taking a vehicle or tractor onto rotten ice or ice that was too thin.

Ice Bergs


A sheltered campsite on sea ice, about 15 miles south of Mawson Glacier. A flat-topped berg, a tilted berg (aground) and an eroded remnant bergy bit. It came with snow to hold the tent down, and fresh water available from the berg opposite. (sea-ice tends to be VERY salty.) Early November, 1957.

Most of our ice bergs break off the edge of the Ross Ice shelf, but a few come from an ice-tongue, such as THE Ice Tongue, or the MacKay or Mawson where a glacier pushes out into the sea until a bit a few miles long breaks off. So there you are quietly sailing up McMurdo Sound and blocking the way is a piece of glacier 1000 ft thick and 3miles long in the way. The biggest berg I ever seen was a piece of the Ross Ice shelf round off Cape Crozier. We were steaming along in the old “Glacier” (now gone) in 1956 heading for Bay of Whales and there was a bergy bit, 400 miles long and 60 wide standing up 2-300ft out of the water (I kid you not!)

Took us a day and a half to get past the damn thing. We fired a few five inch shells at it, but they just bounced off in a spray of shattered chips – ice can take a lot of shock. A little bit only 60 miles long later broke off and drifted to Cape Bird and another bit only a few miles across moved round and blocked off most of McMurdo Sound. Watching it slowly coming closer was like being in a bottle and seeing a cork being pushed in. Four icebreakers the “Glacier”, the “Edisto”, the “Eastwind”, and the “Northwind” tried to push it away. They burned a lot of diesel oil, but I did not see the berg move much.

|__| A large flat-top berg blocking McMurdo Sound.

After a few days the current changed and it drifted off. Icebergs can be detected at night or in fog; hold your hand up and you can feel the cold; as though being radiated off, never mind what the smarties say, you can FEEL it.

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Glaciers of Antarctica

Ice Streams

The ice cap does not slowly flow radially outward in all directions. In places a deeper channel has been worn down and ice, say 10,000ft thick will flow a lot faster than ice 4,000ft thick. From the air the boundaries of the ice stream or “channel glacier” can be plainly seen. The biggest is the Lambert Glacier which flows to the sea over in the Australian sector, it is up to 80 km wide and flows near the sea at a rate of about 1 km per year into the Amery Ice shelf at Prydz Bay. In actual fact, the Lambert appears to consist of a series of ice streams which flow into a tectonic depression and become channelled into an outlet glacier which forms a large ice-shelf where it enters a widening bay. The Ross Ice shelf is largely built from several ice-streams flowing out of the West-Antarctic Ice Sheet, (WAIS) , as well as by Outlet Glaciers flowing through the mountains from the EAIS.

|__| Satellite view of the Lambert Glacier (to come later.)

<< Satellite view of the ice streams of West Antarctica. Alternating ice streams separated by ice ridges flow towards the Ross Ice Shelf on lower right.
The Bay of Whales is the inlet formed downstream of Roosevelt Island. At least five bases have been built there, on what can only be a very unstable site, but the ice edge is low enough to unload a ship. To think that the original Byrd Station was built by materials towed in by tractor train from Bay of Whales. If the drivers has seen this satellite view they might well have said “No way!” I think only one was killed. There are sharp differences in flow rate along the margins of the ice streams, which are really almost submerged Outlet Glaciers. The possibility that this lot could break up and melt suddenly would seem about as likely as NZ suddenly sinking below the sea, the central ice plateau being well confined by mountains whatever it’s base level might be!

Some pix are more art than science, though science is far from being mere boring unromantic “facts” as it so often represented. Here, with the sun low in the SW looking north over the trianglar Dominion Range, we see the Beardmore joined by the Mill Glacier on the right wending it’s timeless way. In five or six hundred years it will reach the Ross Shelf and float off. In another 2000 years it will reach the Barrier face and break away to form some huge flat-topped ice-island. In 3000 years time people in a passing ship may say, “There’s a big berg I wonder where it came from!”
If ice could not bend and flow under it’s own weight, of course, all the water of the world would be locked up at the poles. Our habitat was planned very carefully!

Outlet Glaciers

The Antarctic Ice cap has existed for at least 25 million years which is about the same age as the Victoria Mountains which form an almost impenetrable dam to ice flowing towards the Pacific. However at intervals ice has a some time risen high enough to top the mountain range and begin flowing down eastwards towards the Ross Ice shelf. As a channel was worn deeper, the ice flow increased, even so the ice is still backed up an average altitude of 9 – 10,000 feet on the west of the ranges. These massive glaciers draining enormous amounts of ice to the sea or to the Ross Ice-shelf are called “Outlet Glaciers”. read more about Outlet Glaciers at https://www.britannica.com/science/outlet-glacier

To the north of McMurdo the Drygalski, the David, Mawson and Mackay Glaciers are outlet type. To the south are the Ferrar, the Skelton, Mulock, Darwin, Barne, Shackleton, Beardmore, Liv, Axel Heiberg, Reedy and others less well known. The Shackleton and Barne (= Byrd) are up to 20 miles wide and we first saw them when on an aerial photographic mission in late 1955. Members of Scott’s Expeditions had seen the gaps in the mountains but were too far off to see the glaciers and so named the gaps “Inlets”, eg the “Barne Inlet”. I simply wrote in “Glacier” on the old 1903 maps and crossed out “Inlet”, so “Skelton Inlet” became “Skelton Glacier” and so on for the Mulock, Barne, Shackelton (= “Nimrod”), etc.

Charles Swithinbank and others have since measured their flow rates and more recently flow rates have been measured by satellite. Up to 800m a year flow is seen in the Byrd Glacier. More detail will be added later.

Darwin Glacier

The Darwin with it’s tributary, the Hatherton, occurs immediately north of the Barne (= Byrd) and south of the Mulock Glaciers and resembles greatly the FerrarTaylor. Like them, they are starved of plateaux ice by encircling dolerite sills, the ice flow is slow, (one source gives an average of 150 m/a), there are no mountains high enough to encourage local snow fall or trap drift and while there is no major dry valley there is considerable snow-free rock and some melt-water lakes.

Darwin Glacier (joins below)

Large satellite photos ~500k

<< Satellite view, unfortunately incomplete, by the USGS of broad Darwin Glacier to the north and the more deeply incised Hatherton Glacier and its tributaries to the south. Because of many doleritic screes, the Beacon does not stand out but occurs at the prominent junction of the Hatherton and McCraw Glaciers (site of the ‘Mt Derrick” meteorite find.) and while post tectonic granites are known to intrude Ross System and Byrd group metasedimentary rocks near the Ross Ice shelf, we cannot at this point identify the range. We hope to add a geological map.

Tectonically there area is quite different to the northern side of the Nimrod for example where block-faulted parallel ranges are so well displayed.

The Darwin is a well known area for collecting meteorites from the blue ice west of Meteorite Ridge seen in the upper Darwin, left. A cluster of five nickel-irons were found on the prominent point projecting from the south bank of the Hatherton on Derrick Peak.

In 1958 the two members of the TAE Darwin Party Mr Roy Carlyon and the well-known Waiho (= Franz Josef Glacier) chief guide Mr Harry Ayres with two dog teams came from Dept 400 which lies out on the ice-cap into the area. After the well-known adventure when Ayres lost his entire team and sledge down a crevass, (saving himself by throwing himself to one side) they recovered everything including the dogs which were swinging in air from their harnesses, after a days hard work and carried on.

Their first survey station was at Westhaven Nunatak which is not shown but lies immediately west of the range on the south bank of the Hatherton. At the end of the field season they were joined by pilot Wm Cranfield and Scott Base cook Selwyn Bucknell (a one time shooter and possum trapper for DOC) for the hazardous descent of the icy Darwin onto the Ross Barrier. Carlyon’s laconic field diary is a delight to read. At least two other parties have gone up the Hatherton by skidoo and been airlifted out from the plateau, another went up the Darwin and McCleary Glacier to Ayres and Carlyon’s “Festive Plateau” and the Cook Range.

Mackay Glacier

The Mackay Glacier is a large outlet glacier flowing from the polar plareau through the South Victoria Land Mountains into Grantite Harbour about a hundred miles north of McMurdo Sound. It is the first glacier occurring north of the Dry Valley area.


The MacKay Glacier

This is the only pic available taking by a person who is not identified. It is not the best so we hope someone may take a better. There are many signs of lowering of ice level, in the abraded sides of Mt Suess (middle left) and the iceworn benches on the near side of it, (Gondola Ridge). Queer Mountain and Sperm Bluff, (middle distance left) are also ice polished. Prominent dolerite sills form bars across the egress from the plateau seen in far distance, and these block the ice flow. The deeper Mawson Glacier to the north has “captured” ice that once flowed down the Mackay.

Skew Peak rises to 9000ft+ in distance above the leftmost of the twin summits on Mt Suess. Mt Gran (named for Trygve Gran, the Norwegian ski expert with Scott in 1910-13 and who was part of the Granite Harbour party with Taylor, Debenham and Forde) lies in the right distance and is capped with Beacon Sandstone and a thin sill.

The eroded dolerite sill that caps Mt Suess lies on the Kukri Peneplain cut across granite of the Granite Harbour Intrusives. Both Taylor and Co and Warren and I found Devonian fish fragments in the moraines on near side of Mt Suess.

In 1957 we came through the Miller Glacier to the left of Suess and passed up between Suess and Sperm Bluff and to the left of the doleritic Pegtop Nunatak halfway up and left again around Detour Nunatk. Near the distant bluff beyond Pegtop we crossed to the northern side and found an easy egress to the Plateau. It was the fifth crossing of the mountains.

The glacier forms an ice tongue where it flows into the sea at Granite Harbour a few miles lower down. Dome Nunatak ploughs bravely through the ice in the centre.

Nimrod Glacier

The Nimrod may be the largest of the Outlet glaciers, it is certainly wider than the Barne ( =Byrd) 150nm to the north, but there as as yet no available flow rates. It may be afloat as far west as the line of the Worsley Icefalls (named for Shackleton’s skipper, who came from Akaroa) but there is no discernable hinge line. No data as to thickness as far as we know. The next Outlet glacier is the Beardmore 180 nm SE.

The transition from Goldie Fm (Beardmore Group) pre-Cambrian greywackes (Gunn and Walcott,1962) to Shackleton and Byrd Group archaeocyathine Limestones takes place at the prominent bluff on the left and also at the dark Cambrian Bluff on the right in the Holyoak Range, (Laird, 1963). Limestones can be seen at the 15,000ft summit of Mt Clements Markham immediately south in the chapter on ‘Landforms, Big Mountains”.

More Goldie Fm and Hope Granites are found in the Nash Range, (out of sight, right foreground). The Geologists Range in the distance is of Beacon Sandstone and Ferrar Dolerite. South of it and out of sight lies the Miller Range with the high grade gneisses of the Nimrod Gp, with several formations of high-grade marble, sillimanite gneisses, garnet amphibolites, fuchsite schists etc (Grindley etal, 1963; Gunn & Walcott, 1962) which are now taken to be pre-Cambrian in age. On the right the mountains consist of four successive fault blocks and those of the west must be considerably more elevated. The Lowery Glacier enters from the Queen Elizabeth Range on left.

Photo: Beth Bartel, Jan. 2004.

Beardmore Glacier
<< Buckley “Island” is a small range surrounded by ice on the north side of the Beardmore immediately below the Ice-cap edge. Perhaps the yellowish rock below the Beacon Sandstones is the famous Cambrian (~<540myr) limestone with the coral Archaeocyathus found by Shackleton, 1909, (see David & Priestley, 1914). Note the north-easterIy dip of the Beacon. In this range also Scott in 1912 found Permo-carboniferous coal, now called the Buckley Coal Measures. Analagous Dominion Coal Measures occur to the east in the Dominion Range and the upper Shackleton Glacier. (See George Grindley, et al, Ant.Geol. SCAR Proc.1963). No geologist seems to have looked at Buckley Id. in almost a hundred years. Photo: Dr John Isbell Dec. 2003
<< The upper Beardmore, view W taken from over Plunket Pt. at the northern end of the Dominion Range. This broken surface is an unusual phenomena, it appears to be a combination of a compressive flow crevasse pattern overprinting a tensional flow crevasse pattern. Possibly the patterns are still visible because it is formed in very cold conditions. The surface of the lower Barne (=Byrd) Glacier is rather like this but more rounded being more ablated. We can see why returning support parties of Scott got into such difficulties when they strayed out of a smooth lane. While there is little drift snow, few of the breaks seem open. This photo is continuous with the one above. Photo: Dr John Isbell Dec. 2003
<< The Queen Alexander Range, view W across the upper Beardmore about 50 miles below Mt Buckley. The scarp in the foreground was called the “Marshall Mts”, and was the backdrop to the famous picture of Shackleton, Marshal and Frank Wild resting on their sledge in 1908.
“The Cloud Maker” lies further right down glacier. The peak in the distance MAY be Mt Falla,(4300m) Mt Kirkpatrick OUGHT to be somewhat to the right. See the much smoother surface on the glacier below but it is windswept blue ice. Photo Dr John Isbell, 2003.
Shackleton Glacier, about 50 miles to the east of the Beardmore. A major Outlet Glacier, the Shackleton is now used as a route to the Plateau instead of the Beardmore.
Satellite view of the Barne (= Byrd) Glacier.

Flow rates are given in m per yr, see scale lower left. The flow rates as it enters the Ross Shelf are fairly constant, it is probably afloat.
Cape Selbourne is lower middle left and Couzens Bay where Lt. Tom Couzens was killed in a sno-cat crevasse accident in 1959. The Darwin lies beyond the Britannia Range, upper left.

Mountain Glaciers

Glaciers smaller than the outlets arise within the mountains themselves from a combination of snowfall and windblown drift. They arise in a snow-collecting basin or neve, flow down a rock-walled valley and may flow into the sea, into another glacier or into the Ross Ice-shelf.


An interesting aerial image allegedly from the Beardmore area, but unidentified (USGS Image Library.)
Photo: Dr Bill Servais

<< Notice the sharp inter-cirque ridges extending down to the snow, evidently the ice level has not been higher for tens of thousands of years, nor has there been any retreat though possibly there has been a slight advance.
This has finally been identified as the Upper Lowery Glacier. Mt Clements Markham lies out of sight, top left.

Cirque or Corrie Glaciers: Inland Forts, Upper Taylor

From the lower slopes of Round Mtn, Upper Taylor Glacier. Wright Valley to North, ie, middle right.
Thin, virtually stagnant ice slabs extruding from corrie glaciers in the Inland Forts which are Beacon Sandstone and capped as usual with dolerite. A pass through to the Wright Valley lies in the right foreground, (see “Passes” in “Landforms”). November 1961.

Wall-sided Glaciers


On top of the Commonwealth Glacier. Note lack of lateral moraines, and presence of an ablation hollow.
(Jan 1956)
 


The Commonwealth wall-sided glacier.
Taylor Valley, January, 1956
 


As above but without the shear bands.

These do not really occur anywhere in the world except in the Dry Valleys and in similar valleys in Northern Ellesmere Land and Northern Greenland. Small mountain glaciers flow into dry valleys which were once occupied by an Outlet glacier but down which ice no longer flows because of “ice capture” by a bigger nearby outlet, or because of mountain uplift. The tributary reaches the floor of the dry valley, and with no walls to contain it, expands outwards in an “expanded foot”. Dirt bands near the base are formed by sub-glacial till being brought to the surface along shear surfaces, the ice being under “compressive” flow. Reflection of heat from bare rock causes accelerated melting especially near the base, so the expanded foot terminates in steep cliffs or “wall sides”. The Commonwealth Glacier in the Wright valley is a classic example. Wright & Priestley first defined them after the 1910-12 Scott Expedition. Probable annual layers can be seen in the ice face but discontinuities must occur at the shear zones.

Has any retreat taken place over the last 48 years? Locate these points and take another pic. I have asked to be set down for 3 minutes to do this on three occasions and been turned down every time. I doubt they have moved more than inches. Pics taken Jan.1956. I think the meltwater stream in the upper shot flows into Lake Fryxell, and the lower one into the sea.>

|__| Commonwealth Glacier seen from the air (to come later.)

<< Not only dying little tributary glaciers are wall sided. This is the side of the Taylor Outlet Glacier near Beacon Heights. Reflected heat from the wall rock produces marginal cliffs. Lack of marginal crevassing suggests the Taylor is almost stagnant at this point. Ice flow is actually from left to right. Wilson swore he would get up the thing! We did – but not just here!
Photo, Dec 1961.

Piedmont Glaciers


The Oats Piedmont Glacier lies in front of the Kirkwood Range between Granite Harbour and the Mawson Glacier and Nordenskiold Ice Tongue.

“Piedmont” means “Mountain-foot” or, “At the foot of the Mountains”. All the way from southern McMurdo Sound to Terra Nova Bay there is a coastal plain half a dozen miles wide, only a hundred feet or so high at the coast and sloping up gently west till it abuts onto the lower slopes of the Victoria Mountains, which shoot up to 3-6000 ft. This coastal plain is covered by a thinnish slab of ice which moves very little but is cut through at intervals by the outlet and mountain glaciers which reach the sea.

The origins of these ‘Piedmont Glaciers” is rather uncertain. Being close to the open sea all summer they get quite a heavy local snowfall which does not extend into the Dry Valleys. It may be that over the centuries the Piedmonts have worn the coastal rocks down into a low plain. On the other hand it may be structural, the Royal Society Range and the Victoria Mts in general are block-faulted parallel to the coast. Are the piedmonts a down-thrown block on which ice accumulates? Unless we can match a rock type in the piedmonts with one occurring in the coastal ranges we cannot prove either, and the rocks are a folded complex of schists and granites with no marker horizons. Another possibility is that the piedmonts are a former raised beach dating from an early inter-glacial period.

Sastrugi


large sastrugi on the Ice cap, about 100 miles SW of Upper Mawson Glacier, 1957 at about 1000ft alt.

Occasionally when out on the Barrier or up on the Ice Cap one may get a few inches of snow. If it is not blowing already it soon will, and the lighter snow lifts a few inches or feet above the ground and is whirled away. This is called “drift”. The heavier snow heaps up into crecent-shaped barchan dunes just like sand dunes with the horns pointed downwind. The wind packs them hard and they form an icy crust and your nice travelling surface has been transformed into a series of hummocks over which sno-cats etc crash and sledges bang and as there is no more fine powdery snow, there is no more drift. But the wind will pick up small ice fragments and carry them along and these begin cutting into the “barchan”-like drift accumulations. After a few days they will have cut channels through them.

Up on the ice-cap this becomes extreme and channels several feet deep are cut through the hummocks. As the “drift-chiselling” is more active low down, the hummocks become under cut, until they can look like upturned canoes on pedestals, and may stand 4-5 feet above the channels the wind and drift has cut. It is impossible to sledge or drive across “sastrugi” like these and one is forced to turn and travel along the line of the channels. Once on the ice cap we had to travel for three days to the south-west when we wanted to go south-east. Eventually we came out of them, or we may have ended up in Vostok!


The wind scupts some odd snow formations.
Sno-Cat track
Buried, hidden crevasses can be tricky and give the driver that sinking feeling. On the Staircase, Skelton Glacier, 1959 USARP Scott Base to Pole traverse, lead by Dr John Weihaupt.

Crevasses

Ice can never flow as a sheet. It seldom flows faster than a few feet per day and it can slowly bend but under tension will usually crack. These cracks are called “crevasses”. If ice flows down a rock-walled valley as a glacier it will flow faster on top than at the bottom and faster in the middle than at the sides. This develops tensions which cause a chevron pattern of crevasses to form, the most crevasse-free place being in the middle of the glacier. Along the edges near the rock, crevasses may gape 20 feet wide and occur every fifty yards or so. An almost stagnant glacier may have almost no crevasses at all. If the gradient in a glacier sharply steepens as the ice flows over a hard band of rock, there will be gaping crevasses at right angles to the path of flow, especially near the break in slope at the top. Even if buried in snow, again you know they will be there. Only a complete fool would ever drive a vehicle over a sudden drop in the surface of a glacier.

<< Above the Finger Mountain Corner in the Taylor Glacier, the edge gets rather broken. Here Wilson picks his way off the ice in 1961. Round Mountain in the distance shows a large block of Beacon afloat in dolerite. Hereabouts Ferrar found the first permo-triassic plant fossils in lateral moraine, we found more and found it in place further up, part of what is now called the “Weller Coal Measures”.


A body is hauled towards the survace after the 1959 sno-cat accident near Cape Selbourne. See the way the sagging lid has grown as the crevass slowly opened.

Wind-drifted snow may partly fill them, or form a lid which can be inches to feet thick. A sharp jab with an ice axe will often go right through. Very large crevasses may be 20 – 50 feet wide and be lidded, the lid being a sagging bridge of triangular shape, sometime so solid you can walk over and not know they are there. A tractor or vehicle may cause it to fall in. Don’t believe the clever remarks about the low ground pressure of Sno-cats. Six tons on a crevasses lid is exactly six tons extra weight!

I'm underneath!
Sno-cat 100ft down the mine near Cape Selbourne, near the Barne (Byrd) Glacier. This happened to the NZARP party the same day as the event above right.
Believe it or not 2 of 3 survived.

Few things cause shortness of breath more effectively than the feeling of a leg suddenly going through and you find one foot is resting on several hundred feet of air.

Where a glacier is forced to turn round a bend big pressure ridges form on the inside of the bend and very large crevasses on the outside of the bend. They may be buried under snow cover, but you know they are there so always walk with a rope on, they can be 2-300 feet deep. Again only a congenital idiot would select a route around the outside of a bend. This hole occurred on a flat slab of grounded ice several miles across on the edge of the Ross Shelf. It hadn’t orta a been there! It was worse than sneaky, it was plain deceitful but it got us!.


See how well even deeply buried crevasses stand out from the air!
This Herc found one running A to B
after passing over one at point C.
(See englargement)

Crevasses have a special vindictiveness all of their own. They can be there, buried under 3 feet of soft snow, on a flat area without a sign of a hump or anything to cause them. They have been sitting there for hundreds of years just waiting for some amiable idiot to come wandering past or driving over! To the experienced eye, a crack in the snow an inch wide 50 yards to one side means, “I am about to step over a buried crevasse maybe 3 feet wide.!” [Prod! Prod!] “Ah! Thought so!”

It is not only people and Sno-cats that find crevasses!

Note man inspecting damage within the crevasse!

In bad country one man leads prodding the snow. Your best man comes second, when he see the first man suddenly drop, he gives a heave on the rope. Result? The first man finds himself sitting on the lip of a crevasses with his feet dangling and no harm done. The third man is there just in case the second man is a bit slow, pulling someone up who has gone down 6 -10 feet and is swinging in the air, takes two men. I have done it only once, the lead man was a bit too cocky and was insisting there was no danger so I gave him four feet of slack and waved him on. He went through and down out of sight within a dozen yards!

Windslab snow is a crust with nothing but very soft snow beneath. If you or the dogs step on it, or the sledge goes over it, it may give a “woof” and an area a hundred yards across may settle by 6 inches or so. The dogs panic and leap to one side, they think it is a crevasse, and the driver’s heart does some odd things at times!


The Erebus ice tongue. Photo: USGS

Ice Tongues

When an outlet or mountain glacier reaches the sea, it parts from the land and floats pushing out a tongue a mile or two long, sometimes 10 or 20 miles. Eventually, tide flow, currents or storms will cause it to break off and float away as a “tongue berg”. “The Ice Tongue” on Ross Id flows down a channel into the sea and has broken off twice since 1912, as has the Mackay Tongue. The Mawson Tongue is very long but has broken off at least once.

|__| Ice tongue at Terranova Bay, (but no re-entrants?? To come.)

<< Erebus Ice Stream. An ice stream flows off the southwestern slopes of Mt Erebus almost unconfined by any visible walls and forms the Erebus Ice Tongue out in Erebus Bay. One is never afraid of crevasses like these, all wide open and very visible, (though perhaps not altogether crossable, but I have known people who would find a way).
Photo: Weddell World
<< A pic taken in May at a T of 30-40 below with little light and a frozen camera! But! In the foreground the Erebus Ice Tongue show classic re-entrant due to the different speed ice flows at on land and when afloat. Behind is the Hut Point Peninsula following the Erebus SW Rift Zone and terminating at Observation Hill Trachyte Dome. Notice how the bay ice between the glacier tongue and the peninsula is held in by Turtle Rock. The bay ice in the right foreground tends to be held in by the Dellbridge Islands. In the distance are the White Island volcanoes lying along another rift and Minna Bluff at the eastern end of the Mt Discovery Rift Zone. These days Willies Field lies this side of White Id. Taken from the Auster, May, 1957, Pilot John Claydon.

Ice Bergs

<< An iceberg is usually regarded as being about the size of a ship. Tabular bergs broken off an ice shelf can be 400 miles long but break into smaller chunks within a few months. However one even 60 miles long and 2000ft thick can be quite a lump to run into!

Tabular Bergs


Edge of a tabular berg.

The face of the B -15A mass, freshly broken from the face of the barrier.
Even though somewhat improved by editing, we could wish more could take pix like this! Height of ice face is 2-300 ft. Note very little melting at the water contact and no “ram”.
Photo: Josh Landis

Ice Shelves

The edge of the Ice shelf (actually of the tabular berg “B -16”). Some new ice forming where the immense berg has split. Imagine the fate of a vessel taken into such a “lead” if the two halves moved together again! Beaufort Id in distance.


An enormous separation.
The edge is at least 150ft high!

Ice shelves are thick floating ice masses attached to the continent and occurring in protected bays and bights in the land. In a bay pack ice may persist over several years and become bay ice and accumulate snowfall to become an ice shelf. However the larger Ice shelves have a great deal of ice contributed from outlet and mountain glacier tongues and the persistent bay ice between them plus accumulated snowfall. One wonders why the whole Weddell Sea is not one enormous ice shelf, as the southern Ross Sea is, but it is not quite enclosed enough and some pretty stiff ocean currents sweep round it in a clockwise direction, continuously breaking the ice up.
|__| The face of the Ross Ice Shelf (to come.)

"Erebus" and "Terror"
Erebus and Terror in a bad way.

By now there must be a great deal of data on the thickness of the Ross Ice shelf at the southern end against the land, compared to the northern limit between Cape Crozier and Bay of Whales. In summer, warmer water flows under it with each tide, and there must be considerable bottom melting. We hope to get the latest thickness data and melting data and add it here. As yet the front of the Ross Ice shelf, while it calves off enormous bergs periodically, has not changed much since first seen by the “Erebus” and “Terror” in 1845. The surface of the Ross Ice Shelf is not flat but has swells and rises. At one point the horizon may only be miles away and one cannot see a thing. Then imperceptibly one climbs up out of the depression, to see the tops of mountains standing up perhaps a hundred miles away.

|__| The Bay of Whales. Here the shelf is thinned because of the existence of a rock knoll upstream called Roosevelt Island which tends to part the ice to two streams which coalesce again but form a semipermanent bay in the ice (to come.)

The Melting of Ice Shelves

The popular press and other attention getters are currently prone to dropping remarks such as “Rising world temperatures may result in the melting of Ice Shelves and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet bringing catastrophic rises in sea level, which may cover the floor of you sea-side holiday home!” etc. Some refer to the complete submergence of New York and places like Holland and Pacific Islands.

Pacific Islands of course have had no trouble in keeping above sea level in spite of the rise of >100m since the last glacial period 10,000 years ago, but coral is now having a hard time due to factors like people fishing among reefs by tossing in hand-grenades or poison. This may be seen in the dead coral in islands off Lombok in Indonesia. A great deal of coral is dying in the Pacific, eg in the Tonga Group and Great Barrier Reef due to the “Crown of Thorns” starfish which is exploding in numbers because their natural enemies the Helmet Shellfish and Giant Triton is being exterminated by people selling their shells to tourists. Excessively hot summers are also blamed but corals have stood up to higher temperatures before this. However, without actively-growing coral, Pacific atolls may indeed be in trouble.

Ice shelves have a precarious existence with the inflow of glacier ice and accumulated snow having to match the loss along the frontal face by calving of icebergs. In cold winters ice may be frozen onto their lower surfaces, in a warm summer with seawater flowing in under them with the tides, there is some thinning due to melting of the lower surface. This is partly counterbalanced by the fact that water is heaviest at 4ºC so that any surface water that warms up to 4ºC promptly sinks to the bottom. I have never lowered a thermometer to the bottom of the Tongan Trench at 32,000ft depth, but I know what the temperature is, it is VERY close to 4ºC. Curiously enough, though I have fallen into it I do not know what the surface temperature in McMurdo Sound is at the height of summer, but it is for at least 2 months, high enough to melt the sea-ice. Let us qualify that, it become warm enough not to freeze, the thinning of ice pack takes place mainly from the top on sunny days.

Suppose we have a horrendous increase in summer temperatures, warm water flows under the Ross Ice Shelf and thins it from its present thickness to, say 500ft. It would then be less able to resist cracking by northerly swells and the face could retreat by say a hundred miles. What is the effect going to be on world sea-levels? Absolutely none, as a floating body displaces its own weight of water, as that Greek fellow (Archimedes) realised when he was taking a bath.

Suppose we have a population that has increased to 10 billion all panting out heat and CO2 and we burn four billion tons of coal a year and world temperatures rise by 5ºC. The Ross, the Ronne, the Filschner, the Larsen and the Amery Ice shelves all retreat until they reach a point where the ice is aground, even if below sea level.

However, being aground, the tide cannot flow under it, and melting is restricted to the ice front. It then becomes a matter of, does the rate of ice-flow seaward at 200-800m/yr match the rate of melting along the face? As we are now a long way further south it probably would in most cases. The Ross Ice shelf front is in actual fact, currently further north than it was in 1955.

With open seawater much closer, the humidity and snowfall would increase greatly and the average mean temperature would still be around -40ºF, at which not a great deal melts if you will pardon the sarcasm. So our southern Ice Cap as well as the Greenland one are comparatively stable structures with a great deal of inbuilt inertia and resistance to change. A little thinning might take place around the continental margins, but possibly more than offset by increased snowfall, possibly a few toes of rock might show. Sea-level could rise by a few inches, with which our civil engineers could no doubt deal with, but on the other hand if snowfall is increased enough, the ice-caps could thicken and sea-level fall. Our knowledge of climate control is not good enough at this point to be positive, so many people are simply guessing. Sea levels can change locally with prevailing winds but the Chief Oceanographer in Hawaii assures me no definite sea-level change has been detected in the last fifty years. Other sources claim rises of 0.9 to 3mm/yr, which given the rate at which mountain glaciers are going in temperate regions could be true. (Though Sweden show the highest rate of change with sea-level declining.)
In Antarctica raised beaches, eg at Gneiss Point, show that land is rising faster than the sea.

Other data show sea-levels to vary from 0 to 123m below present over the last 250,000 yr, none being higher. Claims of the possible melting of the Greenland Ice Cap with sea-level rises of 15 – 18m are not really believable, as stable continents such as Australia do not show terraces etc indicative of sea-level ever being above present.

The most unstable iceforms are probably not the ice-shelves, but the wall-sided glaciers that exist in the Dry Valleys which are very susceptible to average snow fall and mean annual temperature. I took a pic of one in 1955 (shown above) and have spent a fair amount of time trying to get permission to go back and take another pic from exactly the same point 48 years later which should reveal all. Permission has always been strongly denied, science is not rated very highly these days and politically correct opinion is all, and politically correct opinion says the ice-caps will all melt and we will all drown except for a handful of Tibetans so who am I to say different?

Long Term Climatic Changes

The above diagram from Petite et al, 1999 shows the results of the 2623m ice core drilled above Lake Vostok by an international consortium. While not the first it is the most convincing demonstration of climatic changes in the last half million years.
It shows four cold periods and that we are rapidly approaching the peak of a fifth interglacial. Atmospheric CO2 and CH3 closely parallel temperature but do not appear to precede it. We are approaching the peak of a global warming phase which may be expected to peak within a thousand years or so. Warming began 11,000 years ago which does not seem to altogether coincide with the northern hemisphere where the Wisconsin Ice age began at times variously given as 50,000 yrs to 125,000 yrs bp, reached a maximum at 21,000yr and began to recede rapidly at 12,000yr.

Some commentators claim that the greenhouse effect accentuates the temperature differences which are claimed to parallel the precessional orbital solar distances, others deny this. The CO2 atmospheric content has ranged from a minimum of 180 to a maximum of 290 ppm. Forest clearance and the burning of vast amounts of coal and oil, have put current CO2 levels up to 360 ppm, well above anything seen for half a million years but less that seen in the Ordovician before widespread carbonate rocks and the coal measures were laid down, when CO2 was at 4400 ppm levels and temperatures much as present day.

We are looking for the precessional variation data; please pass it on it you know of any.

Above are the results of a core taken near the Australian Mawson base, showing the detail over a single cycle from 150,000 yr to present. No less than 10 minor variations occur in between, the maximum and minimum T and CO2 support the findings of Petit et al.
Dust trapped in snow shows an inverse correlation as dust increases in cold periods due to lack of vegetation. The late Dr Harold Wellman found loess deposits between volcanic cobbles on Ross island.

A long term diagram from cores going back to 2.5 million years. Before about 800,000 years, the glacial periods were of shorter duration.

Near the centre of the West Antarctic ice has been cored ~ 10,000ft to bedrock by the EPICA at what is called Dome C, ( E. Brook et al, 2005, Science) and extends to 650,000 yrbp. Like Vostok and the 1992 Greenland Icecap cores, (Jouvel etal, Nature 429, 2004), the same 4 prominent iceages occurring at roughly 100,000 year intervals te seen but the 500, and 600,000 yr ones are less severe and have a longer interglacial. There are no sections missing, ie both Greenland and west and East Antarctica have been icecovered continuously for 650,000 years and possibly much longer and no melting has taken place. However, throughout this time the CO2 and methane levels have been lower than they are at present.

Current Polar Climatic Trends

Apparent glacial recession is most apparent in the Dr Valley Area. As we pointed out back in 1962 (Gunn & Warren, 1962 NZ.Geol.Surv.Bull.71) this is due to the failure of the main outlet glaciers of the region to wear down their thresholds which block the flow of Plateau ice. The Mawson to the north and the Mulock and the Barne (= Byrd) Glaciers to the south have much more deeply incised thresholds. Mt Feather also plays a part in deflecting wind-blown drift.

The age of the ice maximum in the Dry Valleys now may be taken as being in the range 2.5 – 3 million years bp, based on duration of exposure of rock to radiation, to weathering, and on the presence of unglaciated volcanic rock of Late Pliocene age.

Temperature variations of the last half million years have changed the extent of grounded ice, coastal ice levels, the extent of ice-shelves and has changed sea levels so that some valleys may have become fiords as the Skelton currently is.

|___| << View of south side of the Taylor Valley showing very level lines which are not moraine lines and can only be beach lines during interglacials.

In general there has been a painfully slow retreat of ice in the Dry Valleys, as plateau supply and wind-drift were cut off. Ancient ice still persists under ablation moraine so the process is not complete. There are no prominent stranded lateral moraines or sequence of terminal moraines as seen in temperate zones to indicate even minor re-advances.

The greater mass of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (the EAIS) seems to have remain substantially unchanged. No retreat is seen in much of NVL, in the Queen Maud Mts and the Horlick Mts. Plateau lowering and increase or reduction in ice capture may take place at any of the outlet Glaciers. Truncated spurs and underfit glaciers may occur but similar signs are not seen in neighbouring glaciers. High snow levels in NVL especially may mean the ice is locally thickening with climatic warming.

The ice cores show ice has persisted for 400,000 years beyond doubt, it is highly unlikley that major change has been seen in the last 30 myr. A series of disconformable tributary cirque glaciers can be seen in the Mt Clements Markham block NW of the Lowery Glacier (See ‘landforms, Big Mountains”). These give the appearance of being due to the recent uplift of the Queen Elizabeth range, already the highest standing block in the whole antarctic crust.

This section will be updated as further information become available.

Ice Axes

There is only one rule regarding an ice-axe and that is: Never go a dozen yards on ice or snow without one. Even on rock with an ice-axe to act as a third leg, one will never slip and fall and you cannot afford to fall when 400 miles from home. On snow you must prod for crevasses, you must be able to ram the shaft home in the snow and take a turn of the rope round it to belay another man who has “gone down the mine” or looks as though he might. Your ice-axe will protect you against a leopard seal, or an attacking skua. It will help anchor the tent in a blizzard, with it you chop ice to melt to drink. You can use it (and nothing else will do) to kill a seal for the dogs, or to save yourself from starvation in the event your chopper has crashed and there is not another within 500 miles to save you (as happened to us once.)

A really massive ice-axe is needed, it should reach your hip bone when the ferrule is on the ground, the right length for a walking stick. Antarctic ice is very hard, a light axe will shatter. I have seem people carry silly little things about 2 feet long as used as a pick on a steep ice climb, these are quite useless on the ice, one cannot even prod for crevasses with them. You may have to cut steps to cross a tide crack, or to get up an awkward bit on a mountain. I once had two men fall off on me when descending an icy couloir, a belay round the point of the pick in a tiny crack saved them, (and me). I have lost count of the times a good belay rammed into snow has stopped the fall of someone who has slipped, or had an ankle turn when on crampons. I have known the man in front go through a crevasse six times in an hour, the ice-axe saved the situation every time. I would rather be without my pants. If you left a clock or camera behind, too bad. No salt or sugar? Put up with it and learn a lesson. No ice axe or climbing rope? Go home!

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Bird life

Albatrosses

A number of Net sites give good coverage for the Albatrosses and petrels of the South Atlantic, Falklands, Graham Land, South Shetlands, South Georgia, Marion, Prince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen, Amsterdam, St Paul, Heard and Macquarie. See especially www.oceanwanderers.com by Angus Wilson. His page has good pix which are often lacking in other sites. The Australian Antarctic Division has a good coverage of Heard, Macquarie and the Australian Antarctic at www.antdiv.gov.au

The best discussion on Albatrosses is by Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association or SOSSA at www.sossa-international.org
There is disappointingly little the way of illustrations for the Aucklands, Campbell, Snares, Antipodes, Bounty and Chathams, and nothing at all for the Balleny group.


– click to enlarge.
A White-capped mollymauk about to board. Stewart Id, 1958.

The best list of wildlife is by one of the cruise ship companies, see birdlist on www.heritage-expeditions.com. This company seems to have affiliations with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. It includes small maps of the island groups and outlines of their history. The best pix for this region are to be found in a 1984 edition of Reader’s Digest, and in “New Zealand Seabirds” by Brian Parkinson, (2000). Some pictures of the”‘Chathams Mollymauk” were also taken by Angus Wilson. (Link to be added)

A good illustrated booklet is the recently released “Subantarctic New Zealand” by Neville Peate of the Dept. of Conservation, NZ. It illustrates most plant and wildlife species and does show maps and pix of seldom seen islands. Price $35NZD. It is apparently aimed at the tour ship trade. Much more wide ranging is Hadoram Sirihai’s “Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife”, with which we will not pretend to compete.


– click to enlarge.
A whole cod’s head vanishes. It could have been your hand.

Eco-tourism is now a $300-billion industry, a large penguin rookery at Punto Tombo is now visited by 45,000 people per year and Deception Id by 18,000 or so; it is reported. The promotors of these tours and the many “birdwatchers” sites are customer oriented and only show tantalising 2 x 3 in or occasionally 3 x 4in pix in order to promotes the sale of larger one at prices of up to $245 each. However, www.Worldbirder.com does show some at 5 x 6in. One site wanted $850 US for a single pic of a sooty albatross. The NZ Department of Conservation wants $75 NZ for awful little pix the size of a small postcard.

At this point, (Jan.2004) we seem to be the only purely educational site on this topic in existence, though it is to be hoped we are wrong in saying this. We have asked about 50 organisations, groups and individuals for contributions but without success, there seems to be a widespread belief that knowledge must be bought!

The Mollymauk


Bullers Mollymauk, Snares Is.
“NZ Seabirds” by Parkinson.
18,000 pairs nest on the
Chathams, 8,900 on the Snares and
2,600 pairs on Solander Id, NW of Stewart Id.
They range between Stewart Id and Tasmania
mainly, a few up the East coast of NZ

The Mollies get called “Mollyhawks”, “Mollymawks” and various other names. They include all the smallish varieties with a wingspan of perhaps six to eight feet. Albatrosses in general are rather variable in colour, sometime with greyish necks, or black backs on their wings and rather variable in size. Many species are claimed but if a Buller’s Mollie cannot crossbreed with a White Capped I would be surprised. If we called people with red hair a different species to those with brown, black and yellow hair, and people five feet high a different species to those six foot high we would have more species of people than we have albatrosses. However, genuine ornithologists might not agree. All seabirds seem to return to the site of their birth for nesting so inbreeding must be the rule and soon a specific colour-type will come to dominate.


White-capped Mollymawk.
Same as the “Shy Albatross”?
Photo: Parkinson, NZ Seabirds

As albatrosses get older they change in coloration. A Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head named “Grandma” was 62 when last seen and had a chick called “Button” while another there at present is over 50 so they have time to change quite a bit. Black backs to wings and white underneath is the rule, but older birds become whiter on the upper wing as well, Some have only a white stripe along the centre underneath, with black leading and trailing edges, some have a thin black leading edge and some are all white. Some have white heads and necks, some are pearl grey and some black, there are reportedly listed 24 names for these different variants but some appear awfully similar.


Three ‘Alberts’ wait in hope of a free meal of blue cod guts, fishing off the Muttonbird Is, near Oban,
Stewart Id, NZ, 1958.

Now here is one for the experts, are they “Shy” or “White-capped”?

To us and the fishermen in those days, they were just “Mollies”. Certainly not shy in behaviour, as we steamed homeward with the offal of 200 cod being hove overboard we were practically boarded. A fisherman would take hold of a wing tip of one planing alongside and pull it aboard where it scoffed all in sight and was not a bit alarmed. The fisherman knew many by name, talked to them, swore at them and were particularly careful that they did not get tangled in lines or hooks. Not any more.

“Garn” they would say, “You’ve ad yer tucker for the day and a bit ‘o cod liver! Oppit! Off me boat! Away wid yez or I’ll kick yer bum!” And the immaculate albatross would look the fisherman with his ill-kempt beard, worn seaboots and gurry-stained clothes up and down, sneer as only an albatross can, spread his flawless wings and float off!


The Black-browed Molymauk at sea.
Notice the very different under-wing
colouring. Photo: Angus Wilson.

Mollies are plentiful around Stewart Island and subantarctic islands such as the Campbells. A stack lying west of the Aucklands called “Disappointment Id” was made famous by a full-rigged ship, the “Dundonald” piling up on it in 1907. The crew survived for months by building sod huts thatched with tussock grass, and living on the mollymauks which were nesting. If I recall correctly they had four matches and with the last of them, got a fire going. They built a coracle from driftwood and got over to the main Island where there was a depot with food and a boat for shipwrecked sailors. The coracle used to be on display in Canterbury Museum.


Black-browed Molymauk,
nesting Campbell Id.

The Mollie is seen at least as far south as the Convergence, but mainly cruise the Tasman and home waters. If you are fishing in a dory off Stewart Id, you may look round to see this monstrous thing sitting on the water two feet away and peering over your shoulder waiting for a bit of fish. All albatrosses have very bright penetrating eyes and from a range of a foot or two they give you the creeps. When you see two of them tearing a cod-head apart one is thankful they show no animosity towards people.


Salvin’s Mollymauk, here with
very neatly made nest. Notice the
well-drained site. 1984 Reader’s Digest.

Some ornithologists claim Mollies nest only on the Falklands and South Georgia, those from Australia say Macquarie, Heard and the Antipodes. The “Dundonald” crew got eggs from their nests on Disappointment Id. and 250 nesting pairs of Gibson’s Albatross have been reported from there recently, but also 10,000 pairs of the Shy Albatross which is counted as being a Mollymauk. There is a recent suggestion that these smaller albatrosses should be in a different genus to the Diomedia, and called the Thalassarche. The Salvin’s Mollymauk is found in large numbers in the Chatham Islands where some 40,000 are found on Pyramid Rock.

The Royal Albatross


Southern Royal Albatross, nesting.
Campbell Is. Photo from Brian Parkinson.

The Royal is really huge. Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s Captain, (who was known to his friends as “Wuzzles”) says he has measured one with a wingspan of 14ft. In the perhaps better known Wanderer, the females has brownish plumage and the older adult male has upper wings flecked with white.

Royals are on TV a lot as a few nest down on Taiaroa Head at the end of the Otago Peninsula, (near Dunedin, NZ). It seems they spend the best part of a year bringing up a chick and then off to sea for a year. Over the sea they float on the updraft from a moving wave front. Wings stretched out they drift back and forth along a few feet above and in front of a wave crest, never so much as fluttering a quill. Apart from an occasional dive to pick up a squid, they do this for hours on end. I do not think the best sailplanes could compete for speed or endurance, maybe for altitude, I have yet to see even a Royal 20,000ft. above the top of Mt Cook.

A study by the well-known NZ wildlife photographer, George Chance of juvenile Royal albatrosses at Taiaroa.Don’t they look like typical bragging teenagers? “I saw a fish and it was THIS big!”

Albatrosses do not often go down to the edge of the ice-pack, they need a continuous wind to soar on, and the westerlies do not extend as far south as the ice-edge and there must be an abrupt change in food supply at the Antarctic convergence where the cold polar water goes under the warmer sea of the south temperate zone.

If an albatross were to land on an icefloe in a calm he could not get airborne again. At Taiaroa they run into a wind sweeping up the cliffs. Icefloes do not have cliffs or updrafts and calms may last for days. We especially picked the Royal because it would be so easy to get pix. So we proceed to Taiaroa Head at the harbour entrance near Dunedin and talk to the caretakers. No, we cannot see albatrosses it is still their breeding season, no we cannot copy photographs they have, they are copyright. I hold up a book of Albatross pix, can we contact this guy. They smile complacently, “No, he died!” Out in the car park a pair of royals float over but too high.


Southern Royal Albatross
Photo: Angus Wilson

Well, we can but try again! There are now about 50 Royals at Taiaroa Head and about 200 on the Chathams. The majority nest on Adams Island, the southern-most island of the Auckland group and on Campbell where one tourist brochure claims 15,000 Southern Royals nest.

An albatross has several flight modes. When several hundred miles out at sea and planing back and forth along waves, his wings are stiffly straight for maximum lift, but when coming into land in a half gale at Taiaroa Head, the wings are pulled down in a marked curve with the tips much lower than the body as we show at the top. A few feet off the ground, the wings are pulled into a strong “W” shape and the tips dropped at an angle of 45 degrees and the feet come down.

On landing they go through a procedure like a carrier plane, the wings are held up, the outer panel is folded inwards and forward, under the centre panel, the inboard end from the shoulder is inclined forward and down. A bit of a wiggle and a 6ft wing is folded away into not much more than 2 feet. I don’t think any other bird does this. The tube-like nostrils show plainly. Albatrosses have only access to saltwater and behind the nose is a desalination plant. Highly saline concentrate drips out their noses!

At sea he may rise into fast moving air to pick up speed to 40 knots or so, then drop into a trough with slow-moving air and glide low down looking for squid for maybe a quarter mile, then swing up into the faster moving wind higher up and shoot skyward. They have many tricks like this.

Wandering Albatross

At this point, classification becomes even more difficult, as the many “species” of Wandering Albatross differ in mainly minor colouration differences and the number of species has recently been increased from 12 to 16 based on DNA differences. Wanderers drift round on the updrafts of wave fronts and like the Royals, can circumnavigate the whole of Antarctica in a few months. One banded Wanderer covered 6000km in 12 days. They can land on the sea and get airborne again by launching themselves off the top of a wave. Wanderers do not seem to nest on the mainland though they frequently visit locations such as Kaikoura north of Christchurch. However 10 of the supposed 24 breeds of Albatross nest on the Aucklands. We do not as yet have a really good pic of Wanderer and DOC refuses to supply pix of good resolution.

Albatrosses, the most spectacular breed of bird known, are fast dying out, it has been reported within the last few years that up to 1,000,000 albatrosses are killed per year mainly by being caught on fishermen’s long lines, though some countries, eg South Africa, are trying to prevent this. The worst sufferer is the black-browed albatross from the Falkland Islands whose feeding grounds coincide with long-line fishing grounds where a thousand albatrosses a day have been reported killed. Large numbers are killed by New Zealand Tuna-fishing boats as well as long liners. Japanese tuna longliners fishing under licence in New Zealand waters were counted as killing an average of 904 per year between 1988-89 (Journal of Applied Ecology, 40:4,678).

Birdlife International reports 2 species as being critically endangered, 3 endangered and 12 species as vulnerable. We can expect that as usual really stringent protection will be brought in when they are extinct. We seem hell bent on creating a pretty dull world for ourselves!

A recent study showed that 96% of gut content of some albatrosses was the “by catch” of the trawler fleets. Trawlers want only the high priced fish, eg the “Orange Roughy” which has been fished to extinction, and now the “Toothfish”. Other lower priced fish, dog-fish, ling etc are thrown over the side by the thousands of tons. Other trawlers concentrate on the albatross main diet, the squid. This total disruption of the food chain means that the survival of the albatross in any more than token numbers is in considerable doubt.

OSSA which is based in Sydney reports a kill of 144,000 albatrosses and 400,000 petrels by long-liners in Australian waters since 1996.


The Black-footed Albatross
(North Pacific only)

Albatrosses do not cross the calms of the tropics. In the north Pacific the main albatrosses are the Wanderer-like Laysan’s Albatross of which 400,000 used to occur on Midway Id and smaller numbers of Laysan Id, Tern Id and the small islands of the northern Hawaiian group. These range very widely as for north as the Aleutians and east to Sanfrancisco. Smaller numbers of the Black-footed Albatross (which seem black or dark brown all over) occur in the same locations. Like all sailors when come shore, the albatross likes a bit of smooch with something female.
In the polluted northern Pacific, ingestion of floating plastic is killing many especially when fed to chicks. We show this pic because of the marked difference compared to Southern Albatrosses.

The Laysan Albatross

Gulls and Shags

The Red Billed Herring Gull. This is common on all waterfronts throughout New Zealand and found as far south as Auckland and Campbell Ids, where it joins the ranks of the krill eaters. (Photo by C.B.Gunn, Camera was a 6 MegaPixel Fuji Finepix.)

The Black Billed Gull is more often seen inland near lakes and following the plough. It does occur as far south as the Snares Islands however. Jonathan Livingstone is shown here on a piling at Lake Wanaka. A perky little guy.
(Camera, 3MP, Fuji Finepix 3000.)

Petrels


Antarctic Petrel
Often seen over
ice-pack & continental
coast.
photo: Angus Wilson

Some species of the Petrels nest in cliffs and offshore islands around Antarctica but move well north in winter. Again the main diet is krill. The occasional Snow Petrel is always seen drifting about the pack-ice but sometimes quite a ways inland.


The snow petrel, commonly
seen over the pack-ice.
photo: Angus Wilson

A “Snow Petrel” is white all over, a “Wilsons Petrel” is dark except for a white band round the body just aft the wings. The “Antarctic Petrel” is bigger and is dark, but the trailing edge of the wing is white. They seem to be confused with “Cape Pigeons” which have four white patches on the tops of the wings which from a distance can look like four white stars. While they usually nest in rocky coastal cliffs as far north as possible, some Antarctic petrels are reported nesting more than a hundred miles from the sea in Queen Maud Land. We will consult those who know more and update.


Snow Petrel nesting in the rocks of Adelie Land.
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

There a great many species of petrels. Ponting tells a story of asking an old salt on the Terra Nova what a flock of passing prions were called, and after a long critical stare, the seaman replied: “Oh, yess, them’s what we calls seaburrds, Zur!”

In stormy weather off New Zealand there appears a small fluttering petrel that hovers with feet outstretched on the surface of the water. Sailors and fishermen call them “Jesus Petrels” (because they walk on water) or else “Dabchicks” (though strictly speaking, a “dabchick” is a species of grebe and found in swamps.) A gust blows them clear away, they always seem so fragile.


Grey-Backed Storm petrel
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

Then there are “Mother Careys chickens” which I have just learnt is supposed to be a corruption of “Mata Cara” which is Portugoose for Christ’s mother. Different breeds of sailors, Squareheads, Limeys, Scousers, Dagoes, Yankees, all had their own names for the birds seen at sea, and the were much more colourful that the dull scientific ones.

<< The Snow Petrel’s chick also has the similar grey fluffy down as seen in the Adelie penguin.

Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

<< Storm Petrel or Wilson’s Petrel. It has one of the longest migration paths, about 40,000km spending a summer in the south, then migrating to the Arctic for July-August. It LOOKS very like what we used to call a Jesus Petrel.
Cape PigeonThe Cape Pigeon (also called the Pintado and Cape Petrel or Cape Fulmar) could once be seen in thousand on remote islands such as McCauley in the Kermadec Group, and were fairly common on the New Zealand Coastline, but are now quite rare.

The Cape Pidgeon also nests in the rocks of Adelie Land and other more northern coast as well as subantarctic islands.

It has very distinctive star-like patches on its upper wing surfaces.

Photo: Brent Stephenson

Giant Southern Petrel Chick<< Giant Southern Petrel JuvenileThe Giant Southern Petrel.
These also nest in rocks along the more northern coast. They are a large but not handsome bird, almost as big as a smaller albatross. A confirmed scavenger, the Nellie or “stinkbird” is not well liked by seamen (and apparently not by Emperor penguins either! >>)
Like the penguins, the chicks have a juvenile coat of fluffy down.

<< Sooty Shearwater. These used to be the most common of all seabirds and were seen in fluttering thousands over any school of herring. Now they are almost rare. DOC confirmes that numbers even in Snares have declined by a million pairs over the last 30 years. They are still killed for sale as “muttonbirds” in the Stewart Island area under the excuse of “Traditional Rights”. American sources claim a 90% decline in the numbers flying south on their migration path. They were exterminated on Raoul Id in the Kermadecs but were still present in thousands on Curtis Island ten years ago. They nest in shallow burrows. There are still 120 of the Chatham’s Petrel surviving.

With the destruction of the snapper and cod fisheries in NZ, the numbers of gannets seen in a days sail has decreased from hundreds, to few or none.

The Sooty Shearwater was a very common bird round the southern New Zealand Coast, circling in flocks of hundreds of birds about any school of herring. It has declined by 2004 to numbers of less than 5% compared to 1980. They nest in shallow burrows in the ground and about half a million per annum were slaughtered for food by juveniles being torn from the burrows. Customary practice was to break their wings and stuff their feet though a slash in the wing so they would stay alive for some time and not deteriorate. They were then packed into carry bags made from the giant kelp. They have been exterminated on the mainland but some survive on outlying southern islands where they are relentlessly pursued. They migrate to the North Pacific in winter and return in September.


– click to enlarge
Photo: Angus Wilson

Subantarctic Snipe

Due to predation by cats and rats on the Campbell Islands, as few as four dozen survive on an offshore island.

Skuas

Skua Gulls
Skua Gulls
Photo: Readers’ Digest

Skuas are unlovely creatures, one hopes God feels affection for them because few people do. They are ruthless scavengers, nest close to penguin rookeries so they can steal eggs or young chicks, hover round seals with pups and may pick their eyes out. I never even shot one which shows either remarkable forbearance or dereliction of duty on my part. I cannot in my most generous moments believe that a world free of skuas would be all that worse off. My conscience is salved by the number of times I have biffed an ice-axe at one, not I regret, with much effect as several centuries of explorers biffing ice-axes at them has taught them to duck.

They have brownish feathers and lay a couple of eggs in a hollow among rocks. The eggs are brownish with a few dark spots, all very good camouflage. Unfortunately Adelies do not steal or damage THEIR eggs. They are a tough bird. In the winter they fly far north towards Japan, then east across the Pacific, returning south along the coasts of the Americas. They have been known to return to the same miserable hollow between rocks to nest again. I call myself a navigator, but such a feat impresses me. They are still outdone by albatrosses. A pair of tagged albatrosses arrived back at Taiaroa Head within an hour of each other, having flown right round the world.
Expound that to me, Wamba!

If you get close to a skua nest they will dive straight at you and it is you who have to duck, they also crap on you from a low height. Not listed among my most favoured wildlife friends in spite of their many abilities.


Screaming Skua – note two chicks.

<< A skua defending it’s chick at Hut Point in 1955. There must have once been a considerable skuary here as in 1903 Scott and party, being alarmed to prevent the recurrence of scurvy, not only laid in 110 seals for the winter but also 105 skuas. There were quite a number in 1955 but have now of course vanished. However, Hanson who was the biologist with Borchgrevinck at Cape Adare in 1899 is reported as shooting more than 100 in one day. Biologists are too seldom conservation-minded.

Terns

the Arctic tern actually nest in the arctic but migrates down to the Antarctic for the southern summer and circumnavigates. It may follow the pack ice but does not venture inland. It’s quick-beating wings and forked tail are very distinctive.

Penguins of NZ Subantarctic Islands

These seem to be mainly varieties of the Crested penguins which have bright yellow and orange feathers sweeping back over their head. However the species in which this is best developed, the Macaroni, is seldom seen in NZ waters.

The Fiordland Penguin

About 3000 pairs exist along the rocky shores of fiordland and Stewart Island. Except on some of the islands they are subject to a range of imported predators. The Dept. of Conservation refuse to give us an illustration except at a quite outrageous price.


The Yellow-Eyed Penguin
Otago Peninsula.
Photo: Katya Gunn

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin

While not crested, the Yellow-Eyes have yellow streaks over their heads. They are rarely seen around the lower South Island (where there are specially-protected areas), Stewart Island and Enderby Island in the Aucklands. On the mainland due to the destruction of all coastal habitat and predation by dogs, cats, weasels, stoats ferrets, polecats etc etc, this penguin is on the verge of extinction.

The Macaroni Penguin


The Macaroni Penguin

These are distinguished from Royal penguins by being black under the chin. They form large rookeries in S.Am., S. Georgia, S. Sandwich Is, S. Shetlands, Price Edward, Kerguelen, Heard, McDonald with a total variously estimated at 9 -12 million pairs. Their eggs take 33-37 days to hatch. See www.penguins.cl/macaroni-penguins.htm

The Royal Penguin

These are white under the chin and are found on Macquarie Id. only where there are an estimated 850,000 pairs. A second rookery was exterminated in the last century, the Royals being boiled for oil. They are occasionally seen in Tasmania.

The Rock-hopper Penguin

Rock-hoppers have distinctive red eyes and black chin and are the smallest of the Crested penguins. There were a total of about 1,882,000 pairs on Campbell which is more than 90% of the total, but they are also found on the Aucklands, Antipodes and Macquarie, where the Austr.Ant.Divn. say there may be 1-500,000. The A.A.D also report a large decline in numbers seen in Campbell Id. and DOC quantify this as a decline from 1.6 million pairs in 1942 to only 103,000 in 1985 and less today. A similar decline has taken place in the Antipodes. Disruption of the food supply is a probable cause.

The Erect-crested Penguin (or Sclater’s penguin)

About 170,000 pairs are found mainly on Antipodes and Bounty Is, with a few seen on Campbell and Auckland. Distinguished by a stiff, erect crest.

The Snares Crested Penguin

Differing only slightly from the Fiordland Penguin, the Snares variety exist as about 30,000 pairs on the cluster of small islands only 200km south of Stewart Island. They shelter under dense windshorn pohutukawa and shrubs and often perch in trees. Again DOC declines to give us an illustration and private people are not allowed to land.

The King Penguin

Rather like a smaller version of the Emperor Penguin but more brightly coloured. They breed on Macquarie, Heard, Crozet, Kerguelen, P.Edward, Marion, South Geogia, South Sandwich, Falklands and Staten Island. Occasionally strays into New Zealand waters.
One of the two rookeries on Macquarie was exterminated last century the penguins being boiled down for oil.

The Chinstrap Penguin


Chinstrap Penguins

The Chinstrap is seen in Deception Id, South Georgia etc and is similar in mode of existence to the Adlie but no seen so far south, However they are only rarely seen in NZ waters and not in the Ross Sea, but do nest in the Balleny Islands.

Antarctic Penguins

The Adelie


Adelie with 2 chicks at Cape Royds. Notice how the “nest” built of pebbles. Though not exactly comfortable, it keeps the egg and chicks high and dry above freezing water; a wet chick would soon be a dead chick. The Adelie is a cunning little blighter!

<<The Adelie Penguin is the most common and most likeable of all the wildlife seen in the South. Unlike Over the Other Side, ie Grahamland, South Georgia, and the Weddell Sea, where they have many penguins, the Gentoo, the Chinstrap, the King Penguin, the Royal, the Rockhopper, the Macaroni etc as well as quite few Adelies, we have only two kinds, the Emperor (above right) and the Adelie nesting at or near the extreme southern ice-edge. Adelie rookeries are on solid land, usually on a point facing the sun with good access to the sea without too much scrambling and of gentle slope. So there are rookeries on the northern side of Cape Royds, over on the eastern side of Ross Island north of Cape Crozier, and near Cape Bird. Further north there is one reported on Beaufort Island, on Inexpressible Island, one at Cape Hallett, and at Cape Adare and I have heard rumours of one on Coulman Island. There are not many on the mainland except at Cape Hallett and Cape Adare, probably because the ice packs in and open water is found close only rarely.

At Adare however, the tides are fierce and the pack gets broken up frequently. The number of birds has been counted every year for decades so we hope to prise these numbers out of someone. One of the ships tour companies reports 17 Adelie rookeries in the Ross Dependency with 55,000 pairs at each of Franklin Islands and Cape Hallet with 160,000 pairs at Cape Adare, but we have no way of knowing at this point how accurate these guestimates are.

Adelies are quite capable of walking twenty miles just to have a look at your camp, but they seem to prefer open water or least a good open lead to dive into, not some pokey little seal hole. Through the winter the Adelie drifts north with the pack and stays near the edge of open water, in the spring he works his way south and by November is seen pottering about the ice-edges at the northern limit of McMurdo Sound and not far from the Rookeries.

If the snow on top of the ice is a little deep for walking in, the Adelie falls forward on his tum and pushes with his feet and progresses as a kind of motor toboggan, faster than he can walk. I think they begin nesting in early December, piling up a little ring of small stones, carrying them long distances, or stealing them off a neighbour who does not happen to be looking. They take turns in sitting on one or two eggs, the other going off to sea to stoke up in krill. How an Adelie on returning, recognises his girlfriend among a hundred thousand that you or I would swear were identical I do not know, but they can!


A single Adelie come over to say “hello!” McMurdo Sound, opposite Cape Evans, Dec. 1955. Notice he has just stood up having been sledging on his tum. Luckily the dogs were all tied up.

A snowfall in midsummer can be a disaster, sometimes the eggs become chilled and will not hatch, the Adelies sit on their nests, a head poking through the snow, waiting for it to melt. The chicks hatch about January and have a thick coat of grey down to begin with. Parents come back to the nest to regurgitate krill. Skua gulls hover about attempting to snatch a chick and get beaten off, an intruding human being is likely to get a slap across the ankles from a leathery flipper. By the time the new ice is forming the chicks are almost full-grown and have changed their grey fur for feathers and begin working their way north towards the open water.

|__| Adelies about to dive

Any open lead is likely to have a gaggle of Adelies standing on the edge of the ice, peering down to see if there is one of their ancient enemies, the Sea Leopards, lurking below. They swim by swinging their wing flippers in an oval motion, remarkably fast. Coming out of the water they can flash up at such a speed they can land standing on their feet on the top of an ice edge 3-4 feet above water level. A pursuing leopard merely gets his nose bumped.

They suffer heavily from the depredations of the Leopard Seals in the water and their eggs and chicks from the infernal skuas, but otherwise their life is tolerably carefree. Adelies are one of hardiest breeds of animal I have ever seen.

Rookeries

The Cape Royds Adelie Rookery Jan, 2003. Notice the well-worn trails, the subgroups of penguins and how few there are, not more than 400-500 pairs. This rookery has been in use since about 700AD. Notice also people wandering about, inevitably introducing foreign bacteria and virii.

Aerial view of Royds Rookery taken Jan. 2004. Note that of fifty nestingsites, only a dozen are occupied. Notice also the open water, so the excuse that the large


Cape Adare, also showing
Borchgrevincks and Priestley’s Huts.
Note the dead penguins lying about,
As most of the cruise ships call here
one would like some recent counts.
The Finns with Borchgrevinck collected
2000 penguin eggs for omelettes.

tabular berg G16 has prevented the ice going out in McMurdo Sound leaving Adelies no where to feed does not hold. This rookery could be on it’s way to extinction, but as we said before, the Adelie is a tough little tyke though the constant hounding by hundreds of people must impart considerable stress. Panicing of the entire rookery by low-flying helicopters results in hundreds of smashed eggs and in nest desertions. A summer 2004 account says “Our helicopter flew low enough for us to plainly see the yellow patches on the Emperors necks.” Someone else who wants to be grounded!

|__| Graph of Adelie numbers counted at Rookeries

Durmont D'Urville RookeryDurmont D’Urville Rookery
Urbanisation crowds out the original inhabitants. Adelies at the Durmont D’Urville Rookery in Adelie Land now have to fit in what corners are left. In spite of an airstrip and a rocket launching pad, a few are still raising chicks, but for how long?

Cape Hallett Rookery

When the Hallett Base was built in 1956 there were 64,000 pairs of birds. Four years later there were 26,000. The base is now abandoned but no counts are available of any recovery. No pix available. A tour company claims 50,000 birds so there may be some recovery, but oil leakage from rusting tanks has claimed some. Russian ice-breaker tour ships are shown breaking their way right in Hallett Fiord to give tourists a close look at the country. It seems a Rookery Warden will not only need a six gun and a shot gun, but a 2cm Oerlikon as well!

We would welcome pix of some of the other 40 “research” stations that crowd every bit of bare rock round the coast.


All Antarctic anmals and birds seem to be the most devoted parents, spending at least half the year bringing up one chick. Arguably, in such an environment, only the most devoted care can result in an offspring surviving, but it is impressive all the same.

The Emperor Penguin


A single Emperor
penguin at the ice
edge McMurdo Sound
January 1957.

Edward Wilson believed for some reason that the Emperor was a very primitive animal. It is fact very highly specialised with the most curious breeding habits that could be devised.

They are quite massive, standing about four feet high or more and must weigh more than a dozen Adelies. Not always being scientifically-minded I have never weighed one, but they are quite hefty, maybe 80lbs. They are also very strong, in a hand to hand battle, rolling over in the snow and trying to pin one down, it is a good idea to wrap arms round his flippers as a clout across the ear will make a large man dizzy and persuade the most aggressive husky that he ought to go back to the doglines. Unless you have some standing at sumo wrestling or tae kwon do, you would be probably wiser to avoid unarmed combat. Emperors are bad losers, they fight fair (don’t go for your eyes) but get in some pretty telling body blows, they simply work in close and pound you!.

Cape Crozier Rookery.

This is home usually to about 2400 adult Emperors.
Scott in 1902 found the first Emperor Rookery on fast-ice where the Ross Ice Shelf abuts against Cape Crozier.


Adult Emperor Penguins at the Cape Crozier rookery on a patch of bay ice under the Ross Ice Shelf cliffs. This is taken in about September and the chicks, while still in down are growing fast. Author unidentified, taken 1961.

The overhanging Ice Shelf towering 2-300 feet above protects them from the blizzard and the water out half a mile is almost always clear, a medium breeze at Cape Crozier being forty knots. They lay eggs of all appalling times in the middle of WINTER, and have a special pouch between their feet to keep the egg warm and away from the ice underfoot, which in July in middle of a Cape Crozier winter, would freeze the fires of hades. Edward Wilson, Apsley Cherry Garard and Birdie Bowers spent a month in 1911 journeying to this spot in the middle of winter to obtain an egg.

Cherry wrote a book about it entitled “The Worst Journey in the World” and no one has ever questioned the title. It was the worst journey that men have ever done, to any place anywhere and in any age. Cherry told me the jersey he was wearing had ice more than an inch thick in it when they returned and it weighed about 10 lbs. When they returned to Britain, he took the one precious egg they had been able to get to the British Museum, but none of the curators wanted it! One told him to go away!

Emperors have at least an inch of subcutaneous blubber and they mainly live on this until spring comes. Half way through the incubating period the female hands the egg over to the male and heads off for a month of guzzling krill. Then the chicks have to be kept in the warm pouch, but come late spring when the ice breaks up they all raft off into the Ross Sea.


What do the penguins think of it all?

Perhaps as a result, the Emperor is a serious bird, much more stately than the Adelie. A biologist once caught twenty to take them back to America for zoos. The Emperors did not like this, they stood in a ring with their beaks pointed upwards, they refused to eat or to walk or talk and ignored everyone, until they all died, just as a Kalahari Bushman will do if put in prison. I do not like some biologists much; they stick radios, meters, position locators etc onto some inoffensive bird to track where he goes.

Nobody has ever asked a penguin what HE thinks of all this nonsense or of not being able to hatch an egg without some ragged looking thing with outrageously coloured feathers pushing a camera into his face, clumping through the rookery and making loud and offensive remarks like “God! What a perishing stink!”
If you don’t like guano, stay away!

|__| Emperors at a rookery at Cape Washington, about 300 miles up the coast.


Half-grown Emperor chicks in down at Durmont Durville Station.
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

|__| Emperor Penguin Rookery at Coulman Id, (Harrington, 1957)

|__| Emperor Penguin Rookery at Cape Roget.

In 1955 we knew about the Cape Royds Adelie Rookery but I never went closer than half a mile; in fact I never really saw it until 1959 and even then never went closer than about 50 yards. As we sledged home a helicopter came over low down to get photos and panicked thousands of birds then came over us at a height of ten feet to get pix of a dog team and panicked my dogs as well as the other two teams behind. I am quite a mild sort of chappie but if I could have got that pilot by the neck at that moment I fear he would have handled quite roughly! It turned out he was giving a new admiral a look round. The Admiral happened to visit our base that afternoon and I went over to sort of make his acquaintance as you might say and to express an opinion about certain matters, but he beat me to it.


Keeping large chicks warm must be an onerous chore!
Photo: Guillaume Dargaud

“Goddam it”, he says, “I am really sorry about the way we frightened your dogs today, I gave that pilot hell and told him to haul ass out of there; join me in a drink!” Admiral Tyree, like all good admirals is as much a good public relations man as a seaman.

Some rookeries now get thousands of tourists rubber-necking each summer. Compared to a good blizzard I suppose a few garishly-clad tourists sticking cameras in your face is a modest cross to bear.
Incidentally the guano up at the Cape Hallett Adelie Rookery, which is on an old flat sandspit is more than three feet deep! I wonder how many krill THAT represents?

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Antarctic Meteorites

Antarctica, it has been discovered, is the best meteorite trap on Earth.  Firstly meteorites fall onto ice rather than hard rock and so are damaged less. Then, being rock, they stand out from their background unlike those falling in the temperate zones which will mainly be not distinguished from the local rock.  Then there is a curious concentration process by which ice flowing outwards and meeting a rock or mountain obstruction, shears upwards bringing the enclosed meteorites to the surface. In many regions where ice is trapped against a mountainside and with no easy path to flow away, the ice is slowly reduced in thickness by solar ablation and ablation by katabatic winds, eventually after hundreds of thousands of years leaving a surface littered with extra-terrestrial objects.


A polished surface of a fragment of the Dar Al Gani carbonaceous chondrite, the third largest ever found. In Libya, by the Pelisson Bros, SaharaMet.
Note when enlarged, the presence of small 1mm chondrules of silicates and the specks of pure native Nickel-Iron. These are regarded as the most primitive of meteorites.

My own introduction to this may be worth a smile at me if not with me!  In 1957, one day we were on the Plateau at the Head of Mawson Glacier a few hundred miles north of McMurdo Sound.  We had seen the day before in the distance what looked like bands of coal in what came to be called Allan Nunataks, so we took a dog sled and set off to have a look.  As the surface curved over to descend into the Mawson it became very icy so finding a snow patch, we spanned the dogs, put up a tent and carried on foot towards the coal. As we walked over the icefield we saw scattered about  reddish, rusty and burnt looking volcanic cobbles some up  8 or 9 inches across. I banged at them idly wondering how they could be there.

They were too big to have blown there and there was no rock outcrop further west. Decided they must have been brought up from deeper down by glacial shear and by ablation (which they undoubtedly had been) we left them as being worthless erratics and carried on. Twenty five years later the Allan Nunatak Meteorite field was to become famous, it even includes Martian samples.  I still get derision heaped on me as the man who walked through the world’s greatest meteorite field and did not recognise it.  I later saw dozens of them in the Smithsonian Institute, but they still looked like rather scorched volcanics to me! Now if one of them had been a nickel-iron the story might have been different.  We would have been heaped with medals and honours instead of jeers. C’est la vie!

A Ni-Iron meteorite of 32kg from Mt Derrick on the south side of the Hatherton Glacier in the Darwin Glacier area. It is unusual in that it and some other associated fragments were found resting on bare rock (chips of Beacon Sandstone) by a University of Waikato party led by Dr Michael > Selby in 1978. Photo: Dr David Lowe.

Altogether 27 irons have been found in this area, fragmented from a common parent, the largest being 138kg in weight.

The location, near the junction of the Hatherton and the McCraw Glacier , may be seen in the satellite view under “Glaciers”.

<< A polished surface of the Mt Derrick meteorite (Clarke,1983)

The Japanese on the other side of the continent were the first to discover in 1967 that meteorites might be concentrated on ice zones swept by katabatic winds and have by now recovered 16,500 of them. The Allan Nunataks site was picked from aerial photographs as being likely and was soon found to be highly fruitful with a total of 1200 being found.

A group called ANSMET have recovered 10,000 of them at sites from Terra Nova Bay to the Horlick Mts and EUROMET, formed by the German GANOVEX Expedition quite a few more by searching seismically.

The locations are recorded at the AMLAMP site with rather indifferent quality satellite and aerial views and small scale maps on which latitudes and longitudes are often either indecipherable or absent.

The ANSMET site at  shows some pix of meteorites in the field, unfortunately of rather too small a size to be interesting.

ANSMET make no mention of any analytical program to establish their compositions. By chance a site in Germany was found called METBASE which has the compositions of 1297 analysed meteorites for which there is a charge. They also list 73,000 references to meteor publications, i.e. 70 per analysed sample!  We will study these compositions and comment later.

The “Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter” is available on line and gives a brief petrological descripition of all meteorites found by ANSMET, with small pix unfortunately not showing any textural detail. Their thin section displays are much better, about 5 x 5 size in both transmitted and reflected light, though identification of phases shown is rather minimal. The range of textures is quite amazing, from breccias, to shock-melted, to holocystalline examples.

No mention is made of any of them being chemically analysed which is or should be the ulimate objective. We geochemists want to know why God put silica on every hand and hid tantalum way out of sight. We still believe in a rational universe!

As we have so far few Antarctic meteorites to show, here are some others:
<<The well-known Canyon Diablo meteorite which formed Arizona Crater, on display in Canterbury Museum (NZ), another Ni-Iron with ~ 7% Ni.

If you hit F11 when looking at the enlargement, it begins to looks like it’s weight of over 1,000 lbs.

Photo: C.B. Gunn

High Fe Chondrite from Dar al Gani. 4cm wide, it shows numerous varieties of chondrules in a matrix of metal flakes.Photo: Pelisson, Saharamet.com
A polished octahedrite surface showing orientated laths of the Ni-rich Taenite.

Photo: C.B. Gunn, courtesy of Canterbury Museum

This one LOOKS like a pallasite with either olivine aggregates or single giant olivine crystals surrounded by metallic iron.

Photo: C.B. Gunn, courtesy of Canterbury Museum

We would have liked to have shown the odd pic of some of these 26,500 meteorites, one would think SOME of them might be interesting. But most are curated with NASA in Houston who so far have not released any pix. The NIPR in Tokyo have also been contacted.

NASA has relented. Thanks to Dr Max Carman and Dr Righter we have this picture of a meteorite from Allen Hills, Antarctica.

Here we show a hypothetical search party:

Suggested titles include:
Cost effective, non mechanised transport, finds another!
• The latest successful Transantarctic expedition nears the Pole
• The secret reason for Amundsen’s success
• Beneficial effects of antifreeze GE modification in the common dromedary
• Scott would have made it if he’d used these!
• The Australian Antarctic team find a scientific use for surplus camel population
• Lawrence of Antarctica – the epic continues…
– With apologies to Richard and Roland Pelisson of SaharaMet.com

For an excellent site on meteorites, showing their collection in deserts where, as on the ice, they stand out against yellow sand, and the wind leaves them exposed, see “Saharamet” by Richard and Roland Pelisson. The site is an excellent illustration of how educational a good site can be, well illustrated, with classifications, thin sections and maps of strewn fields. There are three overlapping fields on the Dar Al Gani plateau in Libya alone, including carbonaceous chondrites and Martian examples. In some years, entirely self-financed, the Pelisson’s have picked up twice the weight of meteorites found in the Antarctic where the budget is in comparison, limitless. Best is their pic of a small cairn of stone left by Arabs to mark an old camel trail and which contains several black blocks of chondritic meteorite!

Parts of the famous Sikhote-Alin meteorite>>
another iron, but irons do look like REAL meteorites.

  • Location: Sikhote-Alin Mountains, about 270 miles northeast of Vladivostok.
  • Structural Class: Coarsest octahedrite, Ogg, Widmanstatten bandwidth 9 ±5 mm.
  • Chemical Class: Group IIB, 5.9% Ni, 0.42% Co, 0.46% P, about 0.28% S, 52 ppm Ga, 161 ppm Ge, 0.03 ppm Ir.
  • Fell: 12th of February 1947 at 10:38 a.m.

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Landforms

The Dry Valleys


A small hanging dry valley NE of Mt Mahoney. Granite Harbour lies through the gap to left. The Peneplain Sill (Ferrar Dolerites) lies on the Kukri Peneplain cut in granites, on the far side of the Miller glacier, Gonville and Caius Range. View to the east.

I do not know who invented this appellation but these valleys are not THAT dry; in the summer one never has to go far to find water. I recall once crossing a river in the Taylor Valley with Cmdr Cadwallader USN who had done quite a bit of mountaineering in Kashmir, and he slipped off a boulder and fell in and I laughed my fool head off! They would be better termed “Ice Free Valleys” but they are not entirely ice-free either. There has been ice in Antarctica for about 34 million years at a guess, and for most of that time the Victoria Mountains have been doing a good job of preventing the main ice-sheet from flowing towards the Pacific.

However in a dozen places the ice spilled over and soon wore down deep valleys now filled with the Outlet Glaciers, which lowered the level of the ice cap to the point where very little ice still came down some of the shallower valleys. There may be barely enough to reach the sea, as we see in the Ferrar Glacier, or only a little which has all melted and ablated away before it gets half way there (Taylor Glacier), or gets melted and ablated after getting only a mile or so, (Wright Glacier), or doesn’t get anywhere at all (Victoria Glacier).

So where these glaciers once flowed to the sea, the ice has gone and the valleys for 60-70 miles are bare rock littered with old moraine. The time that has passed since ice filled these valleys is still very uncertain. It is about 10-20,000 years since the last temperature low but the ice seems to have been gone much longer than that. Measurements of the time that rock has been exposed to solar radiation give time up 2-3 up to 12 million years! More on this later.

Some of the short mountain glaciers lying west of the Koettlitz and which once flowed down to join it from the Southern Foothills are the same, just dry valleys littered with moraine with perhaps a short wall-sided glacier at the head.

Royal Society Range with Mt Rucker and >> Walcott Glacier as seen from Koettlitz. In spite of the height and proximiy of the sea in summer, the Walcott terminates as a wall-sided expanded foot. The foothills are of Ross System calc-arenites in the main with gneisses in foreground. A patch of McMurdo alkaline volcanics is seen middle left. Ferrar sills are rather erratic but the Kukri Peneplain lies at about middle height.
Satellite view (USGS) of the Dry Valleys of the coastal range in the upper Koettlitz Glacier. The double Mears and Adams Glaciers are obvious with the Garwood shaped like a clenched fist. Heald island at the bottom. Note the high lines of stranded moraines (higher sealevel?). The Koettlitz seems to have almost distinegrated recently back as far south as Heald Island and refrozen.

The upper Koettlitz Glacier
The Garwood Dry Valley, in the Southern Foothills.

Another braided stream with unusally fine silt flowing from the the Garwood wall-sided Glacier. Another good site for plants!


Garwood Valley. (Photo: Gateway Antarctica, Univ of Canterbury, NZ)
The Adams-Miers Dry Valley with the Miers Glacier.

The runoff from two wall-sided glaciers combine to form a small stream which can flow at about 10 cu-secs into a usually frozen lake a mile or two west of the main Koettlitz Glacier. A drainage channel has been cut from the lake to the Koettlitz and the “Alph” River. The Royal Society Range lies behind with Mt Lister on right, then Hooker and Rucker. The lower spur to the left of Lister must be what we called “Corner Peak” which quite dominates the skyline when underneath it.


Aerial photo of Adams-Miers Valley with outlet stream down cutting through moraine.
The Ferrar-Taylor-Wright-Victoria area

In 1902 a party lead by Armitage went up the Blue Glacier with a large party and the crossed over Descent Pass and dropped into the Ferrar Glacier just below Cathedral Rocks. Twenty miles further up they crossed into the Taylor Glacier and could see that the Taylor Glacier came to an end below Solitary Rocks and that a dry valley extended about 60 miles towards the sea. I do not believe it was entered until during Shackelton’s 1907 expedition when Dr Griffith Taylor and a companion walked down it almost to the sea and described the wall sided glaciers and other features. In 1911 Wright and Priestley spent several weeks in the Taylor Dry Valley.

The Upper Ferrar Glacier, >> an oblique, taken as part of a trimetrogon run by VX6 Squadron USN in 1955-6. The Mountain on right is part of Mt Knobhead which lies at the Ferrar-Taylor Junction (out of sight).

The Lashly Mts are seen in far right distance, the Portal is the gap leading to the Polar Plateau, with Portal Peak, the Boomerang Ra. and Mt Warren far left distance enclosing the Upper Skelton Glacier. The Portal is the main tractor-snocat-dog sledge egress to the Pateau. The overall view is SW.

Mt Feather (9000ft) is the escarpment facing the Skelton before and right of the Portal. The Monastery lies at it’s left foot, with Corner Peak some miles towards the viewer. The spillover into Windy Gully can be seen right mid-distance. The upper Ferrar has never been completely traversed but appears to offer a much shorter (if icier) route to the Plateau.


Taylor Dry Valley

Taylor Dry Valley, >>
view east, with McMurdo Sound and Beaufort Island far left, Mt Bird centre distance and Erebus. Notice open sea in far left distance near Beaufort Id.

The expanded foot of Commonwealth Glacier is seen entering on left only a mile or two from the coast, then Lake Fryxell, Canada Glacier centre left, Lake Hoare. Kukro Hills far middle right. See the sedimentary (limestone) rocks showing through maraine litter in the Nussbaum Riegel on right. Parallel lines in moraine at the break in slope of the Kukri Hills coud be old shore lines or ice levels.


Commander Cadwallader USN, surveys the Taylor Valley.

Near the sea in the Taylor valley especially, there are VERY old terminal moraines which could be a million years or so old.

The Taylor Valley from near the sea, view west, 1955-6. Weathered moraine boulders include granite, gneiss, dolerite and lamprophyre. A rounded hill twenty miles up valley is the “Nussbaum Riegel.” The pointed dolerite capped peak on far right is the “Matterhorn” and the Canada Glacier, front right.

In early 1956 three of us walked up the Ferrar and Upper Taylor and climbed North-west Mountain to get a view of the head of the Taylor as a possible tractor route. We could also see into the Wright Valley (the next to the north from the Taylor) and could see the barren Bull Pass and the generally snow free area around the Victoria Valley. A little ice came over a dolerite sill in an icefall I called “Wright’s Cascades” into the upper Wright Valley.


The Wright Valley
View north through Bull Pass into Victoria Valley. The small stream flowing west (into Lake Vanda) is the Onyx.
Photo: Antarctic Images Library, Josh Landis. Halfway up to the lower contact of the “Basement Sill” is a ledge of “Pecten Conglomerate” marking an old sea-level.

Frost shattering of dolerite in the Dry Valleys leads to the formation of a skeletal soil on sunny slopes protected from too much wind. Nov 1957

In March 1957 when on TAE I wanted to get some flight time in the Beaver to photograph the area but there was a good deal of controversy from people who claimed that this was a waste of time, we were meant to be crossing Antarctic etc etc Finally John Claydon, our chief pilot out on a test flight took a look and confirmed the existence of several thousand square miles of ice free land. We then made several photographic flights over it, and informed the world and the next summer (1957-58), our ship-board biologist Dick Barwick and our resident biologist Dr Ron Balham joined a party down from Victoria University including McKelvey and Webb, of Wellington, and made a summer camp at Lake Vanda. The area has had visitors every year since. On our first recce over the area in March, 1957, we made a low transit through the Bull Pass (shown above), in the Beaver. I made a sketch map in a field book which we may show here later.

The deepest part of the valleys is often 20-30 miles inland from the sea and now there will be a frozen lake with no outlet, usually highly salty, partly from leaching, partly from evaporated seawater. In a warm summer, the lake levels get higher, but the streams that flow into them only flow in December, Jan-Feb and then only in the midday period. At “night” the sun goes behind the hills and the water stops flowing. I have seen water trickling down rocks in November on a calm warm and sunny day with the temperature away from the rock at about 10ºF.

The view of the Wright Valley >>
taken from the survey station on the summit of Mt Newall (which now has a micro-wave tower on it). It was also the Northern Party’s first survey point in Sept, 1957. It was the first time the floor of the valley was seen from the ground, we had flown low through Bull Pass (on right) in the Beaver six months before and in Jan. 1956 had seen the valley from North West Mtn, (skyline, left distance) but could not see Lake Vanda for example. We named some of the features but these were ignored by the stampede which followed some arriving even only a few months later as we had radioed out their existence after the Beaver flight in March, 1957.

The stream in the valley runs inland towards Lake Vanda We are standing on the Lower Paleozoic Granite Harbour Intrusives. See how the Basement Sill thins out on the middle right. Don’t confuse with the dark detritus below it. The dark belt of rock near the valley floor on the left may well also be scree as Dr Bruce Marsh says. Mt Fleming in far centre distance with a Jurassic paleoflora, Shapeless (Triassic) partly obscured on the right distance with the “Wrights Cascades” icefalls between. We could see three mountains of about 10,000ft to the unexplored north-west, one a large shapeless mass, one had a tent like summit. and one leaned. We argued what we should call them, and Murray Douglas broke in saying ” For God’s sake, call them “Shapeless”, “Tent” and “Leaning Peak” and “Let’s get down out of here!” (It was about -20ºF). And so they are called to this day!


The Asgard Range and Mt Odin above the Wright Valley from Bull Pass, view south. The Peneplain sill caps the mountains, then a band of Lower Paleozoic granites, then the Basement sill which curves up towards the peak of Odin, but then down again, another band of granites with lamprophyre dikes, an apparent lower sill, but which Dr Bruce Marsh assures me is merely a band of doleritic scree, then granite and dikes again to the superficial outwash on the valley floor.
Photo: Mike Weiss

<< Lake Vanda in the Wright Valley (out of sight immediately right) is the biggest. It has so much salt in it, that there is no convective overturn, the heavy highly saline water stays near the bottom and absorbs heat from the sun and stays quite warm in the middle of winter. I often wondered why they did not run a loop of pipe down and use it for heating in the days when there was a base there.

The most saline of all is a small lake I called “Salina Pond”. We came upon it one hot day when very thirsty and without stopping to wonder what the inches of crystals were than lined it, we tried to drink! It is about ten times as thick as seawater, with calcium, sodium and potassium chlorides, nitrates, and perhaps some bromides.


View North: Bull Pass as seen from
the floor of the Wright Valley.
Onyx River in foreground.
Photo: Mike Weiss

Bull Pass >> as seen from Wright Valley with Onyx River flowing west to left towards Lake Vanda. Granitic outwash gravels in foreground, with some retreatal moraine. Basement post-tectonic granites, (Granite Harbour Intrusives) cut by lamprophyre and more felsic dikes. Basement Sill of Ferrar Dolerites high in left partly directed by a lamprophre dike. Note the massive lower part of sill giving way to hexagonally jointed columns. Some fluviatile erosion down the median gut from the pass. The small terrace immediately below the pass on the right include Quaternary Pecten shells. It is believed to indicate a period of marine incursion when Pectens grew, probably under ice as gravels and stones above are compatible with being dropped from ice. I do not believe that the current depth of the ice in the Piedmont glacier is accuately known though it is believed that a rock sill is at present above sea-level, (Vucetich & Topping, “A Fiord Origin for the Pecten Conglomerates, Wright Valley, Antarctica.” NZJGS,1972)


An Antarctic oasis!

Sand dunes and an oasis in Bull Pass. Is the water fresh or saline? It seems no one has tasted it! Granites lie in forground, deeply weathered Basement Sill in middle distance, Mt Jason above.
Photo by Mike Weiss, 2003

View of a great geological cross-section of the southern wall of the Wright Valley as seen from Bull Pass. From summits downwards we see:
(1) 600 – 1000ft of Peneplain Sill dolerite, resting on the almost flat Kukri Peneplain surface. Being more iron-rich, the rock is darker.
(2) 5-600ft of granite cut by lamprophyre and porphyrite dikes, type of granite not known.
on right a dolerite scree layer appears to rest on a horizontal dike.
(3) About 800ft of Basement Sill with prominent horizontal layers of unknown origin. Fainter banding near top may be pegmatite layers, if there were not TWO prominent bands one might think they were the upper bounds of orthpyroxenite auto intrusion. Note lobe of dolerite on right which appears to be a separate pulse. Does it have a fine grained contact with the upper body to left?? Lower fine grained contact is darker, contact is somewhat sinusoidal.
(4) Another 300 – 600ft of granite and dikes.
(5) About 5-600ft of sub-horizontal dolerite scree with sharp upper and lower (not seen) margins. Bruce Marsh believes this to be all scree, but to have 3-4 miles of a parallel band of scree with sharp contacts would be most unusual. See the dolerite remains in place where swept by snow and water from the small glacier. In places a sharp contact shows through the superficial scree. If we have a second Sub-basement Sill it would have to be highly magnesian, probably olivine-bearing, as would be guessed from the lighter color. Scott Borg of USAP has promised to take a pick on his next visit!
(6) In forground a somewhat tired glacial erratic or rock fall of unlineated post-tectonic granite with 2-3in potash feldspars, albite-andesine and hornblende. It has been subject to possibly a million years of weathering. Note parting in granite. Elsewhere a litter of dolerite, lamprophyre (dark black), porphyrite, granite and crystalline litter. Do I see a block of Beacon?
Photo by Mile Weiss.
Ephemeral Streams

The Onyx River flowing towards Lake Vanda in the Wright “Dry” Valley. This is the mightiest river in Antarctica but will only flow in late afternoons in summer. At “night” when the sun dips behind the mountains to the left, it will fade away and turn to a ribbon of ice. read more about Dry Valley at https://www.britannica.com/science/dry-valley

There are so many small trickling streams at the height of summer that I think that arctic poppies, heath plants and dwarf willow would probably grow there now, if introduced, but introduction of plants into a continent that has none is not currently a politically correct thing to do. The man I travelled with had spent three years in Greenland and more than once he stopped and said “There is a musk-ox!” but it always proved to be a rock! One day, if the “politically correct brigade” can be thwarted, these streams may be vegetated. In another century they may be being farmed! Until some vegetation is established, all soil will continue to be blown away into the sea or Lake Vanda.

The larger streams are seen in Victoria, Wright, Taylor, Garwood, Miers, Adams valleys but large supra-glacial meltwater streams can be seen on the lower Ferrar, Blue and Koettliz Glaciers especially, sometimes four feet or more deep.

Lakes

Lake Vanda in the Wright Valley, view west with the creek entering below. Not the remnants of glacial scour on the dolerites in the fireground and lamprophyre dikes extending into the Lake.

The bluff at the end of the spur dividing the valley beyond the left edge of the lake is Basement sill at bottom with a step of granite.

The Peneplain or Vanda Sill forms the escarpment along the far left wall of the Valley, the section collected in 1961 lies about the granite step. The left skline is formed of the northern spurs of the “Inland Forts”, the Amazing Grace Pass is seen high in left distance, (see below). Barely seen in centre right distance is “Northwest Mtn” from which we first saw the Dry Valleys in 1955-6, the lake was hidden from view by the central spur.

Raised beaches may be seen on right. It is doubtful these indicate any long term climatic shift. A heavy spring snowfall and a few warm days would take the lake up to such a height very quickly.

Salina Pond, or as I believe some people call it it; “Don Juan Pond”, lies in the south branch of the upper Wright. Halides, bromides and nitrates are so concentrated I do not believe it ever freezes.  A concentration of salts washed from the locals screes, from wind-blown sea spray and from the saline lakes left after marine incursion formed a fiord, the salts have a mixed origin, and their geochemistry has been long investigated expecially by Lois Jones from OSU.
The bank behind is the terminus of a headless glacier which, protected by a thick jacket of ablation moraine has been slowly wasting away for the last million years or so.

Passes

Due to lack of fluviatile erosion there are no deep narrow valleys and few low passes over ranges between major valleys and apart from a few due to ice erosion along faults or narrow grabens, low passes are almost unknown.

The “Amazing Grace Pass”
This connects the upper Taylor to the upper Wright valleys. Wilson and I used it in 1961 to cross into the Wright valley, and descend to Salina Pond to collect Basement Sill Dolerite. It has been formed by headward cirque sapping between one of the Inland Forts and Round Mountain on which we stand. Note permafrost patterns in soils, enhanced by a light snowfall of the previous day which has collected in the ice-wedge depressions. The dikes appear to be Ferrar Dolerite feeders.

The BIG Mountains

Mt Harmsworth, (10,000ft) Now this mountain lying between the Skelton and Mulock Glaciers is not particularly huge, but it does have one point of interest. It was the first mountain to be climbed on the Antarctic continent according to “The Mountaineering World”. We ambled up it the day before (Jan. 1957), up the delta shaped bluff and then up the snow-ridge leading right. The actual summit is out of sight. It took 33 hours, the flat Skelton glacier we started on being afloat and so only a few feet above sea-level even though more than a hundred miles from open sea.

Mt Harmsworth is actually out of sight, the dome seen is about 9000ft. Seen from the northern side of the Skelton Glacier which is about six miles wide, (Feb. 1957). Medial moraine from the Cox Glacier on right. The Skelton which we first saw from the DC-4 in Jan.1956 became a major highway. A year later Bunny Fuchs of the TAE brought his sno-cats down here after crossing Antarctica. Three months earlier Sir E. Hilary took his farm tractors up on the way to the Pole and several dog-team parties passed up and down, altogether, 14 of them. Brookes and I dog-sledged down in Feb-1958. At least one American sno-cat seismic party also passed this way in 1959.

<Mt Huggins. This is the southernmost mountain of the Royal Society Range and faces onto the Skelton Glacier to the south. It is over 11,000ft; we climbed it in about late Feb 1958 from the glacier on left. We had to leave our dogs spanned out for the two days we were away.
The Royal Society were highly antagonistic towards the RGS (Royal Geographic Society) which initiated Scott’s 1901-03 expedition. They tried to block Scott’s appointment and tried to block funds. To appease them, Scott named the most prominent range after them and their senior members, one being a certain Sir William Huggins. Scotts arch-enemy was Admiral Wharton, a naval hydrographer, who had a mountain further south named for him.

Photo: PO Cranfield known to his friends as Willum. He retired a Wing Commander AFC!

Mt Lister at 13,000ft (4,025m) is not only the highest mountain in the Royal Society Range opposite Mac Town, it is the tallest from Cape Adare for a thousand miles to the Nimrod Glacier beyond which point up-faulting of the Queen Elizabeth Range crustal block has given rise to some even higher. Named for Lord Joseph Lister (1827-1912) of the Royal Society, Mts Hooker and Rucker lie beyond with Huggins at far left. Lister became professor of Surgery at Edinburgh when (despite the best of care) 50% of patients died from septaecemia after surgery. Lister’s suspicions of airborne infection were confirmed by Louis Pasteur and together with his introduction of sterile catgut and carbolic acid to sterilise wounds Lister reduced the death rate to 15% at which it stayed until Dr Alexander Fleming discovered penecillin. This mountain is a monument to a truly great man.

In the foreground are folded calc-silcates of the Ross System. I once walked up to them and found diopsidic rocks with green 1cm pyroxenes. The Peneplain Sill can be dimly see about half way up the escarpment with irregular blocks of Beacon Sandstone above. The basement immediately below the summit is of granite.

Mt Herschel, ~ 11,000 ft. seen from Cape Hallett Bay, 1972. This peak was climbed by Dr Mike Gill and partner, in an expedition in 1969 led by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Rocks are almost all Roberston Bay greywackes, see the anticlinal fold at the summit.
Photo: Murray Ellis, 1969.
Mt Albert Markham.
Named for his work in the north Pole area, especially on the searches for Sir John Franklin and the lost “Erebus” and “Terror”.
A flat-topped mountain lying south of the Barne (=Byrd) Glacier on the edge of the Polar Plateau.
Mt Clements Markham. (4350m)
A not very good pic taken on the USN DC-4 Jan.1956 photographic mission, (Cmdr Hank Jorda and Capt. John Donovan) where I was ‘Observer’. Mt Clements Markham (4350m) is the highest Peak in the Queen Elizabeth Range between the Nimrod and the Beardmore Glaciers. Lowery Glacier in the foreground. (named for geologist James Lowery who lost both feet to frostbite in the 1959 Sno-cat crash). Rocks are Beardmore Group isoclinally folded Ross System calcic greywackes, quartzites and calc-arenite, of Upper Paleozoic to L. Cambrian age. (Gunn & Walcott, 1962.) They seem to extend to unusual elevation possibly to the summit as can be seen below.It is now known that Clements Markham is exceeded in height by Mt Kirkpatrick (4528m) which lies W of the Beardmore to the left. Sir Clements was the driving force behind the RGS which sponsored Scott. He, almost alone, picked Scott for his ability, drive, leadership qualities, interest in science, and humanity which were to make him the greatest of all polar explorers.Mt Clements Markham seen from the East. We see that dark greywackes of the Goldie Fm and light colored, probably Cambrian Shackleton Limestones are seen right to the summit. In other words the Kukri Peneplain has been elevated to 15,000ft (about 5km), the all time high. At the Kar Plateau at Granite Harbour the Kukri Peneplain or a flat eroded surface which is almost certainly it, lies at about 2-300ft compared to about 800ft to the south on the Miller Glacier. Photo: Beth Bartel.
Mt Clements Markham from the E or SE. >>
The Robb Glacier in the foreground flows into the Ross Ice shelf, the Lowery Glacier in the middle distance, into the Nimrod. Goldie Fm greywackes and some Hope Granite on forground. Mapped in 1969-60, (Gunn and Walcott,1961). Note the series of five unconfomable icefalls probably indicating recent uplift of the Queen Elizabeth tectonic block. Photo: Beth Bartel.
Unlocated mountain near the Beardmore >> Probably Mt McKellar, viewed from the Beardmore Camp in the Walcott Neve. There appears to be a disconfomity in the Beacon but may be due to dolerite intrusion. (Kristan Hutchinson, USAP Image File.)
Horlick Mts, East Antarctica (Jack Holt Mts.??,>> 2003)
This interesting shot is taken of one of the most easterly scarps where the Victoria Mts (= TAM) fade as they approach the Weddell Sea. Holt was an electronic tecnician flown out to set up a seisimic station and took some interesting pix in passing. He believes this to be part of the “Wisconsin” range which is another name for the Horlicks. Several parties who have worked in this region have been asked, none can identify it. The basement granites, the Kukri Peneplain, the Peneplain Sill and the overlying Beacon Sandstone are all plainly seen. Cape Surprise, near Shackleton Glacier was named because of the unusual occurrence of Beacon Sandstone near the coast as seen here, but comparison with maps does not seem to support the idea that this could be Cape Surprise.
Dufek Massif
This isolated range lies even further east.
Dr Art Ford and others found a huge layered gabbroic intrusion here in about 1962, comparable to the Stillwater Intrusion of Montana. Obviously related to the Ferrar Dolerites, it has orthopyroxene cumulates, anorthosites and thick lenses of magnetite and some chromite. The top and bottom are not seen but the foreground rocks are granophyres usually found near the top of such intrusions.
If Art Ford can be located, we may be able to show close-ups of these unusual rocks. Where art tha’ Art?

We would like to show pix of all the main mountain ranges but so far have not been able to locate so much as a shot of Mt Kirkpatrick, Mt Fritjof Nansen, Mt Betty, the Patuxent Range etc. – contributions invited!

Antarctic mountains are seldom difficult but it can get cold up there, the worst danger is from frost bite. Without any rain to keep them clean, mountainsides are usually littered with rubble and loose rock.

Raised Beaches

Cape Hallet…

Cape Hallet
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Glacial Erosion

Delta Bluff, 4000ft of Diorite with some included limestone, the first step on the ascent of Mt Harmsworth. The Skelton Glacier in the foreground consists of 3000ft of ice afloat above another 2000ft of water. In another 5000 years it might be a nice fiord.
Truncated spurs such as this caused by ice erosion are found only in a few antarctic valleys. The flow is right to left but notice absence of ice polish etc right down to ice level.

 

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Geology

The ROSS SEA DEPENDENCY including VICTORIA-LAND

This will be third time I have made some attempt to summarise the geology of the Ross Sea Dependency and adjoining areas, eg ‘Geological Structure and Stratigraphic Correlation in Antarctica’; N.Z.J.Geol.Geophys. 6,(3),1963, also see N.Z.Geol.Surv.Bull.71, 1972). More information has become available, more age dates and more fossils, so many corners have been filled in. However many crucial lithological contacts remain buried under snow, and many critical formations have been stripped by the grinding ice, so the subject is still far from complete.

A great many names have been applied not only geographically but also to purely local rock formations and the descriptions are often far from adequate. My own hands on (hammer on?) experience is limited to the Cape Hallet region, the Mawson Glacier to Mulock Inlet sector and the Shackleton (or Nimrod) Glacier to the Beardmore. For the rest we have to rely on other accounts.

Unfortunately there is little relationship between the geography and the persons for whom geographic features are named. Beardmore was a Scottish manufacturer (he built engines for the well-known Fe2B fighter in WW1), the “James Caird”, (perhaps the best-known ship’s lifeboat ever built) was named after another financial supporter of Shackleton, read more about James Caired at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_of_the_James_Caird . Mountain ranges are cursed with names of politicians and bureaucrats applied by those currying favour, the worst all perhaps being the naming of the “Royal Society Range” after members who did their level-best to prevent the appointment of Capt. Scott to the 1901 Expedition, and were able to block him being awarded a knighthood afterwards. Scott was one of the few that cared about really exploring and mapping this new continent (and was also the most successful) but has remarkably little named after him, people who came (and still come) with the avowed intention of earning notoriety are much better known to this day, people who have sat of committees are even better known.

The man to whom we owe most of our knowledge of the depth and volume of the Antarctic ice sheet is Dr Albert Crary, known to his friends and admirers as “Bloody Bert”. For years he crisscrossed the continent on seismic traverses, but I do not know of any features named for him, except perhaps the “Crary Laboratory” in Mac Town, and an obscure nunatak. The committee for Geographic Place Names includes a “Crary” range in Marie Byrd Land which includes at least one volcano, which are already given several names. The worst thing about history is that we have to live with it.

Scott et al in 1901-03, Shackleton in 1907-08 and Scott again in 1910-12 and their followers, especially Hartley Ferrar, Sir Edgeworth David, Charles Wright, Raymond Priestley, Frank Debenham and their helpers, found virtually every rock type known to this day in the Ross Dependency region. I spent about 7 years, in the field and on the study of the petrography and geochemistry of Antarctic rocks but seldom found something that had not been to some degree described by Professor Benson of Otago University who had been given the 1907 collections to work on, or by Sir Frank Debenham and others. However, the samples they collected including the famous 35lbs of sample brought back from the head of the Beardmore by Scott, Wilson, Bowers and Oates on their death march, were almost all picked up as erratics from moraines. It can take many hours to battle through crevasses to reach the valley walls and it was seldom done, in fact when I sampled granites, aplites, marbles, calc-schists, dolerites etc up the Ferrar-Taylor Glaciers in 1955-56 I believe these were among the first rock samples ever collected in place with the exception of certain of those collected by Hartley Ferrar himself (Ferrar, H.T., 1924, ‘The Geological History of the Ross Dependency’, N.Z.Jour.Sci.Tech., 354-361.)

The main contribution Guyon Warren and I made in 1956-58 was to collect several thousand samples which were positively located in place, to locate the Devonian and the Permo-carboniferous in situ, and in addition the plant beds of the Triassic and Jurassic Beacon Sandstone and this enabled us to produce the first real geological map. (Gunn and Warren, 1962, “The Geology of Victoria Land from Mawson Glacier to Mulock Inlet”, (NZ Geol.Surv.Bull.71, 1-157). We were also the first to locate the Ferrar Volcanics and establish the differentiation processes in the dolerites. This was all written up by the end of 1958 but there were innumerable delays in printing, the bulletin sat for a year on the desk of a Survey geologist who was supposed to proof read it. Finally Dr Larry Harrington, a senior Survey geologist suggested that as many more geological people were pouring into Antarctica in the wake of our publicising the existence of more dry valleys, that we should put out a summary of the stratigraphic nomenclature before others superseded it and duplicated it. We agreed and he put out a short summary of our main formation names, but under his own name, (Harrington, H.J. 1958, ‘Nomenclature of Rock Units in the Ross Sea Region, Antarctica’, Nature, Lond. 182,(4631):290) However the original definitions are to be found in the Survey Bulletin 71.

A great many papers were published in the 1960’s era but many of them were simply recapitulation of what had been described in detail by Wright and Priestley, 1922, (Glaciology. Brit. Terra Nova Exped.1910-13, 581pp) and by Ferrar, Debenham, Taylor, David, Campbell Smith, Prior and others. These and many other early publications are referred to in the Survey Bulletin 71 which is fairly readily available still and so will not be repeated here.

The Geology of Victoria Land at a Single Glance.

This view taken at the head of the Wright Valleys shows most of the geology of Victoria land in a single section.

A great deal of geology is visible so set screen to max resolution, say 1280 x 1024 and hit F11.

We stand on a litter of retreatal moraine of a mixture of dolerite and sandstone, occasionally some granite, on a valley shoulder immediately above the top of the Peneplain Sill and gazing north-west. There is a sharp change in slope above the hard dolerite which lies below the easily-eroded sandstone which underlies the foreground.

See granites of Ordovician Granite Harbour Intrusives down in valley. There are no Ross System Cambrian-Upper-preCambrian metasedimentary rocks present here, though they are to be seen in the Nussbaum Riegel in the Taylor valley behind us about 20 miles. In this region are mainly post-tectonic granites and neither Ross System meta-sediments nor the pre-tectonic gneisses deformed in the Ordovician Ross Orogeny are seen to any extent.

The Labyrinth (centre) consists of narrow (fluviatile?) channels cut in the Peneplain Sill of the Ferrar Dolerites of mid-Jurassic (165 myr) age, the upper margin of which forms a shadow on the far side. Originally resting on the peneplained surface of the granites, (now below the sill) are about 5000ft of flat-lying, mainly terrestrial, sandstones, arkoses, orthoquartzites and minor shales of the Devonian to Jurassic Beacon Sandstone. Middle Devonian armoured fish, and even 9ft sharks are found elsewhere about 1000ft above the base. A little above the base of the Beacon opposite is a very well defined horizon of what??? Permian tillite?? Has the Devonian been identified here? Then in cliffs of small dolerite-capped cirques directly towards Mt. Shapeless are prominent black bands. These OUGHT to be PermoCarb Glossopteris-Gangamopteris coal measures as some Triassic carbonaceous beds with plentiful plant fossils occurs at the summit at about 10,000ft.

Notice strong lithological control of glacial topography due to the extreme durability of the Ferrar Dolerite compared to the easily abraded, weakly cemented Beacon Sandstone. The Wrights Cascades as I called them in 1956 (also called “Air Devron Six Icefalls”, may God save us all) cascade over a dolerite sill. The upper Wright Glacier is wasted by ablation but no recent sign of retreat. Down out of sight on right is the ice of the cutoff toe of the ancient glacier covered by ablation moraine.

Fossils found on Mt Fleming
The Triassic fern Dicroidium, still seen in similar form at the present day, along with leaves of the horsetail, once the food of dinosaurs but like them long extinct.
The specimens, collected by Dr Margaret Bradshaw of Canty. University, come from near the summit of Mt Shapeless, seen in the distance of the previous picture.

Similar fossil ice in the Beacon Valley has been estimated at 2myr. On the extreme left is Mt Fleming, with the most extensive Triassic sequence of plant beds known, though Triassic is also found at Mt Feather and in the Queen Maud Ranges. In some restricted area, above the Triassic lie Jurassic plant beds and coals, and fresh-water beds including Jurassic Ostracods. The intrusion in the Jurassic of enormous volumes of continental flood basalts as sills completely disrupted the sequence, and not far off are the tholeiitic lava flows which reached the Jurassic surface

We came off the Ice Cap to camp on the skyline right of centre on Xmas Eve, 1957 and leaving the dogs to yelp in frustration, we shot off up Shapeless for a good ski run home, but the snow was like sand!

Notice the abrupt change in topography at the top of the truncated spurs. So we can assume that at the height of the Last Glaciation (the age of which we will discuss later) the ice levels stood 500 – 2000ft above the present valley floors. If it ever stood higher all signs have been removed by cirque sapping. Notice also that it would take very little rise in the height of the ice cap to bring this about, probably a mere 200ft would do it.

Some of this lowering of the local Ice Cap surface has been brought about by “Ice Capture” by the large, fast moving Mawson, Mulock, Barne and glaciers moving at up to 800m a year which could easily deepen their beds by 1 mm/yr, = 20m only in 20,000yr for dolerite but ten or twenty times as much if the glacier bed is of Beacon Sandstone.

This simple stratigraphic succession is seen from Cape Adare for more than 1000 miles to the Indian Ocean coast.

Miogeosynclinal Metasedimentary rocks of the Ross System

It must be understood that the oldest sedimentary rocks which predate the folding of the Ross Orogeny (an ‘orogeny’ being the process by which rocks are folded and deformed by intense lateral compressive stress caused by crustal spreading taking place along spreading axes often thousands of miles away) appear to be a direct continuation to the south of the Adelaide Miogeosyncline in South Australia. Being originally a sedimentary basin located within a continental environment and not formed at a continental margin where extensive underthrusting may occur, the usual arc-andesites are missing though there is report of some in Northern Victoria Land.

The sediments are more calcareous and often include limestone, not seen in eugeosynclines, and while extensive plutonic rocks may form along the crustal keel (as seen at the base of the modern Himalayas), the chains of superficial andesite volcanoes as seen along the Andean chain are largely missing. Ignimbrites, rhyolites and rhyodacites may form but andesites are insignificant and in fact detrital andesite fragments are not seen in any Ross System rocks I have studied in thin section as they invariably are in the Alpine greywackes of New Zealand for example which are eugeosynclinal.

Ross System rocks are of upper Precambrian to lower Paleozoic age and are always strongly folded about usually NW/SE axes ( or what is the NW direction in Victoria Land), not as one might expect, parallel to the coast line. This means that one group of Ross System rocks are not directly along the strike of another group but lie on an en-echelon pattern, possibly as a result of dextral faulting.

The Robertson Bay Group


– click to enlarge

These are comprised of a great thickness of isoclinally folded felsite-greywacke-argillite beds well seen on the north facing cliffs of Roberston Bay west of Cape Adare. They extend for 150 Km in a south-westerly direction across the strike.

Rastall and Priestley (1921) called them the “Robertson Bay Series” but when I wrote up the petrological results of the 1957-58 NZ Geological Survey expedition to the Cape Hallett area (Harrington et al, 1967, ‘Topography and Geology of the Cape Hallett District, Victoria Land, Antarctica’, NZ Geological Survey Bulletin 80), I (we?) referred to the felsite-greywackes-argillite of the Moubray Bay area as the “Robertson Bay Group” as they were identical and geographically continuous with rocks seen ‘over the hill’ and are undoubtedly the same rocks.


– click to enlarge

The area covered by GS Bulletin 80 stopped at the southern side of the Tucker Glacier but the German GANOVEX expedition of 1979-80 have produced a map extending the Robertson Bay Group somewhat further south to Lat 73 deg and Dallai etal, 2003,(Lithos 67, 135-151) show the “Robertson Bay Terrane” so-called, to extend a little to opposite Coulman Island. To the west they extend to the mid point of the Bowers Range between the Lillie and Rennick Glaciers 240 km WNW of Cape Adare.

The Robertson Bay Group have been intruded by the Lower Paleozoic Post-Tectonic Tucker Granodiorite and Edisto Granite with the same contact metamorphic effects as seen in other greywacke-argillite sequences of the Ross system such as at Skelton Glacier and the Beardmore Glacier region for example (below), producing biotite hornfelses and coarse cordierite hornfelses ( see Harrington etal, 1967). Rocks are sometimes current bedded and cross bedded on a fine scale, and as in other members, frequently included interstitial calcite. Chemically they range from 56 to 76% silica and compare closely with other Ross System members.

The GANOVEX geological map also shows some intercalated biotite schists near the western limits.


– click to enlarge

Note on the pic of Mt Herschel, the face of which is composed of Robertson Bay Group greywackes that the peak appears to be the apex of an anticlinal fold while a syncline appears in the col to the left. See map in Harrington et al, (1967).
The geology of the Ross Sytem rocks has been more recently covered by Edmund Stump, “The Ross Orogeny” 1995, Camb. Un.Press.

Priestley Group

In 1963, John Ricker (‘Outline of Geology between Mawson and Priestley Glaciers, Victoria Land,’ Antarctic Geology, SCAR Proceedings.) described similar rocks to the Robertson Bay Group from the sides of the Priestley Glacier NW of Terra Nova Bay. They crop out for 60 km between Mt Ogden and Timber Peak, these rocks being previously only known from erratics. They include dark slates, argillites, siltstones, fine sandstones and limestones. All are contact metamorphosed to some degree by post-tectonic granites, the strike direction is again northwest with a vertical cleavage.
Lower down the glacier to the east and between the Priestley and Campbell glaciers are higher grade biotite-muscovite-garnet schists and paragneises of which more anon.

Skelton Group


Folded and somewhat contact-metamorphosed Skelton Group Limestone, The Anthill. Skelton Glacier, south bank, Feb. 1957. Upper Precambrian age.

For thirty miles along the lower Skelton Glacier which lies SW of McMurdo Sound, are calcareous greywackes and argillites (mainly on Teal Island, on the southern coast) and, further up glacier continuous intricately folded limestone intercalated at intervals with post-tectonic hornblende granodiorite is well seen at Anthill and other spurs of the Worcester Range which project north towards the Skelton fiord. On the north bank, near the Cox Glacier, deglaciated gently rolling terrane shows folded limestone weaving back and forth in intricate patterns. The greywackes contain secondary chlorite, actinolite, clinozisite with detrital quartz-albite and interstitial calcite.


– click to enlarge
A major complex fold in limestones also on Anthill, taken by a passing electrician in 2003! It was located in a corner of a pic we took in Jan.1957. Apparently cut by a L.Paleozic basaltic dike.

They have been contact metamorphosed by the Skelton Granodiorite to spotted slates, biotite hornfelses and hornblende hornfelses with the secondary amphibole phenocrysts containing numerous quartz inclusions.

The limestones are saccharoidal, contain thin bands of argillite and are also contact metamorphosed. As well as flattened calcite grains they include some quartz, feldspar, tremolite, biotite and extreme cases, diopside and idocrase. Microcline and graphite may also be found. Such rocks form a link to the higher grade schists and paragneisses found in the Koettlitz – Ferrar – Granite Harbour, Terra Nova Bay and the Wilson Group Schists.


Close up of a fold in carbonate
Ross System rocks.
Graphite outlines the axial plane cleavage. (Photo: Alan Cooper)

Here folded calcareous rocks of the Ross
System are exposed in the Worcestor Range
north of the Mulock Glacier, as a direct southerly continuation of the Anthill Limestone.
The Peneplain Sill is intruded along the Kukri Peneplain.
Does Archaeocyathus occur here?
(Photo: Alan Cooper)

Beardmore Group

A somewhat disastrous foray in 1959 did result in the mapping of the region between the lower Beardmore Glacier and the lower Shackelton Glacier (which we rather mistakenly decided in 1958 to rename the “Nimrod Glacier” in view of the fact that a small “Shackleton Glacier” already existed somewhere else. I now regret this as I feel ‘Shackles’ deserves to have the largest glacier in the area named after him.)


Steeply dipping isoclinally folded metgreywackes of the Goldie Fm at Station B1, junction of Lowery and Nimrod Glaciers.
(Gunn & Walcott,1962)

The “Goldie Formation”, (Gunn and Walcott, 1962, ‘The Geology of the Mt Markham Region, Ross Dependency, Antarctica’, N.Z.J.Geol.Geophys. 5,(3), 407-26) reveals along the western side of the Lowery Glacier the same thin-bedded greywacke-argillite in isoclinal folds which, by stereographic projection have NNW-SSE axes with a plunge of not more than + – 15 deg. Arkoses and subordinate limestone is included. Again contact metamorphism with post tectonic granites has produced spotted slates, albite-epidote-muscovite-biotite hornfelses and hornblende hornfelses which include hornblende, plagioclase, diopside, andalusite and cordierite. Microcline, clinozoisite and sphene may also be present. George Grindley ( 1962, NZJGG,6) found more Goldie Formation grewackes on the sides of the Beardmore Glacier at Mt Kyffin, Wedge Pk, and The Cloudmaker and Cambrian limestone at Mt Buckley, which he called the “Shackleton Fm” . Facing the Nimrod Glacier below the junction with the Marsh Glacier Grindley shows a bluff showing obvious contact of the Goldie Fm greywackes with a thick sequence of limestone.

Unfortunately I was never south-east of the Beardmore and for those rocks we must rely on descriptions of others.

Byrd Group

North of the Nimrod Glacier are four block faulted ranges. Near the coast on the flat-topped Nash Range the rocks are Goldie Fm greywackes intruded by post-tectonic Hope Granite.

West is a westerly dipping narrow range in which the Starshot Fm of calcic conglomerates, sandstones, shales, rhyolite and trachyte. West again is the Holyoake Range and facing the Nimrod at Cambrian Bluff, greywackes pass westwards into archaeocyathine limestone. Rocks similar to the Starshot Fm also occur at the Darwin Glacier to the north. As the greywackes appear to lie under the archaeocyathine L/St, Laird concluded they were Upper Pre-cambrian.

Queen Maud Group

Vic Macgregor in 1963-4 spent the summer mapping in the area beyond the Beardmore Glacier to the Liv (flown up by Byrd on his first flight to the Pole) and the Axel Heiberg made famous by Amundsen using it as a route on his route to the pole.
The exposures of this area are mainly post-tectonic granite, with some syn-tectonic and pre-tectonic foliated ortho-gneiss.

Vic named two formations one of greywacke-argillite (= Goldie Fm) and the other of marble. Metamorphism in this, as might be expected in sedimentary rocks occurring only as remnants in a plutonic complex is extreme, being migmatised, shredded into xenoliths, and often partially absorbed. All the usual secondary minerals are present but also wollastonite, grossular garnet and sillimanite.

Koettlitz Group

In some regions, eg west of mcMurdo Sound between the Upper Koettlitz Glacier and Terra Nova Bay, In the lower regions north of Terra Nova Bay, in the Miller Range in the Upper Nimrod there are calcareous schists of garnet amphibolite rank, more strongly altered than, say the Robertson Bay Group. They occur with pre-tectonic gneisses an have coarse 1 cm diopsides, vesuviante and garnet. They seem to be the same as the other Ross System rocks but are more regionally metamorphosed.

We do not yet have enough detail on the Horlick Mts, Pensacola Range, Patuxent Mts and other scattered nunataks occurring towards Dronning Maud Land but we can quote Stump 1995 who show a recurrence of the same tightly folded greywackes and limestones. The constancy and extent of the major antarctic formations is phenomenal.

The Ross Orogeny and the Granite Harbour Intrusives

Under compressive stresses directed in a general NE-SW direction, the eugeosynclinal sediments were isoclinally folded, the generally younger L. Cambrian limestones, being more plastic, are usually crumpled and complexly deformed. Early intrusion of generally sodic hornblende granodiorites formed gneisses, which are segregationally banded, and foliated. A large number of Rb87/86 and Pb/Pb ages show a spread of ages from 550 – 450 myr in the main, of which we will later show diagrams. The older gneisses were affected by the younger granites and do not all give older ages. The main syntectonic intrusion in the McMurdo region is the weakly foliated Larsen Granodiorite, found at intervals all the way to Terra Nova Bay.


A porphyrite dike cuts undeformed post-tectonic granite of the GHI. Because of the similarity of composition, there is no contact reaction. Potash feldspars are perthitic, and show some myrmeckite. The Vanda Porphyry is regarded as the youngest of all the Granite Habour series.

The density of the Post-tectonic granites, granodiorites and diorites varies greatly. In the Granite Harbour region, no sedimentary rock is found, only overlapping granite stocks. In The Robertson Bay – Cape Hallett area, the Admiralty Intrusives are minor in volume and contact metamorphism is local. From Koettlitz Glacier to Terra Nova Bay, the intensity and duration of igneous intrusion has resulted in the Ross sediments being metamorphosed to a higher degree of Upper Amphibolite zone metamorphism, with coarse diopside, scapolite, vesuviantite, garnet etc.

Granitic rocks giving 350-500 myr age dates occur sporadically around the periphery of the whole continent, so while the Ross Orogeny affected all of the basement rocks of the Victoria Mountains, some effects may have occurred at far distances removed from the main axis of deformation.

Complete stability had been achieved by Late Ordovician-Lower Devonian time and a long period of peneplanation ensued. We hope to be able to show pix of the “Kukri Peneplain” at intervals from NVL (Northern Victoria Land) to the Queen Maud Mts, the Horlick Mts, the Thiel Mnts and even further, but when we suggest some benevolent organisation supply us with a plane to take them, we get squawks of outrage. Requests for copies of pix already taken are greeted with the chilliest of silences, so our illustrations may have to be limited. Stump shows Beacon Sandstone resting on truncated, tightly folded Robertson Bay Group without any intervening dolerite. Truncated mountain tops and summit concordance suggests that the Kukri peneplain extended to Cape Adare.

<< Granite Harbour Intrusives, on N. side of Granite Harbour. Unusual orbicular granite formed by coronas of reaction rims of oriented hornblende formed around xenolithic inclusions, unfortunately not found in place. Is it pre- or post-tectonic?

The Pre-tectonic Gneisses

In 1957 we were confronted with doing what no one had really attempted to do before on a large scale, ie, how to map in and make sense ultimately of about 100,000 square miles of a complex of intrusions of massive granites of different ages and compositions.

Some were banded, deformed and gneissic, some slightly so, some were undeformed.  Some were fine grained, some had feldspars 3 inches long, and quartz crystals 3 in across, some were dark hornblende diorites, some black and white granodiorites and some were grey granites and some with large pink potash feldspars or were light pink aplites.  Most of the intrusions seemed to be individual plutons or possibly cupolas a few miles across, some seemed to occur intermitently for scores of miles.  Some changed in texture as you walked across a well exposed outcrop, dark margins became lighter and coarser grained, light colored bands a few scores of feet wide crossed darker hornblende-bearing rock, some were fairly homogenous, other highly variable.


An paragneiss from the Gneiss Point – Granite Harbour region. We can guess that this rather schistose rock is a metasediment.  

Once one has seen granites being formed by the melting of  sedimentary layers that happen to be of a low average melting composition, as may be seem in the deep valleys of the Himalayas, it becomes obvious why granites are so variable.

First this horizon melts and moves upward in a diapir, then perhaps another more basic but at greater depth.  The most obvious characteritic was the degree of deformation, some gneisses were obviously magmatic but had been deformed just as much as the schists and para-gneisses so we called these “Pre-tectonic” though “Early Tectonic” might have been better.

The “Syntetctonic” rocks were slightly sheared and banded but had been intruded after the main period of deformation had passed. The majority are quite undeformed and must have been emplaced after tectonism had ceased, so these were called “Post-Tectonic.   Later in in the Canadian Archaea and in Peru the same sequence was seen, early pre-tectonic sodic granodiorites and post-tectonic, always more potassic, granites and last of all pegamitites and alkaline rocks more like monzonites and syenites.

<< A banded augen gneiss  of probably igneous origin. Stump in 1995, nearly 40 years later comments “With unusual restraint, they forbore to name the occurrences”.  The gneisses often do not extend to more than a single outcrop, though occasionally for a mile or two and as positive correlation is impossible, there is no great point in naming them.

Syn-tectonic Granites

<< A somewhat gneissic syntectonic intrusion shows inclusions of fragments of earlier gneisses.At this point we are short of pictures of syntectonic rocks.

Post-tectonic Granites

<< A light grey post-tectonic granite enclose undigested angular fragments of ? paragneiss?
<< A typical exposure of Irizar Granite, with bright pink feldspars, some albite-oligoclase, hornblende and orthite the presense of which typifies this rock.

<< Upper Killer Ridge, Miller Glacier, near Granite Harbour.
<< Lower Killer Ridge. These are post-tectonic granites of very mixed parentage. Some of the darker dikes MAY be lamprophyres.  How many samples would it take to typify this outcrop? It would seem that every melt of some minor horizon sent up a column of magma to join those in place but not yet cooled or even solidified. It would make an interesting study to collect a hundred or more samples and analyse them to find out what the spread of composition might be, but no such study has yet been done.

The base of Mt Suess. Here, only a few miles from Killer Ridge, the granite is more homgenous.
(Enlargement only shows granite)

Granite of the Taylor Pluton showing as a mere slice between the upper Peneplain Dolerite Sill and the lower Basement Sill at Solitary Rocks. The analysed cross section of the “Solitary Rocks Sill” I mention in 1966, was the Peneplain Sill but sampled a mile north of here, the 1962 samples came from out of view to right.. View South, with Mt Knobhead and the upper Ferrar just in sight left coming round it. Windy Gully spillover takes a shortcut from the Upper Ferrar on right. The flat ice plain below it, hidden by a slight bulge is a marvellous place for katabatic gales. Mt Terracotta with its dike swarm of FD is seen beyond Windy Gully.
The granite seems quite homogenous, with no invading dikes, obviously Post-tectonic, we (G & W) assigned the “Taylor Pluton” to a member of the Irizar Granite suite, though to be truthful I do not think we thin-sectioned the Solitary Rocks area. Does it include orthite??According to Stump, (1995, p113) other people who like to apply their own names have variously called it and the obvious extention to the Western Kukri Hills and lower down the Taylor Glacier, the “Catspaw Pluton”, the “Pearse Pluton”, the “Hedley Pluton”, or the “Vida Granite”,etc, well illustrating the confusion in granitic nomenclature! Lower down the Taylor Glacier, another 1000ft plus of the same granite is exposed below the Basement Sill near Lake Pearce. Notice how little weathering shows in the granite below the Kukri Peneplain surface, the darker material being scree. Scree littering the slopes of Knobhead quite conceals the sill limits.
<< Yet another view of the Taylor Pluton taken by a passing electrician! Not perhaps as sharp as it could be but shows Lake Joyce below and that obviously the granite above and below the Basment sill are the same. That above the Basement sill over on the Western end of the Kukri Hills is also almost certainly the same. Below the sill?? I have sampled it a couple of times and such was my impression but samples were stored with Otago University who may still have them.

At mid-left, the granite is partly obscured by reddish dolerite scree and it would take a close look on foot. Cathedral Rocks are just out of sight beyond the Kukri Hills on left. The top of the icefall on Emmanuel Glacier can just be seen. View south.

Close-up digi-camera pix of different exposures would be a great help. Thin sections as we showed for the Skelton Grandoirite can show large variations in K/spar – Plag ratio which may be real or may be sampling error. Only when the size of a homogenous sample is established is it worth while doing geochemistry.
Ghent etal (1968, 1970) have done a detailed study on the “Mt Falconer Pluton” a small stock of Irizar granite twenty miles down the valley and we shall report on this.”

<< The boulder behind which we are sheltering from any possibly wind from “Windy Gully” is lying on the Ferrar-Taylor medial moraine and is fairly typical of the basement rock exposed at intervals along the foot of the mountains in the near distance. It is typical of the “border facies” of some batholiths with inclusion of paragneiss and veins and dikes of aplite. It suggests that the Taylor Pluton does not extend west of the ice.
The Terracotta Mtn dike swarm on left is Ferrar Dolerite in Basal Beacon Arenite. See the band of Early or pre-Devonian fine black shales low left. (1963)
<< The Cathedral Rocks are three prominent bluffs on the south side of the Ferrar Glacer and due north of Mt Lister. Again we have an obvious border facies group with much sheared included calc-arenites and gneisses cut by aplite dikes. No granite is found east of here, but it extends SW up the Emannuel Glacier from the western Solitary rock, so this marks the probable eastern limit of the Taylor Pluton.
<< Lake Bonney and the lower Taylor Glacier, viewed towards the Beacon Heights.
The sheet of Taylor Pluton granite seen between the two dolerite sill on the far Solitary Rock plainly continues into the nearer Solitary Rock. Lake Joyce and the Catspaw Glacier are out of sight to the right of the nearer Solitary Rock. Similar granite appears on the slopes of the Kukri Hills left, above and beyond the black McMurdo Volcanics monogenetic centres on the slopes left. Rock in the spur at The Narrows, has aplite dikes inrtruded into meta-calc-arenites and gneisses and appears to constitute more marginal facies but more distal than that seen at Cathedral Rocks. Does any Irizar-type Taylor Pluton rock extend further east than the basalt cinder cones? Without walking the length of the Western Kukri Hills we cannot at this time tell. There seem to be many dikes, possibly more marginal facies, on the right.
Several people from Debenham down have said that the Irizar type granite appears above the Basement Sill in the western Kukri Hills and the Larsen biotite Granodiorite below. Ten miles north (to the right) similar granite is seen in a sheet between sills above Salina Pond in the Wright Valleys. Though Wilson and I went through it more than once in 1962 we did not collect as we were after dolerites, very silly! Again there seems to be no general agreement as to whether they are fact the same or not.That there can be so much dissent about a simple, well exposed granitic pluton of modest dimensions, makes one despair for the future of granitic petrology. One cannot help remark that confusion might be less if people read the original definitions!

A carbonatite dike in alkaline granite from the upper Koettlitz Glacier.
Photo: Prof Cooper, Otago University.

The Kukri Peneplain

This is an almost horizontal erosion surface cut across the Granite Harbour Intrusives of Ordvician age and has the Beacon Sandtone laying on it. The exact age of the base of the Beacon is not known, Devonian fossils lie about a thousand feet above the base but the underlying peneplaned granites give Ordovician (~450myr) ages. Although mentioned in almost every geological paper published in the last 35 years the amount of detailed information on this erosion surface does not seem to have increased that much but an ongoing search will be made for key facts. The peneplain surface is well marked by either yellow-grey-white sandstone resting on a basement of granites, gneisses and schists, or by a chocolate coloured dolerite sill about 1000 – 1200ft thick which has intruded in Jurassic time between the sandstone and the basement. This is called the “Peneplain Sill”. Conglomerates are often found near the contact.

Kukri Peneplain. Seen a few miles south of Mt Suess, Granite Harbour at the entrance to the Miller Glacier. Pink and grey post-tectonic granites of Granite Harbour Intrusives are eroded to a horizontal surface. Except for a few barely visible slivers of Beacon Sandstone, the Peneplain Sill, (Ferrar Dolerites) rests directly on the peneplain surface. The Miller Glacier lies in a possible fault graben or eroded fault plane. One could land a 737 on the stagnant ice in the foreground.

The peneplain surface is not only well seen in the Kukri Hills, in the Dry Valleys and Granite Harbour, it shows along the coastal mountains all the way to Nova Bay and to Nrthern Victoria Land. Dolerites and sandstone are known from Northern Victoria Land, and the continued existence of the Kukri Peneplain is probable and the accordance of summits seen in the Roberson Bay Group greywackes suggests it might have extended north-east to the Ross Sea and north to the Cape Hallet region. It can also be followed down the mountains south to the region of the Beardmore Glacier and to the Horlick Mountains, and probably much further, possibly right into the Indian Ocean coast in Queen Maud Land, but it does not seem to be well documented.

In Tasmania, dolerite sills are known to be intruded into flat-lying sandstone but glacier erosion has removed all overburden and the basement is not exposed though it may have been penetrated by drill hole by now.

The Karoo of South Africa consists of sandstones lying on basement intruded by sills and overlain by flows, but whether any equivalent of the peneplain exists we do not know though it should.

It is a great puzzle that the Ross Orogeny rocks should be peneplained so quickly, where did all the sediments go? It has occasional water channels in it, as though tidal. Below the Beaufort Sandstones (=Beacon) in the Karoo is an older formation, the Dwyka Tillites, and in South Africa at least, the land was peneplained by glaciation. However the McMurdo region was at least 2,500 miles away from the Karoo, even when the southern continents were still united in the Gondwana super continent. Then quite suddenly enormous amounts of sandstone and arkose, sometimes water laid but mainly aeolian arrive. From where? Was the land peneplaned near the coast while high granitic mountains still stood further inland? Was the Beacon deposition progressive? There is simply not enough exposure to say.


– click to enlarge
Here on the west side of the Taylor Glacier we see a dome in the basement granites onto which the Beacon rests. The New Mountain sill lies above a thin layer of Beacon. Though we called it the “New Mtn Sill” it may be continuous with the Peneplain SIll of the Kukri Hill, but no Opx layer is present.

Coal-bearing Beacon appear 1500 miles away in the Prince Charles Mts near the Australian base of Mawson. Deep drilling has revealed Beacon down-faulted into McMurdo Sound at Roberts Point. How far towards Marie Byrdland does it occur? We do not know as yet. Does it occur under the centre of the Ice cap? Under the South Pole? One would think that examination of the peripheral continental marine sediments should show where the ice has passed over the easily eroded Beacon.

The final truth is we still know very little about the total extent of either the Kukri Peneplain nor the Beacon Sandstone. Both extend 2000 miles and can be seen occasionally for as much as 100 miles in width. Perhaps both are 2000 miles in width. They continue into the similar Karoo series of South Africa and into a small area of eastern Tasmania or, rather, did continue before the late Jurassic breakup of Gondwana. Coal-bearing sandstones of the beacon type continue up the East coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland.

Though the Beaufort formation in South Africa includes cross bedded sandstone, there seem to be more mudstone than is seen in the Beacon. Both have been intruded by almost identical dolerites sills of the same 165 myr (Jurassic) age.


Pivot Peak at the junction of the Upper Ferrar and the Upper Skelton, about 10 miles east of Mt Feather. Poorly cemented Beacon Sandstone has been invaded and fragmented by the brown Ferrar Dolerite 165myr ago.

In Beacon Sandstone, west of Beacon Heights upper Ferrar area. A fossil dinosaur?? Mt Lister (13,000ft) about 50 miles away on left.

Glossopteris leaves, from the
Permo-Carboniferous Beacon.
Photo: Dr Alan Cooper, Otago Univ.

Beacon Sandstone

Though offset upwards and downwards by block-faulting, the Beacon Sandstones, which may be as much as 7000 ft thick, have remained almost horizontal, seldom tilting more than 10 deg. The block faulting makes it difficult to build up a complete cross section as there are not many fossiliferous horizons. Devonian fish and sharks occur at some height above the base (eg, see J.Long “Mountains of Madness”), Permo-carboniferous coals with the large lobate Glossopteris-Gangamopteris leaves and seeds, Triassic plant beds and thin coals and Jurassic coals and Ostraca beds are all seen west and north-west of the Dry Valley area, but large areas are quite barren.

Pre-mammalian dinosaurs of many species are found in the Karoo and some of them at least (eg, Cryolophosaurus) also occur in the Beacon (especially high in Mt Kirkpatrick north of the Beardmore) and in Uraguay. Their presence and the presence of coal seams of up to 6m thick in the middle of what appear to be wind-blown desert sands is something of a puzzle, one can only assume intermontane swamps such as now occur in the Kalahari.

Plant fossils have now been located in many areas and we will try to assemble a map of them. Trunks of trees of 2ft diameter showing strong seasonal rings argue a temperate climate at some distance from the South Pole in the Permo-carboniferous era at least.


Massive Beacon Sandstone in the Southern Lashly Mts, NW Skelton Glacier at about 6000ft altitude. Probably upfaulted basal unit and quite unfossiliferous but Devonian fish remains were found above this section.
Cliffs several hundred feet high of somewhat silicified quartzite and arkose, either flat lying or cross-bedded, and totally barren of fossils or different lithology do not tell us as much as we might like!!However a great many short papers on the Beacon are buried in scores of, in some cases, rather obscure publications and we hope to slowly compile from them. Many formations have been named but it has yet to be shown that any have any great lateral extent.

Lashly Dome, Beacon Sandstones
Mt Crean in the Lashly Hills appears to be a dome, but a large block of Beacon has been tilted to the north by dolerite intrusion and the formation of wedge-shaped dykes
<< Top of Permo-Carboniferous coal measures seam ( up to 6m thick), Allan Hills, Upper Mawson Glacier. Coal has been baked by Ferrar Dolerites and has very low volatiles and high ash content, but includes fossilised leaves and coniferous tree trunks.
<< Coal outcrop found at the Allen Hills.
There is one 18ft (=6m) coal seam and half a dozen of 1m and many thinner ones. Some have tree trunks of Glossopteris about 10in (=250mm) diameter showing well marked annual rings.
The coal would find ready acceptance in the steel industry, is only 30 miles by ice road from the coast and is economically exploitable at the present day with an FOB value of close to $50 US per ton.
(Coal Marketing Services Ltd, ChCh). With our current world steel production rapidly passing 1 billion tons annually, we may be forced to use such reducing sources within a century.
(Aerial pic taken Dec.1957. Pilot Wm.Cranfield)
Beacon Boomerang Range
Skelton Glacier, South-western Neve region. Lower Beacon. We found Devonian fish remains in this area, possibly in these shales.
<< Ohio Range (Horlick Mts)

Permo Carboniferous Glossopteris Flora in the Beacon Sandstone coal measures. An apparently deciduous tree.

Collected by Dr J. Aitcheson in 1983-4. Photographic study by Dr R. Ewan Fordyce, Dept of Geology, University of Otago, courtesy of the Otago Museum.

Glossopteris from Australia. >>
Again, more than one species may be present. The leaves are ovate to obovate and 4 to 6in long.Similar sandstones of the same age as the Beacon occur throughout Gondwana. Beacon type sandstones occur all the way up the Eastern coast of Australia as far as Rockhampton. All those sandy beaches south of Sydney, at Dee Why, the Gold Coast, Bribie Island, Caloundra, Moloolooba, Fraser Island etc are all relatives of the Beacon Sandstone and the great coal deposits at Wollongong and Newcastle are Permo-Carboniferous and are of general similar age to the Allan Hills Coal measures, the Weller Coal Measures, the Misthound Coal Measures in the Darwin Mts, the Mt Buckley Coal Measures at the head of the Beardmore as Grindley named them along with the nearby Dominion CM, and in the Ohio Range (Horlick Mts) which Long (1962) called the Mt Glossopteris Formation.
We hope eventually to be able to show examples from most of Gondwana.

Ferrar Dolerites

In Jurassic time, the whole pattern on plate tectonics underwent a massive change and new spreading centres which cut completely across the Gondwana super continent were activated. It appears that initially the massive volumes of magma formed by pressure release as crustal plates separated were in places trapped under crustal slabs. Perhaps at 165Myr, there was a short era of crustal compression. At least 100,000 cubic km of magma was forced up into the sundered crust, at first forming sills in the basement granites, then intruding along the Kukri Peneplain, then higher and sucessively higher in the Beacon Sandstones, finally errupting as lava flows and tuff on the surface. The lower sills may be 1200ft in thickness, those lying higher in the sandstone sometimes only a hundred or so. Feeder dikes washed away enormous blocks of light sandstone, forming linear masses of dolerite a mile or more wide, 30 miles long with 3-5000 vertical feet now exposed. See below.

The geochemical fingerprint of these rocks is typically continental and is seen in all continental flood basalts of this type in Tasmania, the Karoo, the Deccan (India), the Parana (Uraguay). For details on the chemistry and further pix see “The Geochemistry of Igneous Rocks

A massive stock of Ferrar Dolerites >>, Lashly Mts, ~10mi south of upper Taylor Glacier SVL. Height ~ 7000ft, taken from the Lashly graben. Rhythmic banding on right is composed by narrow bands of crystalline rock with variable amounts of glass, and little or no chemical difference.
<< Dike Swarm on Rainbow Mountain, Taylor Glacier.
The New Mtn Sill abuts into the large diagonal dyke on the right. Such a steep dyke swarm is unusal as in the Beacon, sills prevail. The height of exposure is about 3000ft.
Feldspathic band such as these are common in the thicker sills, both as anorthositic streaks of very calcic feldspar seen in the orthopyroxene layers of An85-80, and more sodic thicker layers of this type usually seen above the middle of a sill. >>
<< With 10 – 200ft of the upper surface are pods, layers and bands of coarse pegamatite enclosed in augite-pigeonite-plag dolerite. Large sodic feldspars of An30-50 occur with ferrohedenbergite, iron ore, sometimes a little horneblende and includes large, (<1cm) sometimes cloudy, patches of quartz-sanidine intergrowths of micro-pegmatite.
Photos by Mike Weiss, in Wright Valley, Basement Sill.
Probable lahar (The Mawson Fm) with pyroclastic Jurassic Ferrar Volcanics mixed with included fragments of Beacon Standstone and coal as well as basalt cobbles, Allan Hills, Upper Mawson Glacier. We originally described it as a post-Jurassic tillite, others later thought it a lahar. More recently a post Jurassic tillite called the Sirius Group has been described from here. Are they the same??Near here is the well-known Allan Hills Meteorite Ground.

Ferrar Volcanics

Pillow lavas of the Jurassic Ferrar Volcanics intruded into probably wet volcanic tuff, Carapace Nunatak, Upper Mawson-Mackay Glaciers at 7000ft.

The Finger Mt Sill”, 1961, with the inclined Finger Mtn Sheet crosscutting it on skyline. Cliffs are of Lower Arenite, Beacon Sandstone.

Western Kukri Hills from Ferrar Glacier, at about 2500ft, in Jan 1956. The basement Sill is intruded into granite. Remnants of the Peneplain Sill on the skyline. Dr Trevor Hatherton, Geophysicist, Lt.Cmdr. W.E. Smith RNZN are standing in foreground.

My sledging companion Lt Cmdr Smith, RN; known as “Willie”. He sank the 44,000 ton battle cruiser “Takao” in Singapore Harbour from a midget submarine as well as a few German submarines and destroyers in his days as a destroyer man himself.  (How’s that for a 50-year-old pic?!! He is not surrendering, he is laughing at his donated navy-blue mitts!)

Dolerites of the Vanda sill, Upper Wright Valley

This is locally the “Peneplain Sill, having granite below and Beacon Sandstone lying immediately above. However it has a median autointruson of High-Mg orthopyroxenite with up to 60% OPX and 16% MgO while Cr and Ni increase by factors of 7 and 2.5 compared to the lower margin. This view is of the upper orthopyroxenites at about 600ft above the base.

Collecting dolerites sample for geochemical analysis, Vanda Sill near the upper contact with bleached Beacon S/St..
Collecting the Finger Mtn SIll for analysis, view down Taylor Glacier towards Lister.
Collecting these kind of sill involves one in a little scrambling to get the Upper Chilled Margins!
Antarciica needs nothing so much has a good West Coast shower of about 14in of rain in 3 hrs to wash away some of the rubble!

The Kukri Hills as seen from Ferrar-Taylor medial Moraine

This is the type area for the Ferrar Dolerites. View to east, taken 1955-6 summer. We see about 6-8 miles away the western end of the Kukri Hill Range, the Ferrar Glacier ice splits in two, half flows to the right down the Lower Ferrar Glacier, half swing left and join the Taylor Glacier to perish in the Taylor Dry Valley. We are camped on the medial moraine.
We see the lighter coloured more magnesian Basement Sill (about 900ft thick) intruded along a self-made parting in the massive post-tectonic Irizar Granite pluton. This sill has been autointruded by a late stage orthopyroxene cumulate mush with up to 30% Opx and 16% MgO, a lower proportion than seen in, say the Vanda Sill in the Wright Valley.

Above is the 1000-1200ft thick Peneplain Sill which has higher FeOT and is darker. It has no OPX cumulate, merely fairly constant augite-pigeonite (the latter often inverted to OPX plus lamellae of clinopyroxene). Lenses of granophyric micropegamitite are seen in the upper parts of both sills. A wedge of granite has been separated and lies beneath the sandstone to the right of the steep mountain glacier. On the summit is ~200ft of basal Beacon Sandstone. I don’t think we went above the upper dolerite so do not know if the basal conglomerates etc are present.

Katabatic winds polish the ice surface in the foreground. The shadow of a granitic boulder on right is the same one Scott camped beside in 1903. Notice there is absolutely no sign of wasting along the medial moraine, in fact the ice stands higher.

The ice stands about 50ft above the granite valley wall in the distance. A geological party once spent two weeks in this area without getting on to rocks, being unable to find a place to get down the marginal ice wall!


Beacon Dry Valley
Glacial Retreat.

This was a very basic excursion, we had the clothes we stood up in, the two plastic banana-boat sleds, an awful little “Ronne”-type tent which slatted abominably in wind and had to be held down by brute force, and tropical army concentrate rations with no reserves beyond the 3 weeks we were away! Dinner would be a quarter sized can of spaghetti and sausage! Neither of the two men shown had been on snow before!

In the upper Beacon Dry Valley, ancient ice is obviously still preserved below thick ablation moraine. Esimates of it’s age run all the way up to about 2 myr. Table Mtn on left, Mt Feather rear left, Beacon Heights to the right but well out of view.

McMurdo Volcanics


Castle Rock, Erebus, Terra Nova and Terror throw up lenticular clouds from a standing air wave.
Photo: John Henzell. Gateway Antarctica

Mt Erebus
Photo: Warren Hamilton

Observation Hill from Mac Town
Photo: Warren Hamilton

The main, present day block-faulted Victoria Mountains (sometimes called the “Trans-Arctarctic Mountains” were formed, possibly by a rejuvenation of the Ross Orogeny in the Tertiary “Victoria Orogeny”. As is usual while further folding may take place a depth, the surface expresson is one of block faulting. Parallel horst and graben structures are seen for 2000 miles across the continent. The main down thrown block lying immedately east of the Victoria Land coast allowed the accumulation of thousands of feet of glacial detritus being explored by the Cape Roberts Drilling project. Another effect was the eruption of large volumes of alkali-basalt, basanite finding access to the surface along the fault fractures.

Massive volcanoes of Pliocene-Recent age dated from 14.7 Myr to the present (Thomas Wilch) resulted extending from Cape Adare in the north, to Mt Discovery which lies about 20 miles south of McMurdo Sound. About 72 minor monogenetic centres have now been recorded from the Dry Valley area as well.
For further discussion on the chemical composition and for pix of the McMurdo Volcanics and the active Mt Erebus, see “Antarctic Oceanic Island Basalts”.

We will list all of the larger main centres from north to south and add pix when and if any become available. All seem to include both ankaramite, alkali basalt, hawaiite, mugearite, benmoreiite, trachyte and lesser amounts of basanite, trachybasalt, phonolite so we will not individually describe them chemically. There may be inaccuracies in this initial summary. Please correct us.

1/ Cape Adare. A north-south oriented fissure-controlled series extending for about 15 miles south of Cape Adare , and about 5000ft? high. Possession Ids which lie close to the coast separated by a narrow channel, may be a separate centre.

2/ Cape Hallett Volcano. Another fissure oriented series now formimg overlapping small shields, possibly at one time continuous with the Adare series. Described by W.Hamilton (Geol.Surv.Prof.Paper) and by Harrington et al 1965. These rest against Edisto Granite on the landward side and are lapped by the sea to the east.
3/ Cape Daniells. These also may be part of the Hallett, Adare series, are of the same age and lie on the same coastal fault. They lie on the south side of the Tucker Glacier which separates them from the Hallett series to the north and may have eroded a channel through them.
4/ Coulman Id, (73.5 S) lying closely offshore to the south and east of the C. Daniells series, has suffered considerable marine and glacier ersion but still stands about 6553ft (=1988m) and is glaciated on the NE side. Coulman Id shields the Lady Newnes Ice Shelf and large areas of bay ice lying to the south west.
5/ Mt Melbourne, almost comparable to Erebus, while quiescent has active fumaroles and may still be active. It forms a 9000ft cone extending east to Cape Washington and and can be seen from both the German GANOVEX and the Italian Bahia Terra Nova bases close to Terra Nova Bay.
6/ Mt Overlord. Again a symetrical cone lying on the north side of the Aviator Glacier Glacier with an unmodified summit caldera, north-west of Mt Morning. apparently of similar age and while there are no blatant signs of activity, may not be extinct. Mt Rittman nearby has fumaroles.

Franklin Id appears as the usual mix of short flows and scoria seen in alkali basalts, dark, and icey on the south (shown) but snow free on the northern side. Photo: Beth Bartel

7/ Franklin Island. A linear remnant lying out in the Ross Sea north of Ross Island. Basanitic scoria cones contain numerous large peridotite, harzburgitic nodules. Probably deeply abraded by the northern extension of the Ross Ice Shelf at the last glacial maximum at 20,000-10,000yr bp.


Scoria round an old vent at the summit shows olivine – wehrlite nodules.

Wehrlite nodule

A nodule brought up from mantle depths, probably wehrlite ( Ol + Cpx) rather than Harzburgite (Ol + Opx). >>

8/ Beaufort Island, lying about 15 miles north of Cape Bird on Ross Island,
9/ Cape Bird. (1765m) The northernmost of the cluster of centres making up Ross Island, Mt Bird was named for the penguin rookeries at its base, not for the Admiral. A symetrical shield lying over the northen rift of Mt Erebus.

Beyond the crater of Erebus we can see the Mt Bird Peninsula, and beyond, Beaufort Id. Photo: Beth Bartel

10/ Erebus (3795m). When we flew over the summit in March, 1957 we could plainly see red lava circulating in a deepseated lava lake within the summit caldera vent. It has been kept under observation ever since. Dr Phil Kyle is setting up a Erebus Volcano Observatory page. The composition is of nepheline phonolite and it periodically ejects small amounts of glassy lava with large (4in) anorthclase crystals.
Phonolite volcanoes frequently exhibit very deep, small diameter lava columns which finally solidify to form a “volcanic neck”. Erebus has three radiating rift zones, the northern one to Mt Bird, an East Rift zone passing through Mt Terror Nova to the extinct 9000ft Mt Terror and through a series of monogenetic centres to Cape Crozier.


Heat from the ciculating phonolite lava near the summit enables lichens to grown at 13,000ft. Photo: Beth Bartel

The SWRZ forms a narrow ridge about 1000ft high and 20 miles long extending as far as the aegirine trachyte dome of Observation Hill at Hut Point. Several basaltic cinder cones are centered on it and the well known vent-breccia plug of Castle Rock.

11/ Mt Discovery is a symetrical extinct cone of about 9000ft lying about 30 miles SW of Hut Point. It has a SW rift Zone passing along Mt Morning and an easterly rift, similar to the Hut Point Peninsula, extending out to Minna Bluff for more than 10 miles.

Tuffaceous sandstones of McMurdo Gp basalts from White Id.
Photo by A. Cooper.

12/ White Island, Black Island and Brown Island are linear chains of centres rising perhaps 2000ft lying SE, south and SSW of Hut Point. The Dailey Islands lie SW and are considerably reduced by the abrasion of the Koettlitz Glacier. Other ice-abraded island in Erebus Bay are called the Dellbridge Islands, including Inaccessable Id and Seal Rock.
While over 70 minor centres are known on the mainland none are known south of Mt Morning and the Skelton Glacier.

13/ There are now known to be 23 major volcanic Pliocene-Recent cones in Marie Byrd Land, Mt Siple for example forming a symetrical cone of 9000ft very like Mt Morning, on an offshore island. We hope, in conjunction with BAS to produce a second page on the Geology of West Antartica in which these will be listed.

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