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2 December, 2004

The Deep Blue

Temperature: 19*F

Location: McMurdo Station

It amazes me that a region that looks so desolate on the surface can be swarming with life just beneath the ice. Today we dove through the thickest dive hole in Antarctica - at least that the folks here know about! The ice itself was 20 feet thick with about 4 feet of snow on top of it. A bulldozer had to come through and plow out a trench just so the divers could reach the hole. Talk about a “tube”! It seemed to go on forever!

Our dive hole today was positioned over 110 feet of water. We followed the dive line down to the bottom. Because there was so much snow over the surrounding ice, very little light was getting through the ice. It was basically pitch black. We each had a dive light, so we could see each other, but that was about it. As we approached the bottom, things started coming into view. We were near the bottom of a sloping ridge. The ground was absolutely covered with life. Huge sea stars of all colors, the biggest sea spider I have ever seen, sponges, and soft corals; I even got to hold a little octopus! What an amazing world lies hidden below the ice.

Anchor ice was forming on the soft corals even at a depth of 70 feet. Although anchor ice is absolutely beautiful, it is detrimental to the organisms it grows on. It will damage, even destroy, the tissues of the animals. Anchor ice resembles shards of glass that have been stuck into the organism from all angles. The light from our dive lights scattered in all directions as we aimed them on the anchor ice revealing elaborate patterns within the ice shards.

I turned to look back at the dive hole. There was a beacon of deep blue light beaming to the bottom. I could clearly see our down line with the strobe lights attached. I don’t think I have ever felt so part of “another world” and so removed from “our world.”

1) The Piston Bulley that took us to our dive.

2) Our dive hole.

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