A post by Justin Smith
Diving in Antarctica is demanding. Really, diving anywhere can be pretty demanding. Throw in a few layers of complexity in the form of incredibly cold weather and a ceiling of ice above your head and you’ve got quite a situation on your hands. So what is required, in the most practical sense, to dive in Antarctica? Support vehicles, dive huts, robust equipment, drysuits, layers of insulation, air, lights, a hole to dive in and possibly most importantly a good attitude and a cool head. It’s amazing to watch the dive team execute the seamless dance of moving all the equipment into place, getting the work done underwater, pack up the whole show then clean and prep only to do it again tomorrow.
At the core of this effort is Rob Robbins, the USAP Dive Services Supervisor who has been on site here at McMurdo helping us in countless ways. The average dive duration under the ice here is 45 minutes (though I’ve seen some as long as an hour). The entire process from walking in the door at the dive locker to returning, cleaning gear and leaving the dive locker is about a 3 hour process at even the closest location.
Behind the scenes, Rob is inspecting gear, checking weather, doing repairs, filling tanks and keeping up probably the most tidy shop on the island. Aside from the physical aspects required to support diving here, Rob is patiently willing to discuss any and all aspects of the sometimes overwhelming mental preparation required to dive under the ice. Our team simply couldn’t perform the work down here without Rob’s tireless efforts.