The Real Beginning of the Virtual End Part 1 of 2 - Retrospective

But before these words address the title I have to say Finally – dive ops today! Yes you have read these moafinal1words from me in an earlier post. Once again, multiple days of high winds and storm angered waters have kept our dive team’s heads above seawater. We have not necessarily stayed dry. This latest bout of April winds was first accompanied by several swirling inches of ski-promising snow. My morning journey to the gym in GWR included shoveling clear a foot path on the walkway while contemplating prepping skis. The next morning Mother Nature’s evil twin pummeled the station with wind driven rain. While scurrying through the deluge I pondered if perhaps umbrellas should be placed by entrances rather than snow removal tools. The evil twin would not only scoff at that futile attempt to stay dry but would no doubt twist it into a pretzelbrella. Yesterday, returning from the gym to Bio in yet another driven downpour I scolded myself for not bringing shampoo so I could at least put the cold outdoor shower to good use.  (I edited the image below so the small blue sign hanging on the rail could be read through the raindropped window.)

Oh yes, Finally dive ops. In today’s version drysuited Kate and Chuck with tender Rhiannon Henning (IT Specialist from Kansas, Colorado, Oregon) and I set out on a cloudy but celebration-worthy calm morning. As we approached the selected dive site, off Laggard Island, we could see the bottom, at least 20 feet down. The dark skies would mean using dive lights to enhance the algal and critter colors at depth on this beautiful wall. Today would be Chuck’s last dive of the season as he heads north shortly so we were all pleased it would be a pretty one for him. In his start on packing up the other day he discovered that he had totally forgotten about a little dive antic he wanted to do. See image of him “putting on that old gray bonnet with a blue devil on it…”.   Chuck’s Duke fanatic/alum background had to be explained to Rhiannon.

Moafinal2And now to the real beginning of the virtual end. Yes Chuck is preparing to head home to Alabama leaving Kate, Julie and me to carry on our science projects. Avid readers will recall that Kevin Scriber bid Palmer Station adieu several weeks ago and in his last posts shared thoughts of leaving. Well Julie wrote that many hands make lighter work  implying that fewer hands make heavier work. As such now short two team members to do the lab work and the field work it was long ago decided that we would wrap up the virtual UAB in Antarctica on or about the day Chuck sails. His companion piece will be posted in a few days.

It seems like just yesterday all five of us enjoyed our several day (each sunny and calm!) dive trip to the scenic Lemaire Channel in search of a special long-stemmed version of Ascoseira. What a successfully grand way to launch a season of Antarctic diving! Boy were we duped by the weather though! Back on station, Julie with her medieval torture chamber investigated various aspects of this alga of unusual size. Meanwhile, Kate and PAM gently investigated light requirements of the long-stemmed alga. Kate and PAM would ‘enlighten’ numerous other species of algae throughout the season.

Anchored in Alabama, Jim weighed in about the pros and cons of Antarctic tourism. He also wrote of other ‘tourists’ that are not returning to their original departure ‘city’, settling further south and altering the delicate balance of life down here. Relocation of these feathered and flippered critters is likely being driven by climate change along the peninsula. Not only does climate change bring the very real and documented problem of warmer temperatures to the Peninsula (it should NOT RAIN in April in Antarctica!) the commensurate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide brings on the companion problem of ocean acidification .   The naturally thin shells of Antarctic molluscs (snails, clams, etc.) and the armor of spiny sea urchins and sea stars among others are now at risk of literally dissolving in the increasingly acidic seas.  An underlying theme to some of our group’s writings has been alliterating to movies so please on the issue of climate, click your ruby heels Dorothy and say repeatedly “I believe, I believe...” Let’s hope Antarctica will continue to hold unexpected surprises.

On the alliteration theme, Kate brought in galactic movies references to force her readers to see the true ways of Antarctic communities. She also harkened on the great Bob Dylan to stress the weather that has impaired our field operations many a day is indicative of changin’ climes and changin’ times. The Holy Divers bear the truth but Kate will continue her sleuthing ways in her upcoming, but not to be released episodes of CSI Antarctica.

Julie too got into alliteration with amphipod games?!?  She is kind of our James Herriot all things moafinal3great and small. Unintended dive collection critters found their way to Julie’s heart as by-catch. “You are cute and special whatever you are!”  She equally warmly welcomed visitors arriving under sail while quietly building a universe in the aquarium building. Totally cosmic!

Finally, I led you on a diving cowboy odyssey of sorts and an African amphipod safari. Closer to ‘home’ I introduced you to the current Palmer Station  while Chuck described our only sunny Sunday morning off-the clock time at Old Palmer. No fish bones about though it time to wrap this up, send the LMG and Chuck north and carry on at Palmer Station with UAB in A’s work on ocean acidification.

Do stay tuned for Chuck’s part 2 of The Real Beginning of the Virtual End. Meanwhile and thereafter, send comments, questions, hellos to Kate, Julie and me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.