Below the ice…

23 Dec

This year we have been fortunate enough to be able to go below the ice and observe life below without getting wet.  The station has put in an Observation Tube right outside of town.  It’s about a 15 minute walk away from my dorm with beautiful scenery overlooking Hut Point. 

Looking out from the fishing hut with Hut Point and Mount Discovery in the distance.View looking North towards the ice edge. The mountains are the start of Arrival Heights where scientific research is taking place.

The ‘Ob Tube,’ as it’s refered to by the locals, is a stainless steel and glass tube that is dropped through a hole in the ice.  It is dark and very narrow and goes down about 30 feet to provide a nice viewing area for local marine life. 

The tube is quite small and if you are even slightly claustrophobic, it’s a bit hairy.  I even had a coworker that was lodged in the Ob Tube due to the fact that she was so tall and had long legs.  She needed to be ‘assisted’ out.  Scarry thought!  🙂

The Ob Tube is an amazing experience.  You walk to Hut Point, the location of the hut that explorer Robert F. Scott built for the British Antarctic Expedition. 

You walk past Hut Point and walk up to a  fishing hut, put there to help you keep warm.  Inside the fishing hut there is adiving hole for above ice viewing.  Some folks have claimed that seals have popped up for some air or just to say hello.

A quaint spot for some tea, eh?

The diving hole in the fishing hut that stays open due to the hanging plastic that is blowing warm air continuously.

After checking out the fishing hut and thoroughly warmed up, I walked to the actual Ob Tube.

This is where the magic happens...

And made my way inside…

Don't mind the mismatched fingerless gloves or bright mango neck gator. Just look at how small the tube is!

It was a bit scarry.  I had several thoughts of my death; the ice cracking and me falling into the abyss of the bitterly cold Antarctic waters stuck in this skinny tube.  Or the cover would close and become unable to be opened EVERY AGAIN.  Or a shark would come and crack the glass and eat me in one bite like in Jaws.  Okay…too much TV before bedtime.  I’ll work on that one.

I made the choice that this was okay to participate in and not one step closer to my death.  I slowly made my way down.  It was creepy and calming at the same time. 

The view looking up from about 1/4 way down.

I had the support of my friends looking from above.  UNTIL THEY CLOSED THE COVER.  The views are said to be better if less light is let in from above.   So they were just doing what they were told. 

I continued slowly creeping my way down the ladder.

Looking down view...just before I hit the swinging step ladder and the bench Not too comforting, huh?

 Well, I made it safely to the bench at the base.  It took some manuevering to get seated and for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  The light you see is ambient aquamarine.  It’s lighter and greener on the top and gets more bluebelow and in the distance.  You can see  the rock that makes up the island we are living on and it feels like you can see for miles.  The water is amazingly clear to see, but my camera plus the thick glass didn’t allow for better photos.  As I calmed down, I decide that being down there was very serene and peaceful.  There was not any noise and I felt miles away from town.

Cloudy and blurry view from inside the Ob Tube looking out. You can make out the different colors and the sun shining through the thick ice.

For atleast 10 minutes I just sat watching in all directions.  There were little floating creatures swimming by and I was just staring.  I think I saw jelly fish.   And there appeared to be several other unidentifiable creatures; all as small as my pinky fingernail.  The quiet and calmness was unbelievable.  It was as if you were floating on a warm cloud feeling the sun down to into your bones.  

My time was coming to an end and it was time to make like a baby and head out.  I started the ascent and knocked on the cover for my friends to release me from my peaceful captivity. 

The view heading out...

After such a great experience, I headed back to the warming hut since I got a bit chilled down below. 

Jess and I warming up in the Fishing Hut. Awww...Good Times!

A pretty unbelievable experience that I truly treasured and plan to do again.

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2 Responses to “Below the ice…”

  1. Cousin Karen December 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Gee…it’s just becoming more and more obvious just how much you take after both me and your mother…NOT!!! Our big excitement was: movies and Chinese food on a Saturday!!! Oh…wait…I think it still is!!

    Thanks for the wonderful info and photos…Jack and I truly look forward to them and continuing to live vicariously through your adventures…Hugs to you and Happy New Year! Love, Karen

  2. Uncle Stuart January 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Absolutely UNBELIEVABLE. Great blog. Do you do any work down there or is it one party after the next.
    Love u & miss u
    Uncle Stuart & Aunt Ivy

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