Finally, we were able to reach the Bennett Nunataks today! After a Sunday brunch of re-hydrated scrambled eggs and bacon, we set off on another beautiful, windless, warm day. We drove for quite a while to get to the nunataks, arriving first at the northernmost peak. Since there were three nunataks comprising the Bennett Nunataks, we named them ‘Mama,’ ‘Papa,’ and ‘Baby’ Bennett Nunataks. ‘Mama Bennett,’ the northernmost, was completely encircled by a steep, deep bathtub-like windscoop – thus requiring some caution and safety gear to access. There is one ice-bridge gaining access to the rock, but it turned out to be a shear knife-edge – not conducive for walking across.
We decided then to check out the other peaks, ‘Papa’ and ‘Baby’ Bennett, before spending all day getting onto to ‘Mama.’ ‘Baby’ Bennett was easily accessed, and was the chosen lunch spot. This nunatak was merely a small outcrop poking out of the ice, nonetheless having perched erratics useful for dating. However, a group of people had obviously visited this spot before, as a trash heap was exposed from a sublimating crevasse edge. Coors cans from the 80’s, old car batteries, cans of Coleman stove fuel, bamboo poles, Christmas wrapping paper (apparently “To: Eric”), and fish meat comprised this garbage deposit. Obviously someone thought it clever to dump it down a crevasse, probably assuming nobody would ever witness that spot… I wonder if Eric would be surprised to receive his discarded wrapping paper back, after all these years.
We quickly organized the trash for later transport back to camp, and headed off to ‘Papa’ Nunatak (the southernmost of the Bennett Nunataks). Access was easily gained, as the windscoop was minimal on the southern side, but ascending the peak was more tedious than it initially appeared. There was a shear cliff on the eastern face, and an extremely steep snow-slope on the western face. In a few instances I found myself perched precariously on a narrow ledge trying to round a granite face with only the ice at the bottom of windscoop to break my fall. The loaded heavy pack certainly complicated these instances as well! But, I must admit I had a fantastic time finding my way up the Nunatak.
The weather remained incredible, making the sampling a joy. We found perched granite erratics all the way to the peak, which was accessed only by crawling through caverns weathered from the bedrock. Robert and I took samples at the peak, enjoying the fine view of Darling and Lackey Ridges. Peter and Sujoy in the meantime left for ‘Baby Bennett,’ to sample rocks that didn’t appear to be anthropogenic in placement. Robert and I finished the transect, and headed down with packs full of granite. Thankfully, I had gone up and down the mountain about three times in the afternoon taking GPS positions and profiles, so I felt comfortable with the route. We got to slither back through the caves and cracks towards the bottom, when we noticed some cavernous weathering in the granite which resembled the head of a troll (or perhaps a lizard monster)! Three holes for the eyes, and a large gaping hole with ridges forming the menacing mouth and teeth, definitely were suggestive of an ancient, petrified mythical creature. Robert insisted that I crawl into the gaping mouth for a photograph. I managed to scramble up the face, and climb in the mouth, where I posed as a hopeless victim satisfying the troll’s appetite.
I crawled out of the troll mouth, and we headed to meet the others back at ‘Baby.’ We loaded the trash into the sleds, and made the long ride back to camp. A quick and tasty pork chop dinner replenished the nutrients and fat lost during the days adventures, and it was off to bed around midnight. It will be exciting to see if we cannot determine a rate of ice lowering from the Papa, Baby, and Tuning Nunatak transects! I wonder if they will correlate, and what the effect of the wind-scoop is…