Mystery Peaks and Walls

As the season progresses a few things happen. The visibility in the water gets worse, the station gets crowded, and other animals start showing up. While this normally just means seals that have come up to pup, there are also weird wanders.

This Weddell Seal was quite happy to make use of our dive hole to come out and relax in the sunshine. Because he was there we ended up diving outside of the hut (meaning we were exposed to -25C with windchill while getting ready to jump in the oca) so the seal would keep access to the ocean. But we couldn’t really argue with a face that that.

While we were underwater these two Emperor pengiuns happened by. We had seen them earlier as we were driving to the site. They came right over to me on their bellies scooting along. One of the nice things about working in an area where humans don’t harvest the wildlife is that the animals are curious about us and so as long as we stand still they come say hi.

Why walk when you can scoot?

I think this is the secret to moving on the ice. Stay low and you never fall far and won’t trip on a ridge of ice.

We went out that day to dive on a new site. It was very interesting in that it was the top of a sea mount at the end of a glacier tongue coming off an active volcano. The entire top was covered by a single species of sponge, a few anemone’s and bunch of nudibranchs that were eating the sponge.

There was a great field of nothing but this on top of the seamount. It was just discovered in the last few years and we were the first divers to see it. Very cool. We were there en route to another dive location with the group that was studying it. Since we were sharing resources we decided to dive too.

The real purpose of the trip for us was to get some samples of the bacterial rivers coming from underneath the glacier. I put in a photo of it before but the more we talked about it the more we thought it could be something very novel so we went back. Rory and I spent the better part of a week devising multiple ways to get through the ice and collect samples of it. Amazingly the first approach worked. We took a sample from the vein of the glacier using the same technique as if it was our arm 0 using a really big syringe with a really big needle. I was most proud of not stabbing myself in the hand with the needle after taking the sample. While normally we just discard needles rather than recap them – that is not an option when you are at 90ft with nothing but a mesh bag and are floating around in a big balloon (i.e. drysuit) that doesn’t like sharp things.

This syringe worked surprisingly well to get the sample from beneath the ~3cm of ice. You can see the wall of ice that was ~ 90ft to the seasurface and another 90ft above that towering over our head. The syringe saved us from using ice screws, a hammer, a hole making bit from a drill, and a bunch of other things that Rory had brought just in case.


Here’s another view of the wall for perspective.

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