Ob tube

Barbara entering the Ob Tube

Today was our second full day in McMurdo station. Since our arrival we have started to prepare for our deep field deployment. We constantly take training classes on environmental protection (to protect Antarctica with its pristine fauna and flora from us people); waste management; recycling; water preservation (only 4 showers a week per person allowed); safety; survival; etc. Today we had snowmobile training, meaning we got to learn how to take care of our snowmobiles, the do’s and don’ts, how to fix and trouble shoot it. Following we had a 3 hour long “Antarctic Field Survival and Safety (AFS)” training. We learned about cold injuries, how to take care of each other, and how to deploy our survival kits in case things go bad. These survival kits are composed of an emergency tent for shelter, a snow saw and shovel, some food and clothes to survive for up to 3 days, and a stove. We set up the tents and learned how to use the emergency stoves. This survival and safety class turned into the real thing when the group next to us set their stove and the adjacent spill kit on fire (no one got hurt, a fire blanket extinguished the fire fast, and a lesson was learned -hopefully).

After our last training session for today we started to prepare for our “Shakedown” tomorrow, when we will drive on our snowmobiles onto the ice, far away from McMurdo, to set up camp for one night. During the shakedown we will test our gear to make sure everything is deep field ready and approved, nothing is broken or needs to be fixed, and we will learn how to set up camp efficiently and safely. We pulled, lifted, stored, and moved gear, equipment, and food from one site to another in order to have everything ready for tomorrow.

Juliane inside the Ob Tube


After the all our chores were done and all the training taken care of we got to experience a rare and most amazing treat today: we went to “The Obs Tube”. The “Obs Tube” is a drill hole on the ice shelf that goes all the way through the ice into the ocean. Into this drill hole a tube was lowered about 12 inches in diameter, just large enough to fit one person through. The end of the tube is made of glass, so after you climb down into the tube you get to sit below the sea ice in the ocean. The water is crystal clear! It is the most amazing thing ever! The sunlight paints the frozen sea ice in this eerie glow of yellow, green, and blue-ish colors. At the boundary where the liquid water meets the frozen ice sheet, weird structures have formed and sometimes formations like icicles reach deep into the water. We saw lots of tiny fish, and we could hear seals. Seriously, they are a noisy bunch, they make really strange noises; but it is the most amazing thing to hear them so close by.  Some seals were sun bathing on the ice shelf close by. In addition to this we got lucky, when divers from another science group went out to test some equipment We got to see them dive through a diving hole under the ice and do science. This was the best treat ever (so far). And we are looking forward to all the other amazing treats we get to experience. The next one is coming up tomorrow: our Shakedown. We can’t wait!

View from the inside of the Obs Tube, with diver in the distance

-Juliane, McMurdo Station, 11:30pm on 12/02/17

-NOTE from RPH:  Apologies for this posting out of order- it didn’t post automatically like it is should have, so I gave it a day to fix itself and it didn’t (a glitch in the Matrix?).  Also in spite of claiming to be a hands-off editor, I found I couldn’t contain myself this time;  I corrected Juliane’s use of the term “obs” tube”  to “ob tube” which is how I’ve always heard it.