Another very important Field Training exercise was – safe travel in the field, especially the Vestfold Hills. The first part of this training was to fly to Trajer Ridge which is around 21km east of Davis Station
One of the most exciting things to do in Antarctica is to get a flight in a helicopter.
When taking a helicopter flight from Davis – We bring our survival pack and other cargo to the Heli-hut. This is the “arrival/departure lounge” at Davis. It is made up out of four containers that have been fitted out. This building was at Davis when I was at this station in the summer of 2005/06. Inside you will find drawings and the names of many of the expeditioners that have passed through this wonderful station.
The following is a short video – departing Davis for Trajer Ridge.
The flight route – departed Davis to East-Northeast following a string of lakes – Dingle Lake, Lake Stinear and then across Deep Lake.
Deep Lake is a hypersaline lake which is 27% salt, making it 10 times saltier then the ocean. Because of its salt content it never freezes, even when the temperature of the air above drops to -30℃ to -40℃ (-22℉ to -40℉). The surface temperature of the lake can drop to -20℃ in winter. Surprisingly the lake harbours a unique flora of salt-loving Archaea that survive at temperatures way below freezing.
After Deep Lake we proceeded east towards the Plateau and Trajer Ridge.
We passed over Trajer Ridge and the snow filled narrow valley to the south of the ridge. We then flew a tight curve around a high (124 metres above sea level) hill to approach the Trajer Melon (refuge) across Pauk Lake.
The following is video of the approach to Trajer Melon (refuge)
After landing on the snow, we crouched down with our packs just in front of the helicopter. After the helicopter disappeared to the west, we gathered our packs and decided to go to the hut and have some lunch. We got to the rapidly moving melt stream just below the hut. From our side it looked as though the stream was to wide.
Our FTO, Nick, decided we would go for a walk, carrying our survival pack up the high hill just the west then approach the hut from the slope.
The Vestfold Hills is home to many snow petrels. Where there are snow petrels there are also Antarctic skuas. Snow petrels are hunted by the skuas, so all through the hills you will find body parts and bones of the victims. In many cases all you find of the petrels is their wings.
After descending the gentler eastern slope of the hill we finally made it to the Trajer Melon. We stopped here for lunch and a cup of tea.
The Trajer Melon was removed and replaced by a newer larger structure during the summer. We were some of the last expeditioners to take advantage of its comforts.
After lunch we packed up and left Trajer Ridge Melon. This time we successfully crossed the snow melt rapids.
After safely crossing the melt stream we set off to the west on the next part of our field training.
This will feature in the next post…..