A helicopter is the ultimate tool for geologists; it provides access to the inaccessible and views from the sky where the landscape can be seen on a tectonic scale (almost). We were fortunate to commandeer the use of a Bell 212 helicopter—a twin-engine Huey—from McMurdo with a bright red and blue NSF paint job.
First stop: Buntley Bluff on the Mulock Glacier. On the third flyby of the 1500 ft looming cliffs, the pilot finally spotted a small flat patch. Over the intercom we hear, “Might be able to set down there…heavily crevassed… need to watch for rocks falling from above…overhanging serac of snow above us…not much room to manoeuvre…lets do a compaction test…” The skids of the helicopter bounced several times on the surface without it caving in, so we were ushered out. I wielded the hammer, Graham and Sophie the notebook and GPS. We stormed up to the cliff, whacking off samples and taking some notes before returning to the aircraft. Off to the next stop.
Hopping our way back to camp in great helo leaps, we kept our eyes pealed for dark lamprophyre intrusions. Approaching our final destination, we finally spotted a lamprophyre running across the top of a mountain ridge. Sophie had to be refrained from jumping out of her seat in excitement so we asked the pilot to land us there. After a few circles, we had to abandon the idea of landing, but managed traced the dark strip of rock across the mountain, collecting a sample of the host rock at the base of the slope.
The next morning at 5:00 am, I was hearing helicopter rotors in my sleep. Then I realized I was awake and that the sound was real. Except it wasn’t a helicopter…it was the snowmobile. I bundled up and crawled into the morning wind to investigate. All the tents were closed tight and everyone was asleep. Why was the snowmobile running? Who turned it on? I woke the others and we have yet to solve the mystery. Strange things happen in the land of the midnight sun.