It is strange to be staring out at a frozen ocean, wearing a t-shirt and sweating. That was sort of my day.
After a whirl wind lab setup yesterday, today’s goal was samples. The first task was to get out to our dive hole and re-open it. Thankfully the divers down here have been looking after me (Terril and Martin). Just before the ice “closed” (i.e. no more vehicles or people are allowed on the sea ice as it was too thin/ warm/ both) they drilled a gigantic hole. A normal hole is ~3ft across and there is plenty of room for a diver. This one is a clover leaf of those same holes so it is essentially ~7ft across. It would make a lovely hot tub if it wasn’t still -2 C in the water. They also have been chipping it and keeping an eye on it – every bit of it I am thankful for. I was concerned I would come down here with a hole that once existed and a chainsaw to make it exist again. Chainsawing ice looks great when people make center pieces out of it. When you are chainsawing down, into a frozen ocean, it looks more like a fountain. Its quite pretty. However you are in the center of the fountain getting a bath in freezing water, and its rarely warm out to begin with. So again. I am thankful for the work that they put in to make my life easier.
We only chipped half the hole out, as that was still plenty. The other good news is that the plankton bloom has passed and so the visibility is already improving. When I was here before the visibility went from ~ 1000ft down to a measly 400 ft and then I left. After I left, the visibility dropped to ~7ft and now it is back up to around 60ft. This makes life much easier as I can easily see my sites from the bottom of the hole. We are still diving ‘tethered’ in that we are connected to the surface with a line to make it easier to find again since we can’t actually see the hole from where we are working. We dive with two people on the same tether (or floating rope, it could also be called) where one person manages the tether while the other works.
The sites that I marked out in early September are still there and I was back coring the mud by about 2 o’clock this afternoon. I am not sure but I think it may be near a record to only be on station for two days and already be collecting samples.
Ahh back to the weather. As we have to walk out to our dive site, wearing gear meant for cold water, we get warm. Really warm. As the ice is not good enough to support a vehicle and to spread the weight of our tanks and weight belts we haul them out on sledges behind us. The sleds with tanks et al, weigh somewhere around 230 pounds for two so that would be a lot of extra strain on the ice if we were to just wear it. So hauling 230 pounds in a sled across ice, wearing a drysuit, is well. Not dry. This also means that we have no hut to dive out of, but because it is so warm this is not an issue at all.
On the Dive I collected 12 great cores (well 10 great cores and two that are good enough) and that means the science season is officially open for me. A great feeling after flying some 8 thousand miles from home and taking the better part of a week in some stage of travel.