14 November, 1996
This week has been one new activity after another. It will make getting back to the real world very mundane. Bill and Jim are anxious to collect new and different species of invertebrates in their search for natural chemical products. That means diving in new locations. Constructing a dive hut and blasting holes through the ice would consume lots of time so they have decided to send the divers through seal holes and cracks in the ice. Today's project was a helicopter reconnaissance of the west side of McMurdo Sound looking for suitable locations. Bill, Jim, and I flew across McMurdo Sound to the main land. The ice was still very thick and we weren't able to find any suitable sites. We decided to investigate further to the north. As we got closer to the ice edge the seal populations became larger. These animals had to swim for twenty five miles under the ice to get here. Since they are mammals, we knew they had to come out of the water to breathe. That meant we could find our openings by finding seals. They were easy to spot because their dark bodies contrasted the ice below.
When we spotted what looked like a potential site, the helicopter touched down, we would jump out, determine the water depth, make certain the opening was big enough for a diver to fit through, and check for additional nearby holes that could be used as emergency exits.
Many of the holes had seals under them but they didn't seem to mind our being there. Some would just look at us and go back to sleep. We were careful not to disturb them, especially those with new born pups. The pups soft fur looked inviting to touch, but that would be a violation of the Antarctic Treaty. We continued scouting until we found three suitable dive sites. Hopefully they will yield novel invertebrates for the project.
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