Prince Charles Mountains reprise
Josh Scarrow flew over to Mawson from Davis earlier this month and will be joining us on the voyage back to Australia
Here is an extract from my blog/journal I have been compiling over the course of our expedition in the Prince Charles Mountains (PCMs), after two and a half weeks at Mount Menzies.
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Adrian and Fiona returned to camp with mites. It’s alive! Amongst melt streams at the face of a hanging glacier halfway up the valley, the geologist and soil scientist found the first reported invertebrates in the southern PCMs. Mites are less than a millimetre in size and quite difficult to spot. After the first discovery, we have found them at a number of different sites throughout the area, liquid water seeming to be the major determinant of mite presence.
Work at Accidental has gone very smoothly, with over 80 sites sampled and much valuable geomorphology and soil data/samples being collected alongside the biology work. The back of the valley is more than 6 km from camp and over 500 m higher, requiring at least two hours solid walking to get to these sites. In order to cut out a lot of walking time, and gain a headstart for the next day, Adrian, Fiona and I bivvied out one night near the back of the valley. Sleeping on a foam mat inside a nylon bivvy bag on the lee-ward side of a large granite boulder at 1000 m altitude, under the invisible stars. It was a surprisingly comfortable night and definitely saved a lot of time. That afternoon we made another exciting discovery; lithified bird poo! In the overhang of another large boulder Adrian found piles of rock-hard guano with visible feather fragments), which we assume is evidence of a past petrel nest. Samples were taken, with some moss found nearby, and since then two more such nests have been found. It will be interesting to see if we can get a date on the nests, as they were only found above the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum) boundary, and thus have the potential to be fairly old (post-LGM moraines in the valley have been dated at 20,000 years or younger). These finds coincide nicely with our repeated sightings of at least one pair of snow petrels flying round the cliffs at the mouth of the valley. Amazing to see them here, as we are still several hundred km from the coast; the only potential feeding grounds for these resilient little birds.