Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Marine Research and dive tending


Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to go "dive tending". I went to assist the research divers with their gear. I arrived at the dive shack just down the hill from the lab here. It contains all the divers gear including tanks and dry suits.






Next the divers got 90% of their equipment on. This includes many layers; culminating in a "dry suit". For those of you who have never heard of this, it keeps you dry, rather than wet in the water. They are made of thick rubber or neoprene and use a thermal barrier of air to keep the diver warm. The suits must be inflated and deflated to adjust bouyancy too.


They showed me the equipment and explained how it worked and what I needed to do, then we loaded the vehicle.





The vehicle is a Pisten Bully. What? It is commonly used on ski slopes. It is apparently produced by Mercedes Benz. Sweet off road Benz in Antarctica!








Now out to the ice and what we came for.....





The divers drill a hole in the ice and keep it covered with a mobile hut. It has a heater in it which we will revisit later....and a small fan to blow warm air over the hole to keep it from refreezing. The ice is about 6 feet deep at this point.

It is actually pretty roomy, much bigger than I thought. The heaters are always running, so it was about 90 degrees F; which we will find out will pay off later..... Anyway back to the mission at hand. The team checks its gear and prepares for the dive. For some reason, I seem to be the only one that is on edge. I guess they all have years of experience and this is my first time. The thought of jumping into this hole seems absurd. Ahh for the love of science...They lower an emergency air tank, strobes, and a flag with strobe to mark the exit.











Now, here comes my part....what I trained earlier for...the moment I've waited for....I hope I do it right.....

I put the divers gloves on. Hey don't laugh, it's important. They can't do it themselves, and they can't dive without gloves. So I concentrate on my task, and try to do it fast, but correctly. I did it! Final check.....
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video

...and they're gone. I now sit in the shack by myself. I don't have a watch, so I have no idea how long they are gone for. In my head, I am just running through scenarios of whats going on down there. It's quite. Unfortunately, they are building an ice runway so I can hear the machinery running, but I block it out and focus on the quite. I kick the ladder in behind them, and look around the shack.







It actually got really hot in there. Remember, I am dressed for 10 below and am now in a 90 degree shack. I lean over the hole to get a breath of fresh air. I can see some movement and the strobes, but that's about it. The reflection made it impossible to take a picture but I was looking about 70 to 80 feet into the water. The emergency tank was at 30 feet, and looked like I could grab it.




Wait I hear something.....


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....ahh they're back. All safe and sound. Now the second part of my job. I have to help them get their tanks and weights out of the water. I laid down and they push them up out of the water. One by one they pass all their gear out, and we're done.

 What were you doing down there? I wonder. I'll let some pictures do the talking:









I wonder if they can see me from down there?

In closing, the dive team were really awesome people. They are so easy to talk to and are quick to answer my questions.They are just a really laid back bunch...

What a pleasure was spending the day with them. So was this as exciting as you thought it would be? NO? What did you expect to see?.......






...WHAT?!

You expect me to jump in and swim around with the seals? Are you nuts? The water here is like 28 F. The coldest water on Earth. I'm not......going to do it.....




OK! I'll dip my toes in.....just to see how it feels. Its ok it's 90 degrees in this hut.....


Ok, it feels cold.... Happy? Still not satisfied. After checking with the divers.....and thinking it through.......real...hard...........wait for it..............................









WAIT FOR IT.............................




OK, I CLIMB INTO THE WATER. NO, NO JUMP, I CLIMB.........JUST TO MAKE IT MORE REAL WHAT I AM DOING..........











Not too bad. Oh wait.......



AHHHHHH..........
YES IT WAS COLD, I WAS JUST NUMB!!!!!!!!


Weird, another strangely exhilarating experience. God is this making me love life! Jump in the water here and you know you are alive...

and the adventure continues....till next time drying off...I mean "Cooking on Ice"

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