“You will be walking in places that no one has ever walked before.” After introductions with the whole crew of 16 people, Professor Craig Cary started to outline our field expedition. At this point, I started to get really excited. I can’t quiet believe that I am going to be spending two weeks stomping around the Victoria Valley, with such a diverse, passionate and interesting assortment of scientists.
But first we have to get there. With a team of 16, one main camp and 3 sub camps, this is an expedition with a huge amount of logistics to manage, and all under the great leadership of Craig Cary. It was all hands on deck. We had 5 helicopter loads to get 16 people, camping equipment, food and science equipment to the field. This requires some serious excel spreadsheet magic. The weights of all equipment must be known, and the loading of helicopters is a small art, especially when sling loads are involved. It was organized chaos in the Hillary Field Centre, with production lines of crew testing all the tents, making up sleep kits, assembling science equipment, and the spirits and banter were high. It is going to be a fun and entertaining trip. The map of the Victoria Valley showing the sample sites was bought out and pored over. 75 sample sites!
Then there is nothing more than to ‘Hurry up and wait’. That’s the Antarctic way. With weather holding the upper hand, there is nothing more than to do a clear skies dance, cross your fingers and wait, as the helicopter cannot fly otherwise. The weather cleared around lunch time and helo ops went into full swing. The first pax flight went in at noon, followed by a sling load of gear, and my flight finally took off at 9pm. 45 minutes of vast, untouched beauty!
The crew who had flown in earlier had kindly put up my tent. A quick cuppa, and I fell into bed, asleep before my head even hit the pillow. Through some kind of miracle I didn’t even hear the last helicopter load land. Must be a pretty soundproof nylon tent, considering the heli pad was less than 50m away.
Top: View of Mt Erebus from the Helicopter
Centre: Dry Valleys from McMurdo Sound
Bottom: Lower Wright Valley on our flight to the Vicotira Valley