"Spooky" Valleys



Bones scattered haphazardly about. Wind blasted corpses with fur still clinging to skin. Contorted skeletons with jaws locked in fierce grimaces.

Except for the occasional skua, which is a bird that looks much like a big gull, the main animals we've seen in the Dry Valleys are mummified seals and penguins. Their bodies have accumulated here over the centuries. Because the valleys are so cold and dry, the corpses don't rot. They erode slowly beneath the force of wind.

Photo by Karen Cozzetto


Since we don't really see much "big" wildlife in the valleys, when a skua comes around, it's very exciting, and work pretty much stops. Check out this skua hanging out next to Karen's backpack

So during our hikes, we have grisly encounters that send shivers down our spines and make us wonder why the seals and penguins came.Some think they were misguided and lost, having strayed so far from their coastal homes. But when I imagine them hauling themselves or waddling over jumbles of rocks in some cases 15 miles inland, into territory incognito, with no food to replenish them on their journey, their strength and determination amazes me. And instead, I prefer to think of them as John does - explorers, who like so many of their human counterparts pushed the limits of their world and paid the ultimate price.

- Karen

Mummified seal

Mummified penguin
Photos by Karen Cozzetto



Seals and penguins still wander into the valleys. This year, the team had an up close encounter with Charlie, an Adelie penguin heading west with surprising speed and resolve. By the time we saw Charlie, he had already made it to the Lake Bonney basin, which is one of the more inland of the Taylor Valley lakes. The streams and lakes of the Dry Valleys don't have any fish for Charlie to feed on.

So, unless he turns around and starts heading back to the coast, he'll die. If you met up with Charlie, would you help him get back to the ocean or would you leave him alone and let nature take it's course?

What do you think we did?

Photo by Jenny Baeseman

If you look really close, you can see Charlie as a small black dot by the edge of Lake Bonney. Where is Charlie going? Taylor Glacier is off in the distance. And though not visible in the photo, the Polar Plateau lies beyond.


Photos by Jenny Baeseman


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