So today we went out to Cape Bernacchii to try and finish off sampling out of that hole. Cecil and I dove and collected sediment scoops for Jan. Our dive was very successful. We obtained so much sediment for Jan’s DNA sampling that we only have coring left. And on a high note, I also found the largest Cornuspira antarcticus (which is a foraminiferan) that Jan had ever seen from Antarctica. It’s crazy because these are a single celled animal that grows usually to the size of a dime or quarter. This one was the size of a 50 cent piece.
After the dive, we went through the normal exit procedures: hand up the tank, hand up the weight, haul your self out of the hole on your stomach, and pull your fins off. Once I’m out, I’ll usually get back over to my tank and inflate my suit to warm up. Today I was being helped out of my gloves by Laura, when Jan, who was pulling up the down line, yells at the hole, ” no, don’t take my samples”. Laura and I turn to see this fat head popping out of the water.
We stayed and watched two seals take turns breathing. The seals were so fat that they had to go one at a time up the hole. Even with that, sometimes they didn’t look like they would fit. Eventually, after they had their breaths, they swam off. These seals were Weddell seal and are some of the best diving marine mammals for depth and time.
Cecil and I went to change out of our suits before we froze into them. Just after we got out of the dry suit, still in our fleece layers, we heard Laura yelling. Cecil and I put on our boots and headed out side. We got there and one seal was back and starting to haul out of the hole. It hauled out and started galumping over to the ice, looking for a patch of snow to dry off. To prevent freezing their fur, seals will rub and roll around in the snow. This pulls the moisture from their fur.
Overall this was an amazing experience that will stay with me for a life time.