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Taylor's Valley: What the history of Antarctica's 'heroic era' can contribute to contemporary ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.


With a particular focus on ecosystem response to climate change, this paper investigates how a study of Griffith Taylor's 1911 expedition into the McMurdo Dry Valleys in East Antarctica might contribute to contemporary ecological research in the region. As the location of a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, the McMurdo Dry Valleys offer an excellent location for thinking about the integration of history and ecology. Following a brief description of the environment of this uniquely ice-free region of Antarctica as it is understood today, this paper presents a three-dimensional model for using historical research to contribute to ecological research. The paper then follows this model to examine what the Taylor expedition did in the Dry Valleys, how its participants sought to make sense of the environment and what the environment was like one hundred years ago. Significant lake-level rise in the McMurdo Dry Valleys since the Taylor expedition suggests quite dramatic environmental change over the course of the twentieth century. The conclusion suggests that a model for integrating history and ecology in the McMurdo Dry Valleys might productively be applied to other parts of the world with more complex ecosystems and much longer human histories.


Antarctica, history and ecology, historical methods


On 18 December 1903, the British polar explorers Robert Falcon Scott. William Lashly and Edgar Evans were on their way back to the coast from the East Antarctic ice sheet when they stumbled across what Scott described as a 'curious valley'. (1) In stark contrast to the surrounding landscape, this valley was largely free from snow and ice. Leaving their sledges behind for a few hours, the three men wandered around this valley, amazed by its other-worldly environment. Small streams carried meltwater from the surrounding alpine glaciers into ice-covered lakes, the valley floor was strewn with moraines and the sandy soils formed strange hexagonal patterns. 'It is worthy of record', wrote Scott, 'that we have seen no living thing, not even a moss or a lichen; all that we did find, far inland amongst the moraine heaps, was the skeleton of a Weddell seal, and how that came there is beyond guessing. It is certainly a valley of the dead; even the great glacier which once pushed through it has withered away.' (2) More prosaically, William Lashly commented that this would be 'a splendid place for growing spuds.' (3)

The journey into what is today known as the Taylor Valley in the McMurdo Dry Valleys took place at the very end of Captain Scott's first expedition to Antarctica on board the Discovery. This expedition was part of the so-called 'heroic era' of Antarctic exploration, which lasted approximately from 1895-1917 and witnessed an unprecedented level of exploratory activity across the Antarctic continent. Although the term 'heroic era' was only used after the event, it neatly characterises the spirit of an age that culminated in the famous race to the South Pole between the Captain Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911-1912. (4) This race ended in Norwegian triumph and British tragedy, with the deaths of Scott and his four companions, including Edgar Evans, on the way back from arriving second at the South Pole. (5) In an effort to explain the defeat of their hero, many in Great Britain argued that Scott's expedition had been doing good science in contrast to Amundsen's 'dash to the pole'. (6) In the years that followed a debate has simmered about the scientific content of heroic age expeditions. Some have seen science simply as a pretext for adventure, while others--such as Edward Larsen's An Empire of Ice (2011) --have defended the heroic era's scientific contribution. (7)

Rather than engaging in the debate about the scientific merits of the heroic era, this paper sets out to address a different question: is there anything that the history of this period can contribute to contemporary scientific research in Antarctica? In particular, how can the observations, sketches, photos and maps left by heroic explorers serve as a baseline for thinking about environmental change over time? In order to address this question, the paper will focus on the first expedition to spend a significant amount of time in Captain Scott's 'curious valley' during the first week of February 1911. The leader of this expedition was the young Australian geologist Griffith Taylor, who was accompanied by Frank Debenham, Charles Wright and Edgar Evans. Although Evans would never return from the expedition to the South Pole, Taylor, Debenham, and Wright all went on to enjoy distinguished--if somewhat controversial in the case of Taylor's subsequent environmental determinism--academic careers. (8) Not lacking in confidence, Taylor would do everything he could in the years that followed to make sure the Dry Valley and the glacier that flowed into it took his name.

This paper suggests not only that historical research has much to contribute to contemporary scientific research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, but also that the integration of history and ecology in this unique region of Antarctica can provide a model for similar projects in other parts of the world. The McMurdo Dry Valleys offer both simplified ecosystems and a relatively simple human history, which make this an excellent place for asking both theoretical and methodological questions about the use of historical research in contemporary ecology. Through the presence of a National Science Foundation-funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, the McMurdo dry valleys have an active ecological research programme that has been ongoing for over twenty years, and which is linked to a network of other sites in the United States and throughout the world. (9) Taylor's Western Sledge Journey would be the only expedition to investigate the Taylor Valley environment in any detail until the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-1958. As such it provides a unique snapshot of the environmental conditions that existed one hundred years ago.

The paper begins with a with a brief overview of the way the McMurdo Dry Valleys are understood today, in order to provide a context for thinking about what an investigation of the Taylor expedition might contribute to contemporary ecological research. It then describes the theoretical framework utilised by this project for integrating environmental history into ecological research, based on a three-dimensional model of human activity, human perceptions and the material environment. The rest of the paper utilises the model to think in turn about what the Taylor expedition did in the Dry Valleys, how they understood the region and what can be learned about the nature of the environment one hundred years ago. Focusing on meteorology, glaciers, lakes, streams and soils, this paper considers what has changed over the past century, and how an awareness of these changes might contribute to contemporary ecological research in the region, especially through the work of the McMurdo Dry Valley LTER site and its focus on ecosystem response to climate change. The conclusion will briefly consider the transferability of this case study to other parts of the world.


In order to understand how history can contribute to contemporary ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, it is necessary to know something about the current understanding of the environment and the scientific questions that are being asked. As one of the largest predominantly ice-free regions anywhere on the southern continent, the McMurdo Dry Valleys have become a major focus for Antarctic ecological research, mostly conducted by scientists from New Zealand and the United States. Investigation of the microscopic ecosystems of Taylor Valley has taken place since the International Geophysical Year of the late 1950s. (10) Since 1993, the McMurdo Dry Valleys have been the site of a LTER project (Figure 1). This is part of a nation-wide network of 25 sites, mostly in the continental United States, but with two in Antarctica, which have been monitoring and investigating ecosystems since the beginning of the 1980s. (11) As the coldest, driest desert on the planet, the McMurdo Dry Valleys are very much an 'end member ecosystem' within the LTER network. (12)

The landscape of the McMurdo Dry Valleys has been described as a 'mosaic of interconnected features'. (13) For six to eight weeks during the peak of summer in most years, solar radiation generates glacial meltwater, which flows into streams and into perennially ice-covered lakes, in the process providing liquid water to the nearby soils. Despite Captain Scott's belief that there was nothing living in the valley, a number of microbial organisms inhabit the soils, lakes, streams and cryoconite holes on the glaciers, the largest of which are nematodes, rotifers and tardigrades. As a result of the interconnections between the various landscape components, an understanding of the microscopic ecosystems of the McMurdo Dry Valleys requires a 'whole-system' approach that entails collaboration between ecologists, limnologists, stream hydrologists, glaciologists, atmospheric scientists and others (Figure 2). Although the interactions between the various parts of the system rapidly become highly complex, the relative simplicity of polar ecosystems such as the Dry Valleys makes the region an excellent place for developing ecological theory and understanding environmental change overtime. (14)

The McMurdo Dry Valleys cover an area of roughly 4,500 km (2) of largely ice-free terrain separated into a number of individual valleys, of which the Taylor Valley is one of the largest. (15) While there is still some debate over how the Dry Valleys were formed, it is clear they are the result of a number of glaciological events superimposed on each other. The topography of the region provides one of the two major reasons why the McMurdo Dry Valleys are kept largely free of ice and snow. Along this part of the Antarctic coast, the trans-Antarctic Mountains largely block the East Antarctic Ice Sheet--the largest mass of ice anywhere in the world--from reaching the sea. Rather than being overwhelmed by continental ice, the McMurdo Dry Valley system is mostly influenced by smaller alpine glaciers formed in the surrounding hills. These alpine glaciers are typical of the polar regions, with cold bottoms anchoring them to the underlying rock, resulting in very slow rates of movement. For a few weeks in summer, however, higher temperatures and solar radiation cause melting along the faces and on the surfaces of these glaciers, which provides liquid water to the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Windblown debris on top of glaciers known as cryoconite amplifies melting and can contain organic material that can form simple ecosystems in cryoconite holes on the glacial surface. (16)

Along with the topography of the region, the second major factor that keeps the McMurdo Dry Valleys largely free of snow and ice is the fact that ablation exceeds precipitation throughout the year. On average less than ten centimetres of snow falls in the Dry Valleys every year, mostly in winter. In most places this snow is immediately lost to sublimation aided by the strong fohn winds that blow relatively warm, dry air through the valleys. (17) In some parts of the McMurdo Dry Valleys drifting snow creates snow patches, which may persist into the summer and contribute moisture to the surrounding soils, but these are negligible in relation to the surface area as a whole. The average annual temperature in the Dry Valleys is -20[degrees]C, but there are significant differences between summer and winter with the lower albedo rates of bare soils causing the McMurdo Dry Valleys to be around 6[degrees]C warmer in summer and 6[degrees]C colder in winter than the surrounding ice-covered regions. During the 24-hour sunlight of the Antarctic summer there is abundant solar radiation in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Not only does this sunlight help to create liquid water by melting glacier ice, but it also provides the region's ecosystems with energy for primary production. As a result of its unique landscape, the McMurdo Dry Valleys is one of the few parts of the Antarctic continent where there is a positive energy balance over the course of a year.

As meltwater flows off glaciers it moves downhill through distinct stream channels. For a few weeks each year, these meltwater streams create somewhat unexpected features in the frozen landscape. Captain Scott described eating a very cheery lunch next to a 'merry little stream gurgling over the pebbles at our feet'. (18) Streamflow is variable throughout the day and over the course of the summer season, driven largely by the angle of solar radiation on the glacier face and surface. In some seasons some or all of the streams may not flow at all. Building on earlier work of the United States Geological Survey, New Zealand Antarctic researchers, and others, a major contribution of the LTER site is to monitor stream flow throughout the season every year, building an important record that can serve as a proxy for climate change over time. Rather than being purely abiotic systems, stream channels are inhabited by a variety of different coloured microbial mats. (19) These mats survive the winter in a desiccated state, rehydrating and returning to life at the first sign of liquid water. Microbial mats provide important functions in the streams, changing the geochemistry and producing organic material. Microscopic diatoms living in the mats have been connected to stream hydrography and chemistry, and can be washed away during high-flow years. (20)

Fed by glacial meltwater, both directly from glaciers and indirectly through streams, many of the valley floors in the McMurdo Dry Valleys are filled with perennially ice-covered lakes. (21) In the Taylor Valley there are three major lakes --Lake Bonney, Lake Hoare (which connects to Lake Chad) and Lake Fryxell --all of which are closed-basin lakes with no outlet. As the only part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys with liquid water throughout the year, the lakes are the most ecologically productive part of the system. The ice-cover helps to create unusually stable conditions in the lake, which results in the water columns being highly stratified. Despite these advantages, the microscopic organisms living in the lakes face a number of challenges. In winter, there is no sunlight to provide energy for primary production; in summer, solar radiation is attenuated by the average of three to five metres of lake ice. (22) In addition to this dimly lit environment, there are some limitations on nutrients, which vary between lake basins.

Until fairly recently the alluvial soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys were dismissed as 'sands' with little or no biological material. Over the past twenty or thirty years, however, researchers have shown that around 65 per cent of the region's soils contain some form of biological life, often in the form of the endemic Scottnema lindsayae nematode. (23) Since life in the soils requires liquid water, nutrients and food, soil ecosystems provide valuable clues about the geological history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Much of the food and many of the nutrients required to support soil populations are thought to be legacies of higher lake levels in the geological past. The sensitivity of the soil organisms to environmental change also makes study of the soils an excellent way of predicting the ecological consequences of future change. (24)

Responding to contemporary concern over anthropogenic climate change, the relative simplicity of the McMurdo Dry Valleys environment as a whole offers an excellent location for thinking about the ecosystem response to climate change. (25) The central hypothesis of the current MCM LTER grant is that 'climate warming in the McMurdo Dry Valley ecosystem will amplify connectivity among landscape units leading to enhanced coupling of nutrient cycles across landscapes, and increased biodiversity and productivity within the ecosystem'. (26) Recent research in atmospheric science suggests that most of East Antarctica has so far been protected from increasing temperatures by the hole in the ozone layer intensifying the circumpolar vortex and reducing the warm air from lower latitudes that reaches this part of the continent. (27) Interestingly, while data collected in the 1990s appeared to reveal reduced connectivity in response to a decadal cooling trend, more recent monitoring has suggested a more complex scenario following a major flood event during the 2001/2002 season, which saw glacial melt, stream flow and lake level rise all increase dramatically. Since then, pulse events, solar radiation and the position of the ozone hole, rather than temperature alone, are thought to explain continued high flows and lake level rise. The explicit focus on change over time in this hypothesis lends itself neatly to the integration of historical research. A study of the heroic era from the early twentieth century, in particular, holds out the possibility of extending the record back in time and thinking about questions of connectivity and climate warming over a one hundred year period.


Ecology is fundamentally a historical discipline and, in different ways and at different times, a number of historians and ecologists have sought to integrate insights from their two disciplines. The discipline of historical ecology, in particular, has focused on these connections, and important works include Emily Russel's People and the Land Through Time (1997) and David Foster and John Aber's Forests in Time (2004). (28) More broadly, there are a number of examples of historical research being used in other scientific discussions, such as climate change, which can offer insights into historical-ecological integration. (29) Increased specialisation and academic compartmentalisation, however, often function to limit productive collaboration, and there are significant differences in the way ecologists and historians do their work. This is highlighted by the separation between the fields of historical ecology and environmental history. As the important questions change in both disciplines, older methods of collaboration may become redundant at the same time as new opportunities present themselves. In order to adapt to these new opportunities, there is a strong case that more could be done to think explicitly about the theoretical framework for integrating history and ecology.

In a similar way to that in which the relative simplicity of the Dry Valleys ecosystems offers a useful place for developing ecological theory, a case could be made that the relative simplicity of the region's human history makes it a good location to think about a theoretical framework for integrating history and ecology. This paper utilises a three dimensional model for 'doing environmental history' adapted from the ideas of Donald Worster, Frank McEvoy and others, that looks at human activity, environmental perceptions, and the material environment over time (Figure 3a). (30) Within this model there is constant change and constant interaction, with each element continually influencing the others. The way people think about the environment shapes their actions, and their actions shape the way they think; human activities both change the material environment and are constrained by it; ideas about environmental realities are never entirely objective, but neither completely detached. Not only does this model offer a way of integrating the environment into human history without become deterministic, but it also offers a useful framework for thinking about theoretical questions within a field that is often seen as under-theorized. (31)

For the purposes of this paper, the central question is how the model can be adapted to think about the contribution of history to ecological research. One way of doing this might be to place two environmental history triangles next to each other: one for contemporary research in general, the other for historical activity (Figure 3b). The most important question for contributing to ecological research in the present is what the environment was like a hundred years ago, which provides insights into environmental change over time. The key relationship therefore is between contemporary environmental understanding and the past material environment. But there is no reason why a contemporary study into environmental impact, for example, might not be most interested in past human activity, or why there might not be interest in the theories used by scientists in the past to understand the landscapes they were exploring. A fundamental assumption with the three dimensional approach to environmental history is that in order to understand any part of the triangle it is necessary to attempt to understand all three parts and the interactions between them. To get a sense of what the Dry Valley environment was like a hundred years ago, it is important to study what the explorers were doing in the region and to consider how they were trying to make sense of the environment.

To add another layer of complexity to this picture, it can be helpful to step back and view the process of historical research itself through a similar lens. This might be represented by putting an additional 'historical research' triangle between the past and present triangles on the diagram (Figure 3c). What are the intellectual assumptions we bring to our research? What does the process of research involve? And, especially if we do go to the places we study, how do they influence us, and how do we influence them? (32) Any attempt to think in this way about our own work is obviously difficult. Within this model there are two ways in which historians might contribute to contemporary ecological research. The first is to start with the historical research, and see what questions it raises. This inductive approach is not unlike the first groups of scientists who went into the Dry Valleys 'to see what they could find.' (33) The second approach might be characterized as a more deductive hypothesis driven method, to start with the questions being raised by scientists, and then ask what an understanding of the history might contribute to answering these questions. A combination of both is almost certainly most productive.

Any attempt to make a historical contribution to contemporary ecological research needs to be aware that historical research is only one activity among many that contribute to our understanding of the environment. On the diagram this might be represented as multiple arrows feeding into our present understanding of the environment, each with their own triangle of perceptions, activities, and environment (Figure 3d). In the case of the McMurdo Dry Valleys these other activities ranging from long-term monitoring activities to state of the art metagenomics. Within these multiple activities there is a hierarchy of relative importance, with long-term data sets very much at the top. Implicit in this hierarchy are debates over what constitutes legitimate 'data.' Since historical research is somewhat new to this sort of research, at least in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, it is perhaps no surprise that questions may be raised over the legitimacy of historical data, since it often lacks the precision and repeatability of scientific measurements. From the other perspective, the very word 'data' often grates with historians' sensibilities, and there can be some resentment at being seen as mere 'data gatherers'. Rather than seeing these methodological and vocabulary differences as insurmountable problems, however, it is probably best just to be aware of the issues they raise and move on with the research.

As the diagrams demonstrate, what initially looks like a relatively simple model quickly becomes very complex. In many examples from different parts of the world, the complexity may quickly become overwhelming. In such cases it is very possible (and certainly easiest) for the fields of history and ecology to co-exist without a great deal of interaction, with history focusing on questions of how people think and act and ecology focusing on environmental change. But there is clearly a need to integrate all of these elements into an understanding of change over time. While the three dimensional model put forward by this paper might usefully be applied in other more complex situations around the world, in terms of developing and critiquing a model there are clearly advantages to working with a relatively simple history in a relatively simple ecosystem. The history of Taylor's Valley offers an end-member history to accompany an end-member ecology and, in thinking about the theoretical integration of history and ecology, there is definitely an advantage in thinking about how one historical expedition, which left a rich but not unmanageable record, can contribute to a scientific project with a clearly defined research agenda, especially since this was the only significant exploration of the region before the late-1950s.


Following the expedition of Captain Scott into 'Dry Valley' in December 1903, Ernest Shackleton, another famous British polar adventurer, was keen to explore this region during his 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition to Antarctica, based at Cape Royds on Ross Island. Considering a thorough investigation of Dry Valley to be of 'supreme importance', Shackleton gave instructions for the geologist Douglas Mawson to spend at least two weeks prospecting for minerals of economic value on the return journey from the South Magnetic Pole. (34) In the event, the Magnetic Pole expedition was delayed by difficult conditions and never returned along the McMurdo Sound coast, being picked up further to the north. The young geologist Raymond Priestly had instructions to wait for David's party around Butter Point before joining the exploration of Dry Valley. While he was waiting he spent a couple of days exploring the very bottom of what is now Taylor Valley, but his instructions prevented him from going more than three of four miles up the valley. (35)

The failure of Shackleton's Nimrod expedition to conduct a thorough exploration of the Dry Valley region encouraged Captain Scott to follow up on his earlier reconnaissance by sending an expedition to the west coast of McMurdo Sound during the first few months of his second Antarctic expedition on board the Terra Nova. Scott's original plan was to make the photographer Herbert Ponting the leader of this Western Sledging Party, but the geologist Griffith Taylor was able to convince him that a scientist should take charge of what was essentially a scientific expedition. Taylor was thirty years old at the beginning of the expedition, and had gained a reputation during the ocean voyage south as something of an opinionated contrarian. But his scientific training in Australia under Edgeworth David, natural curiosity and talent for sketching and describing the natural world gave him the foundations for being an excellent scientist. (36)

Along with Seaman Evans, Taylor's companions on the Western Sledge Journey were Frank Debenham and Charles Wright. Debenham was another Australian geologist with a B.Sc. from the University of Sydney. Wright was a glaciologist from Canada, with scientific training at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. In general the party seemed to get along well throughout the journey, and there are frequent references to story telling and singing in the expedition diaries. (37) Evans was especially jovial, keeping his scientific companions entertained with stories from his youth and naval career. He was, however, frequently treated differently as a member of a lower social class and would be largely excluded from scientific accounts of the expedition. (38) There were occasional tensions between Taylor and Debenham, with the latter noting in a letter to his mother shortly before the Western Sledge journey:

Griff is not getting on too well, in fact, I think he is the only man
who is not one of the party so to speak. He is rather selfish in small
matters and his few ungentlemanly habits rather jar on the collection
of real gentlemen we have here. (39)

But this generally does not seem to have got in the way of a productive working relationship, and the two geologists appeared to enjoy each other's company.

Early in 1911, shortly after arriving in Antarctica, the Western Sledge Journey crossed McMurdo Sound by ship and began their expedition at Butter Point, where supplies had been left for Edgeworth David's magnetic pole party. (40) From there the four men walked up the Ferrar Glacier before heading down what was then referred to as the North Fork of the Ferrar Glacier towards Scott's Dry Valley. Despite travelling with Evans who had already entered the ice-free region seven years earlier with Captain Scott, Taylor still noted his surprise at the contrast between the exposed rocks of the valley and the surrounding ice. The party camped at an alcove in the ice at the bottom of the glacier. Taylor, Wright and Debenham then spent two days exploring the area around the snout of the glacier, fascinated by the interaction of rock, ice, and water.

On 4 February, the party set out down the valley, initially tracing the route taken by Captain Scott. Since there was no snow on the valley floor, the party had to leave behind their sledges with most of their supplies, including cookers. Unfortunately for the historical record, in an attempt to save on weight Taylor depoted his camera next to the Reigel in Lake Bonney and, although Debenham did take his camera, he only took six plates with him. (41) After a long walk the four men set up camp on the shore of Lake Chad (which was then largely separate from the neighbouring lake, which would be named Lake Hoare) a little further down the valley than Scott had reached. From there, the four members of the expedition spread out to explore different parts the valleys. On the following day, Taylor and Evans made a long trip to the very end of the valley close to New Harbour. Wright spent most of his time exploring the Suess Glacier. Debenham collected rocks, largely unimpeded by the presence of snow and ice. On 7 February the party headed back to the newly renamed Taylor Glacier. In total, the Western Sledge journey spent almost seven days exploring Scott's 'curious valley', and Evans believed this was the longest any Antarctic sledging party had gone without hot food. The expedition continued back down the Ferrar Glacier, and then spent a number of days exploring the Koettlitz Glacier region before heading back to Hut Point and then on to the expedition hut at Cape Evans.

Throughout their time in Dry Valley, Taylor, Debenham and Wright made detailed notes, sketched maps and diagrams and took photographs. They also collected rock samples and looked for fossils. On the evening of Monday 6 February, Taylor and Debenham prospected for gold in the waters of Lake Chad using a gold pan that had been purchased in New Zealand. (42) Nothing of any value was found and the gold pan was simply left on a rock (creating a fascinating 'what if gold had been found?' counterfactual for the history of the Dry Valleys, and the Antarctic continent more generally). In an effort to produce the first detailed maps of the region, several trigometric surveys were made. Especially important for this work were surveys made from the tops of hills, which could then connect the Dry Valley to the wider geography. They also kept daily reports of the weather conditions they encountered, although temperatures were so high at one or two degrees Celsius above freezing that they believed their thermometer had broken. (43)

In his report to Captain Scott following the Western journey, Taylor made a sustained case that the North Fork of the Ferrar Glacier was in fact a separate glacier, and should in fact be renamed the Taylor Glacier, and by extension 'Dry Valley' should be known as Taylor Valley. (44) As a result of the death of Captain Scott and his companions on the way back from the pole, the re-naming process was not quite as simple as having the expedition leader officially submit a revised list of place names. Taylor therefore had to exert a considerable amount of effort the years that followed in getting his name for the glacier and valley recognised. This campaign resulted in a sometimes quite bitter dispute with Hartley Ferrar, the geologist from Scott's first expedition, who was reluctant to see his own name removed from any part of the Antarctic map. (45) But Taylor's persistence was ultimately successful and by the next time anyone entered the region as part of the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58. the valley that had first been systematically explored by Taylor and his companions was widely known as Taylor Valley.


Throughout the Western Sledge Journey, Taylor, Debenham and Wright sought to describe the environment they were travelling through and explain how it was formed and how it functioned. These early attempts to understand the region offer fascinating insights not only into the nature of Antarctic science during the heroic age, but also into the fields of geology, glaciology and geomorphology more broadly as they existed in the early twentieth century. (46) While such insights are not central to the question of what the early history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys might contribute to contemporary ecological research, they might offer different perspectives on familiar questions, with the potential for stimulating debate. It is also important to know something about the scientific thinking in order to 'read through' their accounts to learn about what the environment was like one hundred years ago.

Of the three scientists, Taylor's interest in geomorphology has most overlap with the contemporary ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys since it dealt with change over time, connections between different landscape units and the question of environmental legacy. Upon his return to Australia, Taylor wrote a doctoral dissertation at the University of Sydney based upon his Antarctic research. This was later published in 1922 with support from the Scott memorial fund as The Physiography of the McMurdo Sound and Granite Harbour Region. (47) Taylor sought to use his Antarctic experience to investigate the differentiation of erosion by ice from erosion by running water. The English School of geomorphologists active at the time led by E.J. Garwood and T.G. Bonney, favoured ice plus water as agents of erosion, while the Advanced American School under W.M. Davis suggested that ice alone was the chief agent in the sculpture of glaciated regions. His Antarctic experiences suggested to Taylor that water had an important role to play:

It may be thought that my adherence is given to the views of Professor
Garwood, who advocates the Protective-glacier Theory. This is to some
extent true, but I find myself most in accord with the later views of
Hobbs, Chamberlain, and other American glaciologists. I had
independently come to conclusions much the same as those recently
published by Chamberlain, and I hope that the present evidence will
strengthen the theories of those who may be termed the
'Thaw-and-Freeze' School of Glaciologists. (48)

Antarctica offered Taylor a landscape in which he could observe glaciation in action. His focus on the importance of water suggests that it was a summer warm enough to produce a fair amount of glacial melt, which would be an important fact for thinking about the climatic conditions experienced by the Western Sledge journey.

It is tempting to judge the scientific output of the Western Sledge Journey based on a contemporary scientific understanding of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. In surmising a combination of low precipitation and obstructive topography, Taylor was largely correct about why the Dry Valleys were free of snow and ice. He was also correct in his belief that the landscape had been formed by multiple glaciations both up and down the valley. However, he was incorrect in a number of other observations. He believed, for example, that the red colour of the ice on a section of the snout of the Taylor Glacier to be caused by algae, when it is now thought to be caused by the chemical composition of the underlying rocks and water. (49) Such assessments of the value of heroic era science based on what we know now have relatively little worth. Taylor and his companions were all talented scientists, and the fact that they got some things 'right' and other things 'wrong' is hardly surprising. Rather than engaging with the debate about the scientific value of the heroic era, the primary purpose of this paper is to use the historical sources to learn about the Dry Valley environment in 1911, and then to use this data to inform contemporary ecological research.


In order to get a sense of what the Dry Valley environment was like one hundred years ago, it is often necessary to read between the lines of early descriptions of the environment. While the attempts made by Taylor, Debenham and Wright to explain the environment are fascinating from a history of science perspective, they are not necessarily helpful in understanding exactly what the explorers were seeing. Taylor's desire to have Taylor Glacier named in his honour, for example, may have led him to overstate the discontinuities between the main Ferrar Glacier and what was until then known as the North Fork of the Ferrar Glacier. Any attempt to understand the 1911 Dry Valley environment must take into account the conditions faced by the explorers and the preliminary nature of the work. Sketch maps and pictures were often rushed and the wind was sometimes too strong for surveying work to be conducted from ideal locations. Occasional bad moods, personality clashes and fatigue undoubtedly had some impact on the records. On his journey with Evans to the Wales Glacier at the bottom of the Valley, for example, Taylor complained bitterly of broken shoes and sore feet. (50) Photographs offer some of the most obviously 'scientific' data from this first journey through the Taylor Valley, but they only carried a total of six photographic plates beyond the Bonney Riegel. (51) In contrast to collections made on Ross Island, no samples of biological significance were taken from the Dry Valleys, resulting in severe limitations on what can be known about the composition of ecosystems of 1911. (52) The historical record therefore needs to be approached with some caution, and not everything can be accepted at face value.

Despite the limitations, historical data can offer a valuable snapshot of what the environment was like one hundred years ago, and consequently a useful perspective from which to think about change over time. The value of historical data--especially repeat photography--has been recognised as an important tool in understanding change over time in the McMurdo Dry Valleys since the early 1960s, especially in relation to lake levels and glacier movement. (53) But there is significant potential for more work to be done, especially as the scientific questions being asked continue to evolve. Utilising the theoretical framework described above, this section looks in turn at lake levels, meteorology, glaciers, lakes, streams and soils, to ask what historical research might contribute to contemporary ecological research.

The most obvious change to the physical environment of the Taylor Valley indicated by the records from the heroic era is significant lake level rise in all three major basins: the Lake Bonney basin, the Lake Hoare and Lake Chad basin and the Lake Fryxell basin. In December 1903, Captain Scott measured the width of the narrow channel between the West Lobe and the East Lobe of Lake Bonney to be seventeen feet. (54) Based on this measurement, the New Zealand scientist Trevor Chinn reported remeasuring this part of the lake and based on the bathymetry calculated that the lake level had risen by 13.5 metres since Scott's expedition. (55) Since then, lake levels have risen even further, giving a total lake level rise of around sixteen metres since 1903. These results have been confirmed by the bathymetric results of the recent NASA-funded Endurance project, and can be clearly seen in repeat photographs using pictures taken by the Western Sledge Journey. (56) Any consideration of this change should take into account that less annual melt is required to raise the level of the lake when the initial level is low and the surface area is less. But a sixteen metre rise nevertheless represents significant change for a lake that is currently forty metres deep in its deepest part, and implies substantial ecological change, as lake waters, for example, flooded the surrounding soils.

In February 1911, Taylor gave a measurement of 'around 100 feet' for the same narrow channel connecting the two lobes of Lake Bonney. While some of this change might be explained by the fact that Scott's figure came from the beginning of the summer season and Taylor's from the end, this figure would suggest that the lake level had risen by five metres in the just over seven years between December 1903 and February 1911, an annual rise of around seventy centimetres. This figure was dismissed by Trevor Chinn as too imprecise to be taken seriously. (57) However, recent work by Peter Doran based on repeat photography and drilling suggests it is accurate, implying a period of relatively rapid lake-level rise in the first decade of the twentieth century. (58)

Scott's party did not go much further than the Bonney Basin and never saw Lake Chad and Lake Hoare or Lake Fryxell. Taylor's expedition saw both of these other lake basins, but gave no figures equivalent to the width of the Lake Bonney narrows from which lake level rise might be calculated. Intriguingly, Taylor completely omitted Lake Fryxell (the shallowest lake) from the first published map of Taylor Valley from 1913. Rather than indicating the formation of an entirely new lake over the past hundred years, however, this was a basic error apparently caused by the rush to publish and perhaps a lack of communication between Taylor and Debenham. (59) Nevertheless, photos, sketches and descriptions of both Lake Chad/Lake Hoare and Lake Fryxell from the Taylor expedition reveal that the lakes in both basins have risen significantly since 1911. Lake Chad has now merged with Lake Hoare to form one continuous lake and Lake Fryxell has risen to come into contact with the nearby Canada Glacier. Although this probably has no great impact on the water column, since the part of the lake touching the glacier remains quite shallow, this is still quite a significant change. (60)

Following a period of falling lake levels accompanied by a decadal cooling trend in the 1990s, the 2001/2002 Antarctic summer witnessed a significant flood event which saw the lake levels in all three of the major basins in Taylor Valley increase dramatically. Since then, lake levels have continued to rise, and now threaten to inundate surrounding field camps in the way that Lake Vanda has already done to the site oif the former New Zealand Station in the nearby Wright Valley. (61) Rising lake levels suggest a period of increased climate driven ecological connectivity, which forms the central hypothesis of the current MCM grant. (62) While the fairly dramatic pulse and press events that we are witnessing at the moment may be unique in their intensity, evidence from the historical record suggests that periods of high connectivity are not unprecedented over the past hundred years. In particular, the five metre rise in Lake Bonney between 1903-1911 implies a period of significant ecological change. Rather than seeing lake level rise in the Dry Valleys as a constant, the historical record suggests that this may have taken place in a series of irregular spurts over the course of the twentieth century, possibly interspersed with periods of lake level fall as witnessed during the 1990s. Since sudden 'pulse events' are understood to produce different ecological outcomes from more constant 'press events', an extended understanding of environmental change over time may have important implications for an understanding of Dry Valley ecosystems and what is driving them.

Rising lake levels in these closed basin lakes are the result of summer melt-water input exceeding loss of volume through ablation. Evidence of lake level rise therefore offers valuable insights into a changing climate over the past century. Perhaps most importantly, it raises the question of what is causing increased glacial melt? Despite a decadal correlation between cooling temperatures and falling lake levels over the course of the 1990s, records since the flood year of 2001/2002 suggest that high stream flow and lake level rise are not directly related to temperature. Since the flood year, average summer temperatures have continued to fall slightly, while lake levels and stream flow have continued to increase. There are a number of suggestions for what caused the flood year of 2001/2002 and the continued melting that followed. One idea is that sunlight rather than temperature is the greatest cause of glacial melt and an increased number of sunlight hours caused the flooding of 2001/2002. Another suggestion is that intense winds over the 2001 winter may have blown a much larger quantity of sediment than normal onto the glaciers. Since the dark sediment warms faster than ice, this could cause additional melting. It would also explain continued high flow years after 2002. A third idea is that the position of the ozone hole over the Dry Valleys helps to account for increased connectivity, with a greater quantity of UV radiation causing increased melting, probably in combination with increased sediment on the glaciers.

Historical research has the potential to contribute to the discussion of what is causing increased glacial melt and lake level rise in the Taylor Valley. In terms of a correlation between melting glaciers and increased sunlight, there is little that the historical record can add directly, since the record is so short. Historical photos and descriptions show that there was certainly some sediment deposition on the Dry Valley glaciers in February 1911, but comparisons with the present are difficult as a result of scale, cloud cover and shading (Figure 4). Perhaps most significantly, records of lake level rise since the heroic era offer evidence from a period before the commercial production of CFCs and before the ozone hole had a chance to form. (63) While this certainly does rule out the possibility of increased UV radiation causing the significant melting that has been experienced since the flood year of 2001/2002, it does mean that any theory based on increased UV radiation needs to account for the rising lake levels before the ozone hole developed.

Alongside the broad climatic changes indicated by rising lake levels, the meteorological records kept by the Western Sledge Party offer a brief snapshot of the weather conditions encountered in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in the first week of February 1911. In a science where thirty years of continuous data is generally required for weather to become climate, there is clearly a limit to what can be learned from just seven days of measurements and observations, especially since they came from different parts of the Dry Valleys at different times of the day. To make matters worse, the expedition members were so surprised by the relatively warm temperatures they experienced that they believed that their thermometer was faulty. But the weather records do offer a clue as to whether the climate has changed significantly over the past hundred years. The wind directions, either up valley or down valley, are consistent with what we experience today, and the 'damn windy' comments would be familiar to contemporary researchers. Cloud cover varied over the course of the week as it does today, and there does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary with the barometric pressure records. Perhaps most significantly the average of the three temperature measurements taken in the center of Dry Valley around the vicinity of the camp at Lake Chad [36.3[degrees]F or 2.4[degrees]C] are consistent with modern temperature records close to Lake Hoare, although certainly towards the top of this trend. (64) This is not inconsistent with the evidence of rapid lake level rise in the period from December 1903 to February 1911.

The vast majority of the meltwater that causes rising lake levels throughout the Taylor Valley comes directly from the surrounding glaciers. Interestingly, however, records from the Western Sledge Journey suggest that the Dry Valley glaciers have not advanced or retreated significantly over the course of the twentieth century. Repeat photographs from all three major lake basins in Taylor Valley show little glacial movement despite rising lake levels. Despite a rise in meltwater, a lack of movement is consistent with what might be expected from slow moving cold-bottomed polar glaciers. (65)

Taylor's emphasis on water as an agent of erosion in his Physiography of the McMurdo Sound Region suggests that he encountered a significant amount of liquid water on the Western Sledge Journey. (66) In Taylor Valley during the first week of February 1911 the members of the expedition reported finding a number of flowing streams. Stream flow data from the second half of the twentieth century shows that while the streams of the McMurdo Dry Valleys do normally flow into February, this is not always the case. This suggests that Taylor and his companions were at the very least not experiencing a low flow season, and may have been experiencing a quite high flow year. Descriptions of the streams from the sketchbooks and sledging diaries are sometimes quite difficult to follow, but do allow for some connections to be made with known streams from the present. On his journey to the Wales Glacier at the bottom of the Valley Taylor reported crossing 'several quite wide gullies with streams ... meandering across them'. (67) The size of these streams is a little difficult to determine owing to bad-handwriting and confusion over exactly what is being measured. One is reported as being one inch deep and three feet across, which would seem about normal for that time of year within the diurnal variations.

Believing the region to be a 'valley of the dead' from Scott's report, Taylor's expedition did not collect soil samples for microscopic analysis. In one sense, therefore, the history of the heroic era has little to contribute to an understanding of changing soil ecology over time. Unlike the weather, glaciers, lakes, or streams the records from the Western Sledge Party provide no baseline at all for what soil biology was like in 1911. This highlights one of the limitations of the contribution historical research can make to contemporary ecology: what is measured changes over time and how it is measured also changes. This problem will only become more acute as analytical techniques continue to become more sophisticated. Modern methods of metagenomic analysis, for example, are constantly changing and results obtained only a few years ago may no longer relate directly to what is being measured today.

From another perspective, however, contemporary research has revealed how the soils are sensitive indicators of environmental change over time, and this helps us to make assumptions about how the soils may have changed over the past one hundred years. (68) The records from the Scott and Taylor expeditions suggest that the first few years of the twentieth century might have been a period of relatively high connectivity in the Dry Valleys. Rising lakes submerge the surrounding soils with obviously dramatic changes for the soil life. In the area around the lakes, an expanding saturated zone on the lake shore causes the wetting of previously dry soils, again with important implications for soil ecology. Similarly, high flow through streams can cause the surrounding wet areas of the hyporheic zone to increase in area, with some channels being 'reactivated' after long periods without summer flow. (69) In contrast to these changes, historical research, especially repeat photography, suggests that there are areas within Taylor Valley that had persistent snow patches in exactly the same places a hundred years ago as can be seen today (Figure 4). Meltwater from these snow-covered areas may provide a fairly consistent supply of liquid water to the surrounding soils, potentially providing relatively stable conditions for the development of soil ecosystems. This is one of many examples in which historical information might stimulate future ecological research.


There are clearly major limitations in using historical records from the heroic era in an effort to contribute to contemporary ecological research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The nature of historical 'data' is very different from what often counts as scientific data, and there are obvious--and sometimes less obvious--inaccuracies in some of the historical records caused by human error, the nature of fieldwork and problems with the sources. (70) But the history of Taylor's Valley suggests that historical research does have much to offer current scientific debates, and that there could also be major limitations to ignoring or minimising a historical perspective in scientific thinking about the region. Historical sources offer a different perspective, with the potential to extend the record back in time and contribute information that might otherwise be ignored. Historians can contribute to this task by applying the skills and methods of historical analysis to ask what can be learned from the historical record that might contribute to contemporary scientific research.

Attempts to integrate historical research into a scientific project of this sort raise all sorts of methodological and theoretical questions. As a relatively simple ecosystem with a relatively simple human history, the McMurdo Dry Valleys have much to contribute to this discussion. As such, the McMurdo Dry Valleys offer a place for thinking about the interaction of human activities, environmental perceptions, and the material environment over time. Of particular relevance to this paper are three important questions about the role of historians in ecological research. Firstly, how can we use historical documents to think about past environments and about environmental change over time? Secondly, how do we as historians fit into the activities-perceptions-environment triangle? What pre-conceptions, for example, do we bring to an examination of the history of the heroic era that might affect how we use the data? Thirdly, how does historical research relate to and interact with the other fields of knowledge production that contribute to ecological research? The history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys helps to bring these questions into the foreground, and helps with the development of models for thinking about the relationship between history and ecology.

While the McMurdo Dry Valleys offer a particularly useful place for thinking about the theory and practice of integrating historical research into contemporary ecological research, lessons learned and models developed in this remote region might usefully be applied in other parts of the world. Even in places with far more complex human histories and ecologies, it is possible to ask questions about what historians might learn about past environments through historical research, how historical research can shape environmental perceptions and how history relates to the other academic disciplines that are used to understand ecological change over time. Answers to these questions may be harder to come by in places with complex ecosystems and thousands of years of human history, but the process of asking them is no less important. Only by engaging with scientific debates in a self-reflexive manner is it possible for historians to make a useful contribution.

As more work is done to integrate history and ecology in other parts of the world, the model proposed by this paper may be refined or changed. A major absence from the history of Antarctica is an indigenous population. The need to integrate local environmental knowledge into historical perspectives may lead to a greater focus on the past environmental perceptions rather than simply trying to read between the lines of historical documents to understand past environments. (71) But it is hoped that the model proposed by this paper offers a contribution to discussions about how historical research might contribute to contemporary ecology. Scientific work is founded upon bringing data to the table, and historical data clearly has something to contribute. Ultimately, since there is no limit to the potential ecological questions that can be asked about any region, by extension there is no limit to the potential contribution of history.


I would like to thank all my colleagues working with the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER site for assistance with this project. Special thanks goes Diane McKnight and Peter Doran. I would also like to acknowledge funding and logistical support from the National Science Foundation (Grant ANT-1115245) for making this work possible.

Colorado State University Department of History Campus Delivery 1776 Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA


(1.) Robert Falcon Scott, The Voyage of the Discovery, 2 vols. (New York: Cooper Square Press. 2001), p. 550.

(2.) Ibid., p. 567.

(3.) Ibid., p. 565.

(4.) Peder Roberts, The European Antarctic: Science and Strategy in Scandinavia and the British Empire (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

(5.) The literature on the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen is vast. Notable titles include Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen, 1st American ed. (New York: Atheneum, 1984); Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination (London: Faber and Faber, 1996); Max Jones, The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(6.) See for example, Thomas Griffith Taylor, With Scott: The Silver Lining ([S.1.]: Smith Elder, 1916). For a discussion see Jones, The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice.

(7.) A contemporary statement of the importance of adventure can be found in Hugh Robert Mill. The Siege of the South Pole: The Story of Antarctic Exploration (London: Alston Rivers Ltd.. 1905), p. 439. A recent defence of the scientific content of British heroic era expeditions can be found in Edward J. Larson, An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2011).

(8.) Carolyn Strange and Alison Bashford, Griffith Taylor: Visionary Environmentalist Explorer (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2008); P. Speak, Deb: Geographer, Scientist, Antarctic Explorer (Guildford, Surrey: Polar, 2008). A brief biographical sketch of Sir Charles Wright can be found in Charles S. Wright, Colin Bull and Pat F. Wright, Silas : The Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1993).

(9.) (Accessed 31 July, 2014).

(10.) Colin Bull and Dick Barwick, Innocents in the Dry Valleys: An Account of the Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition, 1958-59 (Wellington, N.Z.: Victoria University Press, 2009).

(11.) David C. Coleman, Big Ecology: The Emergence ofEcosystem Science (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

(12.) John Charles Priscu, Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: The McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, Antarctic Research Series, (Washington, D.C: American Geophysical Union, 1998), p. xi.

(13.) Bill Green, Water, Ice and Stone: Science and Memory on the Antarctic Lakes (New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2008).

(14.) Eugene Odum, for example, mentioned the utility of the Polar Regions for developing ecological theory in his classic ecological textbook: Eugene P. Odum, Fundamentals of Ecology (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953).

(15.) Joseph Levy, 'How Big Are the McMurdo Dry Valleys? Estimating Ice-Free Area Using Landsat Image Data', Antarctic Science 25/1 (2012).

(16.) Shawn Marshall, The Cryosphere, Princeton Primers in Climate (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012).

(17.) Andrew G. Fountain et al., 'Glaciers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys', in Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: The McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, ed. John Charles Priscu (Washington D.C.: American Geophysical Union, 1998), p. 65.

(18.) Scott, The Voyage of the Discovery, p. 566.

(19.) Peter A. Conovitz et al., 'Hydrologic Processes Influencing Streamflow Variation in Fyxell Basin, Antarctica', in Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: The McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, ed. John Charles Priscu (Washington D.C.: American Geophysical Union, 1998), p. 94.

(20.) Diane M. McKnight et al., 'Longitudinal Patterns in Algal Abundance and Species Distribution in Meltwater Streams in Taylor Valley, Southern Victoria Land, Antarctica', ibid.

(21.) Robert H. Spigel and John C. Priscu, 'Physical Limnology of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Lakes', ibid.

(22.) Ibid., p. 155.

(23.) Diana Wall Freckman and Ross A. Virginia, 'Soil Biodiversity and Community Structure in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica', ibid., p. 323.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) Daryl L. Moorhead and John C. Priscu, "The McMurdo Dry Valley Ecosystem: Organization. Controls, and Linkages', ibid., p. 352.

(26.) (Accessed 31 July 2014).

(27.) John Turner, Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment: A Contribution to the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (Cambridge: SCAR, 2009).

(28.) Emily Wyndham Barnett Russell, People and the Land through Time: Linking Ecology and History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997); David R. Foster and John D. Aber, Forests in Time: The Environmental Consequences of 1,000 Years of Change inNew England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004). For an important discussion of the methodology of historical ecology, see John Sheail, 'Historical Ecology: The Documentary Evidence', ed. Natural Environment Research Council (Cambridge: Institute of Terrestrial Ecology 1980).

(29.) For examples of historical contributions to the climate change science, see Daniel Steiner, Heinz J. Zumbiihl and Andreas Bauder, 'Two Alpine Glaciers over the Past Two Centuries: A Scientific View Based on Pictorial Sources', in Darkening Peaks: Glacier Retreat, Science, and Society, ed. Ben Orlove, Ellen Wiegandt and Brian H. Luckman (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008); Heinz J. Zumbuhl, '19th Century Glacier Representations and Fluctuations in the Central and Western European Alps: An Interdisciplinary Approach', Global Planetary Change 60 (2008); Samuel U. Nussbaumer and Heinz J. Zumbuhl, "The Little Ice Age History of the Glacier Des Bossons: ANew HighResolution Glacier Length Curve Based on Historical Documents', Climatic Change 111 (2012); Mark Carey et al., 'Forum Introduction', Environmental History 19 / 2 (2014).

(30.) Donald Worster, The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Arthur F. McEvoy, The Fisherman's Problem: Ecology and Law in the California Fisheries, 1850-1980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

(31.) J. Donald Hughes, What Is Environmental History? (Cambridge: Polity, 2006). For a particularly insightful discussion of this problem see Sverker Sorlin and Paul Warde, "The Problem of the Problem of Environmental History', Environmental History 12/1 (2007).

(32.) Adrian Howkins, 'Have You Been There? Some Thoughts on (Not) Visiting Antarctica'. Environmental History 15/3 (2010).

(33.) Bull and Barwick, Innocents in the Dry Valleys : An Account of the Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition, 1958-59.

(34.) Ernest Henry Shackleton, The Heart of the Antarctic, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1909), p. 73.

(35.) Ibid., p. 345.

(36.) Strange and Bashford, Griffith Taylor: Visionary Environmentalist Explorer.

(37.) See, for example, Taylor Sledge Diary, Tuesday 31 Jan. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(38.) See, for example, the acknowledgements in Thomas Griffith Taylor, The Physiography of the McMurdo Sound and Granite Harbour Region (London: Printed and published by Harrison and Sons, 1922).

(39.) Speak, Deb: Geographer, Scientist, Antarctic Explorer, p. 28.

(40.) Taylor Sledge Diary, Friday 27 Jan. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(41.) Debenham Diary, 4 Feb. 1911. MS279/1 BJ Journals, 1910-1912 (Volume II 19 Jan. to 8 Mar. 1911), Scott Polar Research Institute.

(42.) Taylor Sledge Diary, 6 Feb. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(43.) Debenham Diary, 5 Feb. 1911. MS279/1 BJ Journals, 1910-1912 (Volume II 19 Jan. to 8 Mar. 1911), Scott Polar Research Institute.

(44.) See, for example, Taylor Geological Report, 9 Feb. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(45.) See for example Ferrar to Taylor 29 Sept. 1913. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 4, National Library of Australia.

(46.) For a comprehensive overview of the development of Antarctic science, see G.E. Fogg, A History of Antarctic Science, Studies in Polar Research (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

(47.) Taylor, The Physiography of the McMurdo Sound and Granite Harbour Region.

(48.) Ibid., xiv.

(49.) Taylor Sledge Diary, Thursday 2 Feb. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(50.) Taylor Sledge Diary, 5 Feb. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(51.) For a discussion of the scientific use of repeat photography in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, see Fountain et al., 'Glaciers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys', p. 69.

(52.) For a discussion of the collections made on Ross Island during Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition, see, James Murray, British Antarctic Expedition 1907-9 Reports on the Scientific Investigations Volume 1: Biology (London: William Heinemann, 1911).

(53.) Fountain et al., 'Glaciers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys.'

(54.) Scott, The Voyage of the Discovery, p. 566.

(55.) T.J. Chinn, 'Physical Hydrology of the Dry Valley Lakes', in Physical and Biogeochemical Processes in Antarctic Lakes, ed. William J. Green and E. Imre Friedmann (Washington D.C.: American Geophysical Union, 1993), p. 16.

(56.) Peter Doran, personal communication. For an overview of the Endurance project see

(57.) Chinn, 'Physical Hydrology of the Dry Valley Lakes', p. 16.

(58.) Peter Doran, personal communication.

(59.) Alia Khan, Adrian Howkins and Berry Lyons, 'Taylor's "Missing" Lake: Integrating History into Later Research in the McMurdo Dry Valleys', LTER Network News 25 / 2 (2012).

(60.) Spigel and Priscu, 'Physical Limnology of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Lakes', p. 174.

(61.) Tom Griffiths, Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007), pp. 325-26.

(62.) (Accessed 31 July 2014)

(63.) For a discussion of the commercialisation of CFCs, see John Robert McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, 1st ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000).

(64.) Meteorological Notes, MS 1787/3/3 BJ, SPRI..

(65.) Fountain et al., 'Glaciers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys'.

(66.) Taylor, The Physiography of the McMurdo Sound and Granite Harbour Region.

(67.) Taylor Geological Report, 5 Feb. 1911. MS 1003 T.G. Taylor Series 2 Box 3 60 'Geological Journeys in Antarctica' National Library of Australia.

(68.) Wall Freckman and Virginia, 'Soil Biodiversity and Community Structure in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica'.

(69.) D.M. McKnight et al., 'Reactivation of a Cryptobiotic Stream Ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: A Long-Term Geomorphological Experiment', Geomorphology 89/1-2 (2007).

(70.) For a discussion of the nature of fieldwork in ecological research, see Robert E. Kohler, Landscapes & Labscapes: Exploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

(71.) See, for example, Julie Cruikshank, Do Glaciers Listen? : Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination, Brenda and David Mclean Canadian Studies Series (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005).
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Date:Feb 1, 2016
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