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Dry Valleys of Antarctica


"QUANTUM SHOT" #156
Link - article by Avi Abrams




Journey Through the Otherworldly Landscape

The Dry Valleys of Antarctica are located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound. This area gets almost no snowfall, and except for a few steep rocks this is the only continental part of Antarctica devoid of ice. The sculpted and shadowy terrain looks like something not of this Earth; some valleys' floors occasionally contain perennially frozen lakes with ice several meters thick. And under the ice, in the dark and extremely salty water live mysterious simple organisms, a subject of on-going research.


Victoria Valley, Wright Valley and Taylor Valley.










(images credit: Kevin Humphreys and Peter West, National Science Foundation)


Spectacular photography by George Steinmetz in the recent Washington Post interactive presentation, as well as photographic reports by Kevin Humphreys reveal this stark but beautiful terrain like never before - in some places weirdly similar to a Martian landscape...

This dried skeleton of a penguin looks like something out of Lovecraft's ("Mountains of Madness") imagination:


(image credit: Kevin Humphreys)


Strange colors of the Dry Valleys are revealed in the morning light:


(image credit: Kevin Humphreys)


Lake Vanda in Wright Valley features extremely salty water underneath thick layer of incredibly clear ice. The patterns of clear ice are uniformly fascinating throughout the Dry Valleys, for example around the edge of Lake Hoare:



(images credit: Kevin Humphreys)

More interesting ice patterns:


(images credit: Kevin Humphreys)


Powerful "katabatic" winds erode the rocks on the bottom of the Taylor Valley into marvelous shapes. Such wind-sculpted rocks are called "ventifacts":


(image credit: Kevin Humphreys)

Compare them with the Easter Island Statues:


(left image credit: George Steinmetz)


Another good article shows more wind-carved "ventifacts":


(photo by Kristan Hutchison)


Canada Glacier on the edge of Lake Fryxell:


(image credit: Joe Mastroianni)


Volcanic Fumaroles of Mount Erebus

Mount Erebus (3,794 meters), Ross Island, is the most active volcano in Antarctica, which also contains "persistent" lava lake, one of a very few long-lived lava lakes in the world - clearly visible from space:


(right image: lenticular clouds hover over Mount Erebus volcano; US Coast Guard photo)


Steaming ice "fumaroles" (volcanic gas vents) surround the crater, in time turning into surreal ice towers:


(photo courtesy of Rich Esser)


Blue light inside a fumarole turns it into a work of art:


(image credit: Paul Doherty)


Mount Erebus ice caves merit their own exploration:


(image credit: Jessie Crain)


Beautiful light and shades of color illuminate the valley, turning the already epic landscape into something even more worthy of exploration:


(Clouds rolling off of the Asgards, while the sun shines over Suess Glacier)


Lake Chad at base of the Suess Glacier, overlooked by the craggy Asgard Range:


(images credit: Kevin Humphreys)


Another fossilized skeleton making this place strangely sinister and fascinating at the same time:


(image credit: Kevin Humphreys)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.


CONTINUE TO "GHOST STATIONS OF ANTARCTICA"! ->

Also read the rest of our "AMAZING NATURE" series ->





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YOUR COMMENTS::

8 Comments:

Anonymous Afterthought said...

These are truly wonderful pictures...I hope that one day I'd be able to visit Antarctica as well! (if it doesn't melt ;))

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures. Although I believe that if that third picture down had been sent from one of the martian rovers, it would have been cited as evidence of extra-terrestrial life, does look like a face in profile, or is it just me ?

___  
Blogger Krellan said...

Beautiful photos. Is it just me, or does it seem like this valley would be an ideal place to practice a manned Mars mission? Very dry, desolate, isolated, and cold....

___  
Blogger Austin said...

If there is frozen water in Antartica then doesn't that mean that the contenient used to not be covered in ice. This means that "global warming" could be a natural thing but just being onset sooner due to human intervention?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! These pictures are amazing. They've completely captured my imagination for the last several days.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Austin,

The existence of frozen water would also occur if the contenient used to be covered in ice - that is what ice is.

Even if Antarctica was once iceless (indeed this was almost certainly the case in Pangea and Gondwana Land) that says nothing of what would happen to our modern costal cities if this were to happen again. The same applies to animals now (but not formerly) trapped on islands or low-lying land, unique speciation events in costal forrests, world heritage coastal sites, etc.

Nor does this prove, or even suggest, that humankind is not causing these changes this time around, as many would argue this SUDDEN rate of change (rather than the possible millenia in previous ages) suggests.

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Blogger Sean said...

The underwater lakes are a natural phenomenon. Most are buried under 2 miles of ice and are suspected to have microbial life forms that have been isolated from the rest of the planet for a very long time. Also NASA does test different designs down there. When I was there they asked if we could hop on a snow machine and ride 70 miles in the middle of winter to collect a big rolling ball that had hung up on the ice somewhere. We politely declined.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

left picture after "more interesting ice patterns" looks like some ancient drawings/writing I can't understand... amazing

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