Sunday, November 29, 2009
Rather surprisingly, I found myself today on a
Twin Otter plane headed for Allan Hills. The
folks there had mistakenly sent the battery for
their phone back on an earlier plane and it
needed to be returned to them. Allan Hills is
a tiny...and I mean really tiny...field camp
50 minutes away by airplane on the far end of
the Trans Antarctic Mountains in Victoria Land.
It is on the far side of the mountains I look
at every day and even past that. In other words,
not in the neighborhood. There are only five
people there at any one time. This is also where
the famous "Mars Meteorite" was found about 15
years ago that shows that life might once have
existed on Mars.
The trip out was truly awesome. We made it to the
Ice edge north of McMurdo and followed the coast
for some time before heading inland.
Along the way were several large icebergs that
had broken off of the ice sheet.
We flew over one of the large glaciers I've been
looking at through my bedroom window for years
and up close, it's truly huge!
We landed at Allan Hills on an ice sheet after
flying for 50 minutes and was surrounded by
complete wilderness. The Twin Otter we flew
in was very comfortable and the touchdown
It was very flat and white...similar to the
South Pole...except there were small hills in
the distance (actually mountain tops covered
deeply with glacial ice) that are the "Allan
Hills". To mark the skiway, black trash bags
filled with snow were used.
The two scientists we spoke with were really
pleasant and made us feel at home on their
skiway. They were also very grateful to get
their battery back!
After spending about 10 minutes on the "ground",
we left with a takeoff almost as smooth as the
landing. We passed some huge mountains on the
way that had the look and feeling of being very
very old. I'd be interested to find out just
how old this particular mountain was as we were
flying low enough to have it appear just outside
our window and we got a really good view.
We saw more glaciers on the way back, each different
in it's own way.
This glacier was really interesting as it looks like
it has a sort of catch basin pool at the base.
Almost as if it has existed since warmer, wetter
Although we didn't stop in the Dry Valleys, we got
to fly past several of them, including this one.
A place that precipitation hasn't fallen in
centuries. Someday I may get to visit here as
well. However, for today, I was really grateful
I got the chance to visit someplace few humans
have been. A place unique and desolate, yet
oddly beautiful at the same time. Definitely
a red letter day!