The luck that I have had today with one of the most amazing experiences I could ever imagine becomming a reality for me has just been incredible - I put it down to my lucky red socks - they worked for Sir Peter Blake and his crew back in the Americas Cup challenge in 1995 and they definately worked for me today!
An unexpected opportunity arose for Jana and I to head into the Dry Valleys today with Kevin, one of the environmental scientists/engineers posted at McMurdo Station. A group of American environmental scientists involved with Antarctic work are in the process of proposing that an area within the Taylor Valley, known as Blood Falls, is raised from ASMA status to ASPA status. ASMA's are Antarctic specially managed areas whilst ASPA's are Antarctic specially protected areas. Whilst all areas in Antarctica are regarded as highly valuable and are treated with a high level of care, access to ASMA's and ASPA's is more strigent, and, for ASPA's, this means that a permit is required for entry. Kevin is working on the proposal at present and has come up with several suggestions regarding the extent of the proposed ASPA, however he was looking for a second opinion, which Jana could provide. Whilst I (unfortunately) had no knowledge to offer regarding the proposal, I was extremely fortunate that there was room in the helicopter for me, and the trip gave me a fantastic opportunity to see the broader environmental responsibilities that the environmental scientists, and all Antarctic researchers have. I was also very lucky to see, first hand, how the Americans and the Kiwis share logistics and collaborate together to ultimately reduce the overall 'footprint' on Antarctica while performing top science and minimising the effects to the environment. It was a fantastic trip for so many reasons and I feel extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity.
Having boarded the helicopter I was extremely excited, still not really believing what was happening .. sitting in that helicopter was a very surreal feeling!
All buckled up and ready to go
In the Taylor Valley, which is in the Dry Valley system. The terminus of the Taylor glacier towers above.
Jana and I with the stunning reflections behind us
Kevin and Jana - the US and NZ environmental advisors
Blood falls (a red-orange water fall, which is thought to be caused by an ancient source of sea water trapped under the glacier that is essentially rusting the iron-rich rocks on the valley floor)
The reflections were just incredible
Me in the Taylor Valley ...
... absorbing the majestic beauty ...
... while waiting for the helo.
Our transport had arrived
Stunning ice falls on the Canada Glacier
Our shadow on the valley floor
An ice berg surrounded by broken (and breaking!) sea ice
On the way back to McMurdo we not only got to travel along the shelf edge observing icebergs and the breaking sea ice, but we also saw the channel that the icebreaker has been preparing for the cargo ship, which is due any day now (the icebreaker was still in the channel too). Seals were lying all over the sea ice just chilling out and there were orca whales everywhere!! The orcas were gorgeous! Such a treat!
... AND ... to top off a superb day, a lecture from Sir David Attenborough at McMurdo Station. His voice is just as impressive and engaging in real life as it is in his documentaries!
A FANTASTIC DAY ALL ROUND!!!