Bull Pass

Trip Start Sep 30, 2008
Trip End Feb 17, 2009

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Monday, December 15, 2008

Aaron Says:
I have been very fortunate to be in the paint department this year! At some point last year it was decided by management that several of the field camp facilities would need to be repaired and re-painted this season. Viola! I was the lucky one chosen to head out to several of the field camps to do some painting and small repairs. Over the next few weeks in addition to my usual work around town I will get the chance to travel out to various deep field camps to complete these tasks. This week I got the chance to head out to the Dry Valleys - a very coveted place to visit!
The Dry Valleys are divided into two main geographical areas: The Wright Valley which lies between the Olympus and Asgard Mountain ranges and Taylor Valley which rests between the Asgard Mountains and the Kukri Hills.
I took a helo flight into Wright Valley to spend three days repairing and re-painting a small 8x12 hut located in Bull Pass. I was accompanied by Galin, a carpenter, which will makes us the only two people who will be out at Bull Pass! This was the first time either of us had been out to Bull Pass, which is one of the rare sights to visit due to its remote location. This was also my first time to set foot on the actual Antarctic continent, since I spent all of last season on Ross Island just off the coast.
My day began with hauling all of our food and supplies down to the helo hanger only to be told to "stand by" until the weather cleared. At about 12:30 pm the skies turned a beautiful blue and we climbed into the Bell 212 helicopter and took off across the frozen surface of the Ross Sea. We were accompanied by a cook catching a ride to another camp, Marble Point, which was on our way. After we dropped her off the helo began its flight into the mountains by passing directly over the Wright Lower Glacier, a massive field of ice with huge vertical face walls and deep crevasses. We gained elevation quickly and before we knew it we were landing on top of Mt. Newall, which has a remote hut and radio repeater. Galin and I climbed out of the helo and did a quickly looked for items that needed repair, checked on emergency food and fuel caches, and took pictures of the hut to bring back to the managers so they could decide whether painting would be needed in the future. We then climbed back into the helo and dropped down into the Wright Valley and after about ten minuets of fly time set down at the Bull Pass hut. Once everything was unloaded and the helicopter had taken off I finally got the chance to stop and absorb where I was.
One of the reasons that NASA and other scientists are so interested in the Dry Valley region is because it is earth's best environment to simulate the surface of the planet Mars. In every direction there is nothing but stones and sand, which at first look seems pretty dull. However when you stop and look closely at all of the geological formations and changes that occur in such a close proximity it is really amazing! In several areas we found stones called venifax, which are basalt rocks that the wind and sand have worn down into remarkable formations. We also saw fields of large granite blocks that has been warn smooth and shaped by the wind. It truly is an amazing area where very few humans have been!
Much of the time spent around the hut was similar to any basic camping trip. Instead of fussing with putting up a tent we decided to just sleep inside the 8x12 hut, which for perspective is the same size as a competition pool table!  But Galin is a great laid-back guy and sharing the space was never a problem. We also shared the same opinion as far as accomplishing the work; we figured it best to work hard the first few days so that we could have some time left to do some exploring. The first day the wind was howling so we worked on the tasks inside the hut. Then that night around 11:00 pm the wind suddenly stopped, so we rushed outside and painted the first coat on the exterior of the hut. We finished the painting and finally headed to bed around 3:00 am! We woke up around 8:00 am and Galin made our safety call back to town before he started to finish the carpentry work while I applied the second coat of paint to the hut and out-house. We finally finished all of the projects around 2:00 pm and took a brief nap before cooking dinner and heading out for a short hike. We spent several hours wandering around looking at all of the unique rocks and formations before heading back to the hut to get some sleep.
We woke up the next morning, packed all of our gear, and made it ready to load on the helo. After a nice hot breakfast we took another short hike to do a bit more exploring before heading out. We got back to the hut we made sure we had all of our gear ready and set it outside the hut so we could paint a quick coat on the inside floor to complete the project. We had some time before the helo would arrive to pick us up so we decided to lay down outside in the sun with the hut shielding us from the wind and take a little nap while we waited. 
The flight back to McMurdo was absolutely breathtaking! The clouds that had hidden the mountains on the flight out were gone and we had unlimited visibility. We passed over the Asgard Mountains and Taylor Valley where we saw several more glaciers, and then we flew over the frozen Ross Sea and back to McMurdo. This was an amazing trip!  Definitely one of the most unique experiences that I've ever had!
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