Lake Fryxell

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Lake Fryxell
Location Taylor Valley, Victoria Land, Antarctica
Coordinates 77°37′S 163°11′E / 77.617°S 163.183°E / -77.617; 163.183Coordinates: 77°37′S 163°11′E / 77.617°S 163.183°E / -77.617; 163.183
Lake type Endorheic
Primary inflows Crescent Stream,
Harnish Creek
Primary outflows none
Catchment area 230 km2 (89 sq mi)
Basin countries (Antarctica)
Max. length 5.8 km (3.6 mi)
Max. width 2.1 km (1.3 mi)
Surface area 7.8 km2 (3.0 sq mi)
Average depth 3.2 m (10 ft)
Max. depth 20 m (66 ft)
Water volume 25.2×10^6 m3 (890×10^6 cu ft)
Surface elevation 18 m (59 ft)
Islands moraine islands
Settlements Lake Fryxell Camp,
Lake Fryxell Hut

Lake Fryxell is a frozen lake 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long, between Canada Glacier and Commonwealth Glaciers at the lower end of Taylor Valley in Victoria Land, Antarctica. It was mapped in the early 1900s and named during Operation Deep Freeze in the 1950s. There are several forms of algae living in the waters[1] and a weather station located at the lake. [2]


Lake Fryxell is located within the McMurdo Dry Valleys, which experience an exceptionally dry climate partially due to katabatic winds descending from the nearby mountains. These winds can exceed 320 km/h (200 mph) under certain conditions. These high winds can raise the temperature, melting snow and evaporating ice.[3][4]

Lake Fryxell is 20 metres (66 ft) deep, making it so the deepest portion of the lake is below sea level. The lake is dammed by Canada Glacier, making it so that it has no natural outflow. It is covered with about 4.5 metres (15 ft) of ice, but during the summer months, the ice can clear along the shoreline. There are a few small islands as well as several shallow areas.[1][5]

The average annual ablation is between 30 centimetres (12 in) and 40 centimetres (16 in), which is significantly lower when compared to other nearby frozen water bodies, such as the waters adjacent to Ross Island.[6]


The watershed contains at least ten streams flowing into the lake, forming a watershed that has an area roughly 230 km2 (89 sq mi) in size. Where a few of the streams enter the lake there are well-developed deltas.[1]


There are multiple forms of algae within the lake, including a sizable population of sulfate-reducing bacteria. Some samples of these bacteria live in very specific areas, such as specific water depths or locations causing them to experience differing physiochemical conditions.[7]

There is a lack of oxygen within Lake Fryxell, which is unique when compared to other lakes in the region because the anoxic region extends up to 9 metres (30 ft) below the lake surface.[8] This creates an environment similar to the planet about 2.4 billion years ago. Within anoxic areas, scientists have found bacterial mats that create small pockets saturated with oxygen.[9]

Human Activity

One of the buildings located at the nearby camp.

Mapped by the British Antarctic Expedition under Robert Falcon Scott, 1910–13, the lake was visited by Professor T.L. Péwé during Operation Deep Freeze, 1957–58, who named it for Dr. Fritiof M. Fryxell, glacial geologist of Augustana College, Illinois.

Lake Fryxell is a focus of scientific research and contains a semi-permanent camp containing four labs and two other buildings. Electricity is generated at the camp using solar panels and a wind turbine. The four labs are used for experimenting with radioactive materials, electronics, chemicals and other materials. When staying at the camp, researchers sleep in tents, some of which are the same style as those used in some Antarctic expeditions in the early 20th Century. There is internet and phone access at the camp.[10]

Research activities largely deal with the lake itself and can include scientists diving into the water.[9] The camp has existed since at least 1984.[11]


External links