New equipment to map the hidden distribution of groundwater and ice in the McMurdo Dry Valleys

From the National Science Foundation comes this story about new technology that can see through ice and permafrost to  discover hidden hydrologic features in the ground below.  Recently tested at the McMurdo Dry Valleys area of Antarctica, scientists were pleased with the results.  “In a matter of a few weeks, SkyTEM has revealed more about deep hydrological systems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys than what has been gleaned from a long series of heroic drilling and geophysical campaigns since the 1970s,” said Slawek Tulacyk of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Today I thought we might find out more about the McMurdo Dry Valleys in the usual way (5 facts from page 5 of the Google results.)

1. From the Daily Galaxy:  The McMurdo Dry Valleys are frigid and dry, with no spring snowmelt and no possibility of rain, but the sandy soils there show moist patches in the spring.  The salty soils actually suck moisture out of the air, allowing organic matter to grow.  It is possible the same process could take place on Mars or other planets.

2. According to the Antarctic Sun, a paper published by the McMurdo Station, a footprint can last for an amazing 50 years in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.

3. It’s pretty unusual to find a Wikipedia result on page 5, so I am including this list of 329 McMurdo Dry Valley pages.  Some of them are probably stubs, so get busy!

4. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, microorganisms colonize the pore spaces of exposed rocks and are thereby protected from the dry conditions outside according to a paper by de la Torre and others.

5. The website “Famous Wonders” asserts of the McMurdo Dry Valleys: “There are numerous tourist hot spots there where residents can give you an amazing tour around.”  And  “Did you know that the waters can actually be of great help to your skin ailments? The only problem is that you are in a rather extremely cold place. Don’t let it stop you since even in our countries where the weather dips below zero, submerging in the icy water actually provides many positive benefits to your body.”

Kinda makes you wonder what sort of pipe they were passing!



  1. Having been in an ice bath in Hungary, I can say it isn’t that bad. But I got to hop in a thermal spring directly afterwards (the Romans wouldn’t have approved), so perhaps it isn’t quite the same.

  2. I am not sure that page on the ice baths was even written by a human. M says they have pages on the Web that are automatically generated by computers when someone types a search term into Google. It’s a scam to get you to look at the ads. Good thing I have adblock installed!

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