29 November, 2001
Nov 29th- The Dry Valleys
On our way back from the plateau yesterday, our pilots had to change our flight path due to some bad weather. As a result, we flew directly over a section of the Transantarctic Mountains known as the Dry Valleys. They are called this because no rain has fallen there in over two million years! The air is too dry for snow and ice. Areas like this in Antarctica are called oases. The exceptions to this are little spots of wind-blown snow in the valleys that have come from nearby glaciers.
The Dry Valleys were formed when the land was being uplifted quicker than the glaciers could move through them. The forms of life that have been found in the valleys consist of algae, bacteria and fungi. The fungi actually grow inside of air pockets in the rocks. They are able to live and grow due to light, carbon dioxide and moisture that seep in.
Since I saw the Dry Valleys from the air, I only have aerial shots from the window of the plane. If I were standing in one of these valleys however, I would see some spectacular looking rocks known as ventifacts. These are rocks that have been sculpted by the wind.
In addition, I might see the remains of a seal that has been mummified and eroded by the dry air and wind.
The terrain of the Dry Valleys has been compared to that of Mars. People say that standing in them is like being in another world. My pictures do not do these valleys justice, but at least you can get a glimpse of this alien place.
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