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Tuesday, November 27, 2007: Turtle Rock scuba dive, Video Ray mission and octopi
Well today was an eventful one. As the title implies the schedule called for a scuba dive and a Video Ray mission held at Turtle Rock which is north of McMurdo. Stacy and Rusty were the divers who collected our normal suite of experiments while BLee and myself focused on carry out the Video Ray mission. We were joined by the dive tender William Tinus who works as the local machinist at the Vehicle Facility Maintains. William has be very helpful in the SCINI Project as we have asked him to machine a few pieces for the robot and he has provided us with excellent parts.

This picture was taken by William while I took a second to take in Mount Erebus. It felt like I could almost touch it.


Stacy, Rusty and BLee left ahead of William and myself in their speedy Piston Bully while we trudge behind slowly in the might TUCKER! The Tucker is a beast and isn’t really built for speed but for it’s raw power. I heard the Tucker took on a glacier head on and busted it to pieces, this vehicle demands respect.

The Tucker!

While in route to Turtle Rock I learned all about how William became a machinist and it all started back in the Navy. William scored one of the top two highest scores in his class and the Navy told him he had the opportunity to choose where he would like to go to school. Well like any right minded person would do he asked to be an electronics technician on a nuclear submarine. Apparently there were plenty of young seamen who were looking to do the same job so decided to go with his second choice, machinist mate. Something about the title had a ring to it and sounded very appealing to William. After he finished with his classes he was deployed in the Pacific and toured all around the Pacific Ring. After the Navy he did some machining in Long Beach and Colorado where he used to own a machine shop. But now I find this gifted machinist at the bottom of the world sitting next to me telling me how the beginnings of a machinist were created. William is from a time when you learned a trade and mastered. He even went so far to bring a pair of calipers, high accurate measuring device, just in case he needed to take some measurements on the rov. What a guy!

After some entertaining stories we arrived at Turtle Rock. We checked in with the divers as they were busy suiting up and go an okay to take a walk around to check out the pressure ridges. We were told to take some bamboo poles because to probe the ground with because there are unseen cracks that will gobble you up! Well not really but you can get pretty wet and be uncomfortable the rest of the day. Not only are there magnificent pressure ridges but there is also a colony of Waddell seals surrounding Turtle Rock. William and I wove our way throughout the colony but were mindful to keep a respectful distance. It is currently the season when female seal give birth and introduce their pups to the underwater world. Many of the pups were still feeing from the females but seemed to be growing rapidly. After snapping some photos we returned to the dive hut and helped with getting the divers out of the water. Both Rusty and Stacy said this dive site was an amazing place and the crack really helped to illuminate the world below the ice. With the divers out of the water and all packed up, BLee and I began to focus on the Video Ray mission.

Our goal was to locate some raised platforms that were at 20, 40 and 60 meters along the Turtle Rock slop. After some strategic navigation planning, hole drilling and set up time, we were ready to drop Video Ray into the water. Now this was a new experience for Video Ray because we normal deploy it though a hole but today it was deployed through a naturally formed crack. I was a bit skeptical but the crack was plenty big enough. With the rov in the crack I piloted to the sloping face of Turtle Rock. Between BLee and myself we did various search patters in depths of water from 40 to 60 meters which took us to the end of our tether but we were unable to find any of the platforms that we were looking for. We all agreed that we may have misjudge our deployment location and we were going to be unable to locate any platforms with our current tether length. At this point we ended the mission, recovered the rov and broke down all of our gear. To many people this may seem like an unsuccessful mission but I left Turtle Rock satisfied for a couple of reasons. Throughout the whole deployment we didn’t have any mistakes, we didn’t forget to bring important pieces of equipment and the dive went as smooth as it could have. From a piloting standpoint everything went as well as we could have planned for and next we have to expand our search more inland. We could expand our search by increasing our tether length or deploying the rov closer to Turtle Rock. Either way it may be a goal we shoot for next season as our time is running short here and it feels like there is still so much to do.

Ma and pup nose to nose

I asked this seal nicely to pose for the picture.

A fraction of the Turtle Rock Waddell seal colony.

Not only are there seals but Turtle Rock is surrounded by these pressure ridges. They are formed when sea ice is uplifted against the land.

Now for the octopi part of my update. The Fish Guys, as they are know to us, lay out fish traps to catch various types of fish to study how a certain type of molecule acts as an antifreeze agent that prevents the blood in the fish from freezing. One type of fish they are trapping is a Mossinite which is a very big fish that can weight over 100 pounds and lives at depths around 500 feet. Sometimes instead of Mossinite they catch other organisms, like an octopus. This was the second one they brought back with them and I have to admit they are very interesting creatures to look at. Just look at him, with a head that big you know it has to be a smart organism. I bet it could solve a rubix cube if you gave it one.

The day after this picture was taken the octopi went missing. Apparently it crawled out of the tank and someone found him in the middle of the night laying on the floor and put him back in a different tank.


Great post!

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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.