The highlight of the 2010-11 summer for many New Zealand Antarctic Researchers was the far south leg of the latitudinal Gradient Project (www.lgp.aq) which took researchers as far as 86 °S. An account of the K123 expedition is given below. Over the 2011-12 summer Cathy Seybold from USDA, along with Holly Goddard from Waikato University, have been working in the Wright Valley to complete the installation of a ninth soil-climate monitoring site (number 8 was installed last year on the valley wall above Don Juan Pond.) The new station is to be installed on the wall of the Wright Valley near Bull Pass at an altitude of about 800 m. This will complete our climate station network by providing information on the climate on the valley walls in contrast to the valley floor or high alpine areas. The data are available at http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/scan/Antarctica/antarctica.html
Malcolm McLeod and Jim Bockheim are continuing the dry valley soil mapping work visiting several sites in the wider dry valley region. Two young Antarctic soil/permafrost workers (Josh Scarrow (Waikato University) and Fiona Shanhun (Lincoln University) have suspended their studies for five months to undertake ship-based work in the Australian Antarctic summer programme for five months. They will be studying relatively unexplored soils in Australian Antarctic ice-free areas.
NZ K123B Beardmore Expedition 2010/11
Errol Balks (field leader and land surveyor, CKL Surveys and Planning), Peter Almond (Soil Scientist, Lincoln University) and Joshua Scarrow (MSc student, Waikato University) undertook soil investigations in the Beardmore glacier region as part of the southernmost expedition of the Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP). They were supported from the USA CTAM (Central Trans Antarctic Mountains) camp. CTAM was located on the Walcott Névé, 2 hours C140 flight south of Scott base at a latitude 84° S and around 1800 m elevation. The CTAM base provided access (via helicopter) to ice free locations throughout the Beardmore Glacier Region.
Figure 1: Beardmore Glacier lateral moraine sequence at the foot of the Dominion Range. The contrasting coloured bands are due to the dominant geology of the deposited material; red = dolerite, grey = sedimentary rocks dominant (Photo: Errol Balks).
The team undertook soil-landscape investigation and sampling at three of the largest ice-free areas in the region; Ong Valley, the west side of Dominion Range (Figure 1), and Mount Achernar. The team spent 6 to 8 days camped at each site (Figure 2), with soil profiles studied and sampled across each area (Figure 3). They found a wide range of soils (mainly on large-scale patterned ground on ice-core moraine), with older sites having greater depth to the ice-core, dry permafrost, and salt accumulations. Two one-day trips with close helicopter support extended the range of sites across the altitudinal gradient from the Otway Massif on the edge of the polar plateau (2150 m asl) to Mount Kyffin near the Ross ice shelf near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier (210 m asl). The soil data will be used by Landcare Research to extend the accuracy of their Environmental Domains assessment, and provides key information and insights from sites that had generally not been previously visited by soil scientists.
Figure 2: Josh Scarrow (back) and Peter Almond preparing dinner in the kitchen tent which doubled as Josh’s sleeping quarters. (Photo: Errol Balks).
Although initially concerned about the number of days the weather would allow work (going on past weather records for the region) the team were pleasantly surprised that there was only one day that work could not be undertaken. There were short-lived snow falls at each camp site, but the temperatures were relatively warm ranging from about minus17ºC to +6ºC at the ice shelf below Mt Kyffin. All in all a very successful expedition with great support from Antarctica NZ and the American CTAM camp staff.
Figure 3: Peter Almond closely examining a soil profile at the head of the Ong Valley, Christmas day (as evidenced by him wearing the nice new (clean?) boxers that father xmas brought him.) (Photo: Errol Balks).