Wow so many things have changed since I have written last. Unfortunately since I wrote last, I have been living without internet. As we are the first group of the season to be living at this camp, we didn’t even have electricity until the second day. Talk about some cold nights. But it is amazing to think that we have high speed wireless internet in one of the most remote places in the world.
So the first day we got here we unpacked and then had helicopter flights dropping our gear and equipment all day. It was pretty spectacular watching the sling loads landing within feet of where we had asked the pilot to place them. The carpenters (Carps) came with us as well and helped to open camp. They got the generator (genny) working and also built our dive tent known as the Jane Way or RAC tent.
The next morning there was so much to do. Our Hotsy and small genny was delivered by helicopter in the morning. The Hotsy is a machine that heats glycol. The hot glycol is then pumped into a tightly coiled steel tube. This is then lowered into a small 4-5 inch hole in the ice and after a few days the hole is about 5 ft wide; big enough for a diver.
So the next two days were devoted to opening our first hole. Since the sea ice had broken up and moved out of the bay the previous year, the ice was relatively thin (8ft). This was the first time the ice had broken up in 12 years. So once the Hotsy is running and the hole is in the process of forming, there is fueling, every three hours. So for the first three days, every three hours, it was into your snow cloths and out to refuel the hotsy. And when you aren’t fueling, you are chipping ice from around the hole, trying to widen it.
We finally had our first hole done, and sent a diver down to make sure that the hole would be wide enough for two divers in case of emergency. Cecil was chosen to be our guinea pig because she is the smallest and is less likely to get caught. She was also going to grab a quick sample for our scientist here at the field camp.
While all of us were waiting at the top of the hole, we heard what sounded like a sonic beam travel through the ice. It echoed under our feet and you could almost hear the ice crack a little. We looked down the hole and could see Cecil at her safety stop just at the base of the ice. But she wasn’t alone. Swimming circles around here was a very fat, very plumb Waddell seal. We managed to get Cecil out of the water and just minutes after, there was a seal head poking its head out for a breath.
It was pretty awesome to see them up close. They are huge, at least four to five feet wide at the girth. And they have dark fur with little white and gray spots. They are typically seen hauled out of the water resting. It’s pretty rare to see them under the water. They are usually shy and skittish. I’m hoping that they stay around until I get to dive, cause I would love to see them in the water.
But diving will be on hold since our compressor to fill dive tanks is still not working. Yesterday we took the afternoon to hike up to Commonwealth Glacier. It’s the closest glacier to us. The hike took about an hour and a half to reach the base of the glacier. Its cliffs stood at over 100 feet tall. It was so beautiful. As we were walking past, you could hear it slowly cracking and moving forward nanometers at a time. We walked up around the edge of the glacier were it meets the mountain. There was a lot more ice exposed and a small frozen delta from the melt water off the glacier. In a few weeks it will be warm enough that it will start flowing. The melt water will flow directly to our Delta hole where we dive.
It’s pretty incredible to explore this valley. There is so much to see and learn about. I can’t wait to revisit the glacier once the snow has melted at the end of November.
Over the next few days, we will be working out at Cape Bernacchi where the only communication with the outside world will be a two way radio. We will be there for two days, camping on the ice and melting our hole out there. So until then.