Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Observation Tube!

I am probably going to be saying this a lot over the course of the next handful of months, but I just saw something truly incredible. I've been taking a fair amount of pictures that I don't know quite how to work in, so I've decided I'm going to start every blog post with a picture or two of just how stunningly beautiful this environment is.

Although I technically knew that I was coming down to Antarctica to work as support staff for the scientific research of the United States Antarctic Program, it somehow didn't fully sink in that I'm working, through one degree of separation, for the National Science Foundation. This is funny, because I've often complained about the fact that my preternatural ability to act as a magnet for scientists means that my day to day life is often dictated by science that I don't really understand. Ha. Clearly some part of me must actually enjoy this, because I have no one but myself to blame this time, and I'm LOVING hearing about the research that's going on down here.

There's a pretty stark division between the science that goes on here and all of us townsfolk who cook and clean and operate the heavy equipment that allows said science to happen. But there are definite attempts to make the research down here available to those of us contractors who want to learn about it. There are weekly science lectures, and we can go tour the labs, and sometimes we get to play with some of the scientific equipment that's not currently being used.

And some of that equipment is really, really, reaaalllllyyyy awesome. Like this thing here, which looks like one of them there tubes from Super Mario Brothers. This is the Observation Tube. And it is one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Basically, this is a 30ish foot pipe that has been drilled through the sea ice so that the bottom length of it is underneath the water.

You climb down through the tube, and there's an observation chamber at the bottom. There's only room for one person at a time, and you shut the top so that the surface light doesn't interfere with the view. It's a tight fit. 
It was pretty much impossible to get a decent picture here, but this is one of the windows down in the tube. All the little white specks are krill, punctuated by the occasional jellyfish. Apparently seals sometimes come by.
The sea ice from below. I wish you could see the subtle variations better. It was pretty damn awe inspiring. 
This gives you a bit of an idea of what the observation area looks like. 

Yay for unused science equipment! 


  1. Dude, that is FUCKING RAD. You are an ice explorer!

  2. ps. can you receive mail down there? i'm up in our mail exchange!

  3. Yes! I can indeed receive mail! My address is:
    Tessa Hulls, NANA
    McMurdo Station
    PSC 469 Box 700
    APO AP 96599
    If you feel up for it, I would dearly love thumb drives of new music....

  4. Looks so inspiring. I can't wait to see how this influences your work.