West Antarctic Ice Sheet Stability:
Glacial Record from the Ohio Range of
the Horlick Mountains in the Bottleneck
Hal Borns*, Aaron Putnam, UMaine
Robert Ackert, Sujoy Mukhopadhyay, Harvard.
December 15, 2004 to February 15, 2005
January 2nd 2005
January14, 2005

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Schulthess Buttress.

Robert recording sample

Adventures in Cooking, our First Visitor, and the Unnamed Ridge

Today turned out to be a day off for everyone, as all the work had been completed, and flags pulled. I arose around 0745h, checked in with MacOps, and got the stoves going. Today was a sleep-in day, so I decided to prepare a treat for everyone. I assembled the oven for the Coleman stove, and began to preheat it in its inaugural use for this season. I pulled out the gingerbread cake mix, and prepared the batter. We didn’t have any eggs, so I substituted a cup or so of egg-nog – basically eye-balling the amount, thinking: “oh, that looks like about two eggs-worth!”

I added some extra flour, as per the high-altitude cooking instructions, poured the batter into two 8x4” pans, and threw them in the oven. Realizing that just gingerbread cake would not be enough, I whipped up the cheesecake mix for use as frosting. The cakes baked nicely at about 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, and knew they were done when I stuck a matchstick in the cake, and it emerged with no glop. When the cakes were hot out of the oven, I glazed them with the cheesecake. They were now ready to serve! The endeavor appeared to be successful, as everyone enjoyed the cakes (or at least were polite enough to pretend).

As the cakes were just out of the oven, we had a visitor! Our first glimpse of life beyond each other occurred when the gingerbread smell was strong and wafting about the camp… A skua! The bird swooped by and nestled down on some sastrugi just outside of camp. It must’ve been a long journey, but perhaps the carnivorous gull has discovered a camp-to-camp route leading towards the Pole. So, against all Antarctic environmental regulations, we threw the wayfaring stranger a leftover sausage. The skua didn’t move, and just continued to eat snow and pick at wind-blown gravel. We went back to the gingerbread meal, and the next time we looked, the skua had left. We retrieved the sausage, which the skua had bitten in half, but surprisingly had not devoured. I guess the skua was expecting higher class accommodations. To refuse a hardy sausage this far away from any food! Perhaps the skua knows something about this land that we don’t…

After breakfast, Robert and I took the Skandic and a Tundra out to an unnamed ridge spurring off of Schulthess Buttress, forming the eastern edge of Ricker Canyon. We basked in the blazing sunshine, and practiced self-arrests on a steep but safe snow-slope. We then began our hike up the ridge, which was another one of these dramatic knife-edges. There was a shear cliff on the east side, and a steep snow-slope on the west. The snow-slope was so steep that no ice-axe would stop you from careening a few hundred meters to the ice sheet, so we had to be careful when crossing the icy parts of the ridgeline.

The form of the ridge appeared to be a very steep stoss-and-lee form, with the west face appearing very similar to the other abraded bedrock surfaces we have seen around. The east side was vertical, and in some cases overhanging, cliff – thus the plucked, lee-side of the ancient glacial landform. Classic example really, and agreeing with the other landforms suggesting wet-based ice flow to the east, as opposed to the current westward flow direction. Here we had possibly another relict Permian landform, perhaps never having seen human footprints.

We took two bedrock samples, but saw surprisingly few erratics – none of them blatantly glacially transported… Perhaps the ridge was protected by the escarpment from full-on ice-sheet flow unlike the exposed outer nunataks. All in all, our purpose was more to climb and see what we could see than anything else, and that we did. We reached a lower peak on the ridge, and declined to head for the top of Buckeye Table due to a tasty dinner awaiting us. So, we climbed back down and reveled in not having to wear hats, gloves, or really any outerwear.

We returned to camp just in time for dinner, which consisted of delicious roasted Cornish game hens (Peter’s artwork), potatoes (which I got to prepare), and delectable veggies (which Sujoy prepared). Very tasty, with a compliment of red wine and a toast to a fantastic field camp! So far, job well done!

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