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22 October, 2003

Another day at McMurdo, spent waiting for the arrival of today's cargo plane with its 'gift' for Darren. Luckily the weather cooperated and the flight came in around 4 pm. By the time the sled was off-loaded and placed near the Crary Lab, it was too late to work on getting it field-ready. We will spend tomorrow morning uncrating it and calibrating the scale before we tow it out to camp.

Wednesday nights there are science lectures at the Crary Lab. Tonight's talk was given by Stacy Kim of the Moss Landing Marine Lab near Monterey, California. Her group is studying the human impacts on the invertebrate populations of McMurdo Sound. The primary human impact, until February 2003, has been the dumping of untreated sewage effluent. With last year's completion of the sewage treatment plant, this practice is definitely a thing of the past. The group is diving under the ice in a number of locations, collecting information about the invertebrate populations at the effluent site as well as at sites at increasing distances from that pollution source. The ocean here makes an excellent laboratory for studying the impacts of man on natural systems. The water is remarkable in both its clarity and in the diversity of invertebrate life. Stacy showed photos of sea sponges that can grow to close to a meter tall. Many of these sponges are estimated to be well over one hundred years old.

Think about the concept of diving in water that is -2C (28F). The divers wear layers of long underwear under their drysuits. They are totally covered except for their lips. There are usually huts placed over the dive holes, so they have some protection from the Antarctic cold when they emerge after a 30-minute dive. During a dive, a dive-tender stays next to the hole to assist them when it's time to come out. It's a lot of work to hand all the diving equipment up through a hole I the ice when you're thoroughly chilled after a dive. Occasionally, they must share their dive holes with the Weddell Seals who take advantage of those well-maintained holes to come up for air. To learn more about the project and see images taken during the dives, you can visit their website at www.mlml.calstate.edu/groups/benthic/antarctic.htm.

Daily Haiku:

Waiting in MacTown

Five planes land at the air strip

The sled has made it

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