Life in the Dry Valleys

Yes,… it has been a while since we posted something here. It has been a busy couple of weeks. Lets start from the beginning, the day when we finally left McTown and were dropped off at Lake Fryxell Camp.

Ever wonder how we get around out here?  Well, there are 4 Helicopters on the base, two Bell 212 and 2 A-Stars which take us up and down the valleys as well as from and to town. For David, Miye and Tyler it was the first Helicopter ride out to the Valleys. Everybody was excited, as it is a hell of a Helicopter ride, especially the first one. It is just beautiful landscape one of the kind most people would never even dream of seeing.

Once arrived at Fryxell, we got busy pitching our tens, setting up labs, giving and/or getting a camp tour, getting familiar with camp life, such as “how to use the toilet” or “how to handle poo-bucktes”. Soon after that Limno team usually heads out to the lake, where there is a Polarhaven ready and waiting for us. We bring a Jiffy drill and a bunch of drill-flights and blades, some tools, leathermans, some rope. Then the drilling begins. We put three holes into each of the five lakes we are sampling throughout the season. The lake ice is between 3.5 and 4m thick. Once the holes are drilled, they get melted out using so called “hot fingers” attached to a “Hotsy”, which circulates hot Glycol through the pipes of the “Hot fingers”. After all the drilling and melting the lake gets a 24hours rest for then to be ready to be sampled.

We call it a Limno run. That is our sampling routine. A Limno run day looks something like this: Alarm clock at 4:00am, 4:15am – coffee, 4:30 – am, loading up the ATV and heading out to the Polarhaven, 4:45 – the sampling begins. We deploy a Niskin bottle down the inside Limno hole, which is below the Polarhaven, so we are nice and cosy in a Propane heated Polarhaven while we sample. We deploy the Niskin about 10-16 times, depending on the lake depth and how many depths we sample. The water we get out of the hole is then distributed into different sample bottles, each one dedicated to different analyses. At 7:30 am we are done with most of the sampling and the so called PPR bottles are incubated in the lake for 24 hours. At about 8:30 we’re done with sampling and head back to camp for some more coffee and a nice breakfast before starting the sample processing, which usually takes the rest of the day.

The next day is Instrument day, where we deploy four different instruments measuring important parameters, such as conductivity, temperature, light, flourescence ect.

The day after we then head to the net lake in the Valley.

This year we sampled Lake Miers for the first time as full Limno lake, and not only on a day trip. Lake Miers doesn’t have a camp, so we had to build our own camp. Only that Miers is a rough place. it is windy, and cold, the lake ice is bumpy as hell and it takes a lot of effort to drill and get around there. It was planned to live and cook in our big endurance tent, use the Scott- tent as a bathroom and the mountain tents as our bedrooms. BUT the propane for cooking was never dropped off and it was far too windy and cold to pitch more then two mountain tents. So we ended up using the Polarhaven as a kitchen and living room, as well as the place where we drill and sample. We basically lived in the Polarhaven and shared the endurance tent and one mountain tent for sleeping. Still, Miers is a beautiful place that takes your breath away on a nice day, and the flight there is unbelievable. So all in all, it is worth the effort, hours of drilling, being cold and tired- you’ll never forget the views there.




After coming back to Taylor valley and sampling lake Bonney, it was Thanksgiving already. On Thanksgiving almost everyone in the valley finds his way to Lake Hoare, where Rae cooks that amazing dinner. We all eat and drink, catch up, have fun and have some time to just hang out together.

Now it is time to go back to McMurdo for a couple of days, for showering and some sample analysis.



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