Exciting news! The last few days, the team has been diving at a new (third) site in McMurdo Sound: Cinder Cones. This site is particularly special because it’s the one the proposal for our work here was most driven by. For years there was no seep here, but over the last 10 years, different sections of methane seepage suddenly “turned on”. It’s the first time scientists have known when a methane seep actually started and it gives us a really unique opportunity to watch the microbial community and ecosystem evolve over time. Cinder Cones is the only seep site the Thurber Lab has existing samples from in Antarctica and for that reason it was one of the most important for us to get back to and collect samples to watch the community change.
With the thinner than usual sea ice year we’ve been experiencing down here, it has taken quite some time to make it out, but we finally got there! I’ve been focusing all my dives on sampling, so I don’t have any pictures to share yet, but the team will post some very soon. We’re excited to tell you more about how things have changed since Andrew last saw this site in 2016. For now, here are pictures of the journey.
Although I love the other two sites we’ve gotten to dive at, the Jetty and Dayton’s Wall, one of the most exciting aspects of our dives at Cinder Cones is the hour long commute along the sea ice. Every day Rowan and I can’t help but say “can you believe this is our freaking job??” It’s an incredibly beautiful place that we get to call home right now, and we are very lucky to be able to get off station as often as we do.
Every day now Rob, Andrew, Rowan, and I take two PistenBullys full of dive and sampling gear out and around Hut Point (avoiding some of the big cracks that stretch out from the point every year) and head northward. It’s a bumpy ride, especially for our lovely dive tenders who sit in the back cab, but I think we all agree it’s worth it for the views (and the science obviously!). To our right is the Hut Peninsula we live on, Mount Erebus looms in front of us, and the Transantarctic Mountains stretch out to our left as far as the eye can see. We drive until we’re on the sea ice side of Castle Rock (check out my post about our first hike) and there, near another crack, is Cinder Cones.
Here we’ve been diving out of an apple (which we dragged out and set up ourselves with the PistenBully). It’s not quite as toasty or spacious as the dive huts the big machines drove out to our other two dive sites, but we’re starting to get the hang of it now.
The extra time in the cold and drives out to the dive site make for long days, so the site of our little McMurdo home off in the distance is always a welcome one. On that note, after another missed lunch out at Cinder Cones, it’s about time for a warm dinner! Thanks for reading and can’t wait to show & tell you more about this exciting site.