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Tuesday, October 16, 2007: Cameras and Recovering Equipment from Under the Ice Sheet
In our last excited episode the SCINI Team got two transducers, which are used for the navigation system, stuck in the ice sheet during the excitement of our first SCINI deployment. Through the ingenuity of Bob we were able to free one of two transducers with hot water. By the time we recovered transducer one it was 2 a.m. and we decided to call it a night and return the next day to recover the second transducer. So let’s continue with the exciting adventure of under the ice diving, cameras, amazing jellyfish and of course the recovery of the lost transducer…

This picture has nothing to do with the post but I don't think a happer flower in Antarctica exist.


At 2 a.m. I was exhausted from a long day and immediately went to sleep the second my head hit the pillow. I was schedule to dive with Stacy at 9 a.m. and I wanted to get as much sleep as possible before the dive. At 8:30 a.m. I rolled out of bed, got a bit to eat and headed down to the dive locker. At the dive locker I met with the team and Roxanna, our dive tender for the day. Stacy and I reviewed our dive plan for the day and it included taking some photos and recording some transects with a camcorder. Stacy was going to take some photos of an experiment she placed down the previous week and recover a core that we misplaced below the dive hole while I was going to use the camcorder to record three 10 meter transects of the ocean floor. After these tasks we were going to attach our gear to the down line under the dive hole and go look for the missing transponder. Since we were not able to move the transducer last night we assumed that it would be hanging a couple of meters below the ice sheet and should be pretty visible. After our brief we geared up and headed to the Jetty dive site.

Splash! Stacy jumps in the dive hole and she reaches up for her waterproof camera as Roxanna hands it down to her. I am sitting on the edge of the dive hole while all of this is going on doing a mental review of the dive plan. After Stacy has cleared the dive hole I lifted myself off of the edge and jumped into the dark 28 degree F water. While I was still on the surface the dive tenders handed me the camcorder. I met Stacy at the bottom of the down line and we same over to where I was to do the three transects. After I finished my transects Stacy and I regrouped and swam back to unload our gear at the down line.

Here is some of the gear we are using to record images under the water. The gray camcorder (on the left) goes into the yellow waterproof housing while the two HID lights illuminate the scene.

We are at about 30 feet of water and Stacy starts to hook her camera onto the down line, meanwhile I am looking around at the sapphire blue ceiling that is illuminated through the cracks in the sea ice and then I spot the shadow of something in the distance. As the creature swims along it comes into focus, it is a beautiful jellyfish! I have never seen a jellyfish like this in my life and I feel like I am at the Monterey Bay Aquarium looking into one of the jellyfish tanks, but instead of a piece of glass it is only a couple of meters of water that separates us. I get Stacy’s attention and point out the amazing jellyfish to her. She motions over for us to go get a closer look and with the camcorder still in hand I push record and get the creature on film. As we get closer the jellyfish is getting larger and large until I can no longer fit it the frame. At this point I am about two meters away from this huge jellyfish and the bell (top portion) of the jelly looked to be about a meter across. In all honesty, I was very excited to be so close to this animal that moved so gracefully but looked like an alien for a completely different world. I attached some still frames from the footage we recorded below (when I made it back to the surface I learned that the jellyfish was a Desmonema glaciale After a few minutes of jellyfish gazing Stacy and I focused in on our third and final task, recovery of the elusive transducer.

Follow me with the beautiful jelly; Jellyfish open

Jellyfish close, jellyfish move

Jellyfish open again

Look at the massive tentacles.

The bell must have been about one meter across. HUGE!!!

What another amazing feature of Antarctica.

With the help of Stacy I attached the camcorder to the down line and we started heading in the direction of the ice frozen transducer. We had an idea of its direction as it was placed about 10 meters from a four foot fishing hole that was near our dive hole. We swam towards the fishing hole that looked like a moon hanging in the sky and headed towards where we thought the transducer was. It took less than five minutes for us to find the transducer thanks to Stacy’s bright light and the awesome water clarity. I swam up to the lonely transducer, unscrewed it from its connector and clutched it in my hand the remainder of the dive. After a successful transducer recovery we swam back to our dive hole, did a safety stop for 5 minutes and headed back up the dive hole. The firs thing I handed the dive tenders was the precious transducer and then all of my gear. Now the only thing that remained was the recovery of the transducer cable.

This little transducer gave us so much trouble, but in the end we were able to retrieve it.

Again, thanks to Bob’s MacGyver like skills the transducer cable was pulled from the ice. Bob, Bryan and Marcus headed the task of getting the cable free and like the previous day used hot water, a tent pole, some duct tape and a funnel with a hose. The funnel and hose were attached to the tent pole with the duct tape and was placed down the half frozen hole. Next the hot water was poured into the funnel and was jammed into the hole. With each jam the tent pole went further into the ice until it made a hole that was larger enough for the cable to be pulled up through. Both our transducer and cable were recovered, GREAT SUCCESS!

The day was filled with great accomplishments above and below the ice sheet and I am impressed at how our team is able to divide and complete various task. I am slowly learning about the many unanticipated events that occur in the Antarctic environment. I never thought maintaining a transducer hole was going to be such a task but here we are trying to think of ways to keep 5 inch holes from freezing over. I’m sure this is only one of many unanticipated occurrences that we will come across while here in Antarctica, I only wonder what the next unforeseen events will bring.

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.