Dry Valleys of Antarctica

Journey Through the Otherworldly Landscape

The Dry Valleys of Antarctica (located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound) get almost no snowfall, and except for a few steep rocks they are the only continental part of Antarctica devoid of ice. The terrain looks like something not of this Earth; the valley floor occasionally contains a perennially frozen lake with ice several meters thick. Under the ice, in the extremely salty water live mysterious simple organisms, a subject of on-going research.

Victoria Valley, Wright Valley and Taylor Valley.

Image credit: Peter West, National Science Foundation

Recent Washington Post interactive presentation
(featuring photography by George Steinmetz) reveals this stark but beautiful terrain like never before - in some places weirdly similar to Martian landscape:

Looking like something out of Lovecraft's ("Mountains of Madness") imagination, this is actually a dried skeleton of a seal.

Lake Vanda in Wright Valley, with extremely salty water underneath thick layer of incredibly clear ice:

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

Photos by George Steinmetz

Compare the above image with Easter Island Statues:

(thanks to m3ch for pointing this out)

For more images from this series, click here

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

Photo by Kristan Hutchison

Canada Glacier on the edge of Lake Fryxell:

Photo by Joe Mastroianni

Volcanic Fumaroles of Mount Erebus

Lenticular clouds hover over Mount Erebus volcano (US Coast Guard photo)

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:

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

Photo courtesy of Rich Esser

Photo by George Steinmetz

See more of ice fumaroles here

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

Photo by Paul Doherty

Mount Erebus ice caves merit their own exploration: (see more here)

Photo by Jessie Crain

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