One week I ago I boarded
an A-Star helicopter and flew 40 miles across the McMurdo Sound to Explorer's
Cove situated in New Harbor. New Harbor itself is found at the base
of the Taylor Valley, one of the Antarctic Dry Valleys.
It was here that I joined a scientific
research team that dives into the waters of Explorer's Cove to look at
large single celled organisms called Foraminifera. The point of the
research was to gain better understanding of the forams and their effect
on their marine environment.
To collect their samples, most
of the team were divers with extensive training to be able to work in the
cold Antarctic waters and collect samples from the bottom of the cove.
My basic job with the group was to act as a dive tender. A dive tender
helps a diver suit up as their preparing to dive and stays on the surface
during the duration of the dive, ready to respond in case of an emergency.
Also, once the dive is done, the tender helps to stow equipment and return
the collected samples to the other team members that examine them under
Other jobs of mine included preparing
gear for transport to other dive sites and manifesting all the equipment
and passengers in cooperation with the helicopter logistics office.
I also got to practice my keen skills as a dish washer after we ate our
One highlight during my week at
New Harbor was my chance to see my first completely wild penguin.
Now I know I saw penguins at the penguin ranch, but I just don't think
that should count since the penguins were fenced into a corral. The
penguin was a small Adelie, one of the smaller of all penguin species,
but he was pretty adventurous. He spent a couple nights out by our
generator shack, despite the load noise.
During my stay at New Harbor,
I elected to set up a tent outside to sleep in rather than staying inside
the main buildings of the camp. The team thought I was crazy, but
I rationalized it with the question, "How many times do you get the opportunity
to sleep outside in Antarctica?" It was surprisingly warm in
my tent and I had no problems sleeping.
The time in New Harbor was awesome
and it was great to get out of McMurdo finally. I loved the opportunity
to work with divers, especially since I am a certified SCUBA diver and
am looking to get more involved in the sport. Of all the locations
in Antarctica, I am thinking that New Harbor has got to be the best. It's
got the best of both worlds, the sea ice and the Dry Valleys. Leaving
New Harbor today was hard, but I am looking forward now to my time I'll
spend further in the Taylor Valley at Lake Hoare. To