The Lower Mercer Ridge Moraines
Today, on par with the last few, began enveloped on all sides by fog and cloud. However, static patch of blue sky hovered above, raining sunlight down through the frigid air. I arose around 7:30, and stayed awake while I prompted the others to go back to bed on account of the dicey surroundings. I ventured into the Endurance tent and radioed MacOps for morning check-in, and prepared a hardy skillet of bacon and raisin brown bread for the elders.
The fog bank, with its dramatic acrobatics of sweeping high tongues, dissipated almost as rapidly as it had started a few days ago. Everyone was up and feeding by 0845h, and the plan for the day was to go to the moraines we had spied last night and run a transect. A ring from the satellite phone startled us all with the seemingly alien concept of having anyone call us out here, and it turned out to be Sujoy checking up on us from McMurdo. He had been politicking to elevate our priority status with the flight logistics people, but had no success – informing us that the otter would not see to us until the 27th of January! This of course, with the conditions up here, would undoubtedly have to be accompanied by at least a few weather days, maybe putting us into February…
This news was a bit of a downer for us, and for me constricts the possibility of running around New Zealand looking at glacial deposits with Dr. George Denton – which I was looking forward to quite a bit. But, there is nothing I can do but make light of the situation, and enjoy my time in Antarctica (who knows if I’ll ever have the opportunity and privilege of working here again??). I will attempt to contact the hotel where George is staying, and at least leave a message regarding the delay, and hopefully all will not be lost, and I will be able to work with him in the field at some point.
The clearing over the magnificent Mount Schopf prompted us to venture onwards towards the moraines being deposited by an unnamed glacier which I will call “West Glacier” for now, as it is located on the west face of Mercer Ridge. Once there, we took sandstone and dolerite samples at the crest and edge of the ice-cored moraines, and I took a topographic profile with the differential GPS. We took a good quantity of samples, then took a late lunch, enjoying the clearing (but still rather cold and windy) weather.
After lunch we moved up to these ancient sandstone terraces that look to have never been glaciated (or at least in an extremely long time). Ancient, rounded, polished and pitted dolerite cobbles were strewn about on the terraces, resembling a zen-garden on a magnificently large scale. These dolerites were the most other-worldly rocks I have ever laid eyes on! They were like ancient martian garden gnomes (or perhaps Martian garden-gnome cadavers), and we ran about for over an hour marveling at their gnarled, cavernous forms. I collected many specimens from the area, probably an excessive number that will require more than one rock box. Oh well, you only live once, and I perhaps will never again be able to visit this magnificent dolerite garden.
After sampling some of the ‘Martian gnomes,’ I did some more real science on the ice-cored lateral moraines just below the unglaciated sandstones, and we shortly thereafter made for camp, and a phenomenal Halibut dinner… Ah, truly living the hard life out here on The Ice!
As I brushed my teeth over the croggly-hole, getting ready for bed, the sweet sound of Robert’s Irish whistle rang contradance tunes off the walls of the now crystal-clear Mount Schopf, reverberating over Mount Glossopteris, and then serenading the Wisconsin Range visible some 50 miles to the southwest. Though the news concerning our pull-out date is disconcerting, I believe things happen for a reason – and that reason is yet to be revealed by our accommodating hostess of the Ohio Range. Sjamst i morginn, og gud blessuder.