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Dry Valleys: Taylor

Around 98% of Antarctica is covered with ice up to 2 miles deep. The Dry Valleys region, on the west side of the Ross Sea, includes four enormous valleys separated by mtn ranges, and is the continent's largest ice-free area. Ice is lacking partly because the Transantarctic Mountains hold back the icecap of the East Antarctic Plateau. Strong, dry winds (<10% humidity) sweep down the valleys from the polar plateau keeping the rocks bare of snow. On average, the valleys receive four inches of water each year as snow. Completely devoid of terrestrial vegetation, the region is one of the most extreme deserts on Earth. Yet in summer, water flows. Temperatures rise enough for glaciers protruding into the valleys to begin melting. The meltwater forms streams that enter lakes covered by 20-30' of ice. With the exception of algal mats and a few lichens, life exists only on the microscopic level. Microorganisms, fungi, non-vascular plants and invertebrates survive here only where they can find moisture. One adaptation involves certain cyanobacteria, algae and lichens actually living inside sandstone rocks between the grains, where they form what are known as "endoliths". This region is the site of a Long Term Ecological Research project, of which there are dozens worldwide for long term monitoring of geology, microbiology, hydrology, and more. The ice cliff glaciology project examined, among other things, the mechanics of how dryland glaciers calve off big pieces. I helped them with installing instruments in the vertical side of the glacier to measure movement, tilt, etc. There are MANY other longer-running LTER projects here, but this is the only one I've been involved in.
Taylor Valley of the Dry Valleys.JPG
Taylor Valley of the Dry Valleys.JPG
Installing Strain Stakes Jan '04
:: Installing Strain Stakes Jan '04 ::
Ice Cliff Work, Nov '04
:: Ice Cliff Work, Nov '04 ::
Blood Falls and lower Taylor Glacier
:: Blood Falls and lower Taylor Glacier ::
Taylor Glacier Toe Ice
:: Taylor Glacier Toe Ice ::
Blood Falls Camp Scenes, Nov. '04
:: Blood Falls Camp Scenes, Nov. '04 ::
Lake Bonney and camp
:: Lake Bonney and camp ::
Dry Valleys overview.jpg
Dry Valleys overview.jpg