Well it is the end of the season. The ice is melting, the sun is always up, and Christmas is right around the corner. Time to head back home.
Yesterday was our final dive. We dove a recently opened hole called the Stockton hole. It was named for a researcher named Bill Stockton who did a lot of work down here in the 1970’s. He was one of the first people to document the scallops here and make note of their abundance. The reason for diving the Stockton hole was also to count scallops. This was a side project that Sam assigned me. Over the last few years, a colleague of Sam’s has been collecting live scallops for her research. As this is Sam’s last season, he wanted to see if there were any differences in the abundance of scallops here in explorers cove. Until the numbers are more directly analyzed, we are not completely sure.
After I collected scallop counts, Hilary and I headed up the fast ice. At this particular spot, there is a very shallow mound that is only about 15 feet deep. It was so beautiful because there was lots of fast ice under us and brine channels hanging down. It really felt like swimming through an ice cave. Once we got to the far edge, the bottom sloped away dramatically to greater than 100ft. This may be a place where water from the moat breaks through and rushes into the ocean. We got to see this out at Salmon Bay.
Our moat is filling up quickly. The Wales stream that pours off the Wales glacier has finally connected with the moat. This brings down warm (relatively), fresh water that fills up the moat. This is when we really start falling through the ice. In order to get our gear off the ice, Sam and I put on these old waders and walked out through the moat, and broke away parts of the ice and carried all our gear across. It was a lot of work, and pretty cold. The waders that I had were made for someone much bigger than me. The feet stuck out about 4 inches past my toes and I had to bunch up all the extra material on my thighs and rubber band it to stay. To lighten the mood, Sam decided that we need to talk like hill-billies and go “gater huntin’” out in the ice. It definitely lightened the mood. We have all been working so hard and everyone is really tired.
Over the past few days, we have been staging everything to be picked up by the helicopters. A lot of the stuff is put in nets and the slung under the helicopter. Today was pretty cool because I got to hook up a sling load that was a snowmobile. Not too many people can say they did that today. We have also been working hard at packing up the dive locker and trying to get everything ready to head back to McMurdo. Once we get there we get to unload and wash everything that we send back.
These next 10 days are going to be very physically demanding, but I’m really looking forward to closing out the season and heading back home. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed my time in Antarctica, it has been the trip of a life time, but 10 weeks is a long time, I have seen so much, and now it’s time to head home. I miss the warm ocean and slippers (sandals). Mostly I miss not having to take off 4 layers just to pee. I am looking forward to getting home, but there is still a lot to do between now and then.
Until next time…