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27 January, 2003

January 27, 2003

House Creek and the Defile

On Saturday the 25th we heloed to House Creek for a return visit. You may remember that House Creek was the one we couldn't find our marks to survey from, so we had to figure out another way to do it. House has very steep slopes and unstable rocks. One side is the moraine of the Seuss Glacier so Ken, our pilot, couldn't land there. He put us down at Wharton Creek that has a huge, wide delta that empties into Lake Chad. We unloaded all of our gear; including two survival bags and waved good-bye as he lifted off.

Just a side note: anytime you are dropped in the field you always take enough survival bags for your whole party. Survival bags contain extra clothing, sleeping bags, tents, stoves, food and books to read so that you could survive at least three days if for some reason the helo couldn't get back to pick you up.

I glanced over to the far edge of the delta and saw something on the sand. Jen and I went over to check it out and were terribly saddened to see another penguin, only this one had not survived his exploration of the Dry Valleys. Then I saw something brown and frothy floating on the lake surface and went to explore what it was. As I stood at the lake edge, suddenly the sand gave way under my left foot and I sank in up to my knee! The cold water and sand filled my boot, but worse was that it was like a suction pulling me in. My right foot was groping for a foothold but I couldn't pull it out! Jen grabbed my hand and yanked me free. It was pretty funny, but also kind of scary. It was my first experience with anything like quicksand. Normally I always pack an extra pair of socks, but since we were leaving on Monday, I had only brought the bare essentials on this trip. That was poor judgment, but luckily it was only a mildly cold day so it was uncomfortable, but not dangerous. And I never did figure out what the brown frothy stuff was.

We gathered our gear and hiked over to House Creek. After some discussion we decided our only choice was to survey from the Stream Team's bolts because they are two known elevations. We are pretty sure that Algae Ops' marks were obliterated by a rock slide. Our work went quickly, and when we were done we still had two hours of ground time left before our helo would be back to pick us up.

With our extra hours, we hiked the Defile, which is a narrow passage between the mountain and the moraine of the Seuss Glacier. It was beautiful to see the different levels of the glacier as it rolled back toward its source in the mountains and to eat a "glacier berry." (Glacier ice) You had to walk carefully because the rocks were unstable, and there were icy patches to slip on if you weren't watching for them, but the view of the valley from the Seuss Glacier to the Canada Glacier was breathtakingly spectacular. It was my last hike in the Taylor Valley, and as ready as I am to be back home, I'm sad to have to say good-bye to this beautiful, otherworldly place.

1. After the rock slide, there was a huge boulder on the cliff. This me pretending to hold it up.

2. This is me standing on the terminal end of the Seuss Glacier.

3. This is the narrow part of the Defile between the Seuss Glacier and the mountain.

4. Erin looking at Seuss Glacier.

5. Me standing in front of the terminal end of Seuss Glacier.

6. Looking from the Seuss Glacier, across Lake Chad toward the Canada Glacier.

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