LAKE VANDA STATION
Lake Vanda Station in the Wright Dry Valley was the site of a small New Zealand research base from 1968 to 1995.
Biologist Dr Ron Balham who led the first Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition in January 1958, aroused initial New Zealand interest in the Dry Valleys area. By the 1960’s America, New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Russia were all working collaboratively in the region.
A base was required to support the ongoing scientific endeavours. In May 1967 the Ross Dependency Research Committee recommended that New Zealand establish a wintering over station at Lake Vanda.
The station was situated 140m SE of the eastern end of Lake Vanda, 100m from the Onyx River and 9m above the lake level. During the 1966/67 season three huts were established on site. An RNZAF Hercules parachuted building supplies, including a wheelbarrow, onto the lake surface. Further equipment and vehicles arrived via tractor train. New Zealand’s Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt opened the station on 9 January 1969. That same year saw a party winter over, a group wintered in 1970 and finally in 1974 when a full scientific programme was carried out.
The base evolved into a small settlement of eight huts: two for accommodation, a workshop, laboratory, store, mess, refuge hut and a toilet with no door but a fabulous view!
Colin Bull from Victoria University started The Royal Vanda Swimming Club, which played an important role in station morale over the years. Friendly rivalry existed between the seasonal staff (Vandals) and the Ministry of Works hydrology/glaciology team (The Asgaard Rangers) who worked from the station
On 16 January 1981 the first fixed wing plane to land in the Dry Valleys set down on Lake Vanda. 1981 also saw the start of the Vanda Station upgrade, which after 12 years of use was in need of repairs. New huts complete with solar panels were installed over the next two seasons.
1990/91 was the last full summer of occupancy at Vanda station. With rising lake levels and changing research priorities, an environmental assessment and decommissioning plan for the station began. Removal of the station took over 180 person days and 70 helicopter hours to complete. Human activities, including vehicle use and waste disposal practices, had caused damage in the station area. Buildings and over 10 tonnes of contaminated soil and painted rocks were removed.
By 1994/95 all traces of the station were gone and two refuge huts were established on the opposite side of the lake. Analysis of the lake water and algae continued after station removal to ensure that the lake was not being contaminated.