A set of simple criteria for visual assessment of the effects of low-intensity fieldwork in ice-free areas of Antarctica was developed. These criteria were tested by using them to examine the impact of soil science investigations, both immediately and some time after disturbance, at Marble Point and at Cape Evans, on the shores of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The use of these criteria showed that for some types of impacts there had been a marked recovery of the surface with time, ranging from 22 months to 30 years. This was apparently due to repeated freeze and thaw of the soil surface and, to a lesser extent, to the influence of wind, which had partly or completely obliterated some of the earlier disturbances. More durable features remained, while deeper surface impressions, such as old soil inspection pits and vehicle tracks, showed little recovery after more than 30 years. Some biological colonisation of areas disturbed 30 years previously was occurring.