This past week, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to slip through the cold and dark portal into what can only be described as an alien realm. Sitting above the dive hole made my eyes widen and my heart pound. I had seen pictures, sure. But was I really up to the task of diving under sea ice? After a brief wave to Michael on the surface, I took the plunge.
The first time going through a dive hole is a strange experience. From above, you would think it would be cramped or claustrophobic sinking through 8 feet of ice. Once in the hole, however, it was an entirely different perspective. The visibility is so incredible in Antarctica that once your face is in the water, you can easily see the incredible wealth of life on the seafloor. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened my drysuit valve to descend.
After a brief moment of pure white, I descended through the hole and the under-ice world opened up to me. Fine shards of brash ice hung from the ceiling, breaking and dancing with my air bubbles. The snowpack above made for incredibly dark yet beautiful conditions, lit only by the ambient blue of a crack in the ice above.
Brash ice is fine shards of ice crystals on the underside of sea ice
My tentative thoughts were immediately washed away by questions. The floor was covered in life!!! I knew this conceptually, but to see it with my own eyes was incredible. I looked down and thought all the five W’s: Who’s down there? What adaptations are needed to live in such a unique environment? When in Earth’s history did life become so special in Antarctic waters? Where does the anchor ice stop on the sea floor? Why does life thrive in such cold water?
I couldn’t believe my eyes!!! The sea floor was abundant in life!!
Unfortunately, humans are not amphibious, and my time was limited by the air in my scuba tank. I came to the surface and was helped out of the dive hole by Andrew. From that moment and every dive since, I have a stronger and stronger desire to jump back in the hole and witness the incredible life of Antarctica.
Andrew swimming up the dive hole and leaving the under-ice realm