Monday, November 22, 2010

Birthday #32 and the Ob Tube

Hello again! To start off this week, I have to give you the link to this wonderful video that my friends in Boulder made for me. Even though I'm way on the other side of the world, they threw me a birthday party! Thank you Brendan, Cassey, Alex, Mary, and Mary's new man (I look forward to meeting you someday soon)!! That makes my day! :-D And those cupcakes look really yummy...

Last Monday, I celebrated my 32nd birthday, and it was a lot of fun. Larry organized a birthday party for me in the coffee house here on station. Lots of people showed up for food, drinks, and a nice evening of hanging out.

Look at all the people who were at the party!

The birthday boy sporting his birthday headband. :)

In other news, the observation tube (the ob tube, for short) was installed in the sea ice in early November, and I took a couple of trips down the tube to observe life under the sea. The first time, Larry and I went with a friend named Steve. The tube itself goes about thirty feet under the sea ice into a little room with windows all the way around. You could see all kinds of little fish creatures swimming around and I also saw two jellyfish float by. The sea ice was also quite spectacular! Unlike the top surface, which is flat, the bottom surface of the sea ice is made up of a frozen crystalline features that stick out in all directions, sometimes forming ice "stalactites" that dipped into the water. Very beautiful!

Approaching the sea ice, you can see the diving hut on the right and the top of the ob tube on the left.

Larry and I stand beside the ob tube, which goes down about thirty feet under water.

Steve joined Larry and me for a trip to the ob tube.

Larry posed for some silly pics while we waited for our turn to go down the tube.

And when you're too silly on the ice, you slip and fall. Fortunately, Larry is okay. :)

Steve and I standing outside the ob tube. You can see the top of Ob Hill in the far center left background.

Unfortunately, photos didn't take very well through the glass at the bottom of the tube, but here's one of the crystalline features that form the bottom of the sea ice.

In addition to visiting the ob tube, Larry, Steve, and I took a look inside the nearby diving hut. As its name indicates, the hut is used by divers as an access point to get underwater. A hole about four feet in diameter is cut in the sea ice, and a plastic tube blowing warm air hangs above it to keep it from refreezing.

The diving hut

The hole in the ice is kept from refreezing by the warm air that comes out of the plastic tube.

Looking into the diving hole, we could see all the way to the sea floor about forty or fifty feet below. The glow comes from the ambient sunlight as it passes through the ice.

The second time I went to the ob tube, I took some photos of the sea ice nearby as well as a seal that was laying out in the sun. We also saw a plane land on the sea ice runway in the distance.

My friend Sharon looks up at me from the bottom of the ob tube.

Look, a plane!

Getting closer...

And just about to touch down! I'm impressed that the sea ice is thick enough to support these huge military planes!

The textured surface of the sea ice reflects the afternoon sunlight.

A seal soaks up some Antarctic summer sun near the ob tube. He made a few funny seal noises, which we loved hearing. :)

Even though the sea is frozen in Antarctica, it is still subject to the same tides that occur throughout the rest of the world. This causes swells, dips, and cracks in the ice close to land.

A swell with several cracks

Here the ice looks like it just split in two from the force of the tides.

This crack stretched for quite a ways along the ice. Fortunately, these cracks are not big enough for someone to fall through into the sea below; they can, however, twist up a person's ankle really badly.

A view of the ripples from the swells and dips in the sea ice

This week is a short work week for us at McMurdo. We have a two-day weekend this Saturday and Sunday!! Yay!! Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Saturday, with a huge feast for everyone on station (albeit in three shifts: 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm). Have a happy Turkey Day and I'll see you all again next week. :)


  1. It's great to see your pics and read about these awesome experiences!! Glad you had a fun and adventurous b-day! Lots-o-love!!! Happy almost Tofu day!!

  2. Happy Turkey Day, Joseph and happy belated birthday! Enjoying all your posts, particularly the seal and the cute penguins. Still think the Happy Camper episode was unnecessarily masochistic. I note that I didn't see Larry there. Hugs, Bev in Boulder