Last Dive

Photos from UAB in Antarctica group on Flickr, related to this post
By Chuck
Posted on 05/26/07

It seems that in many ways I just got here, but on Wednesday morning I sail north for home. Tonight, though, I sail south for a call at a Ukrainian research station that is just four or five hours steaming time from here on the LM Gould. We will visit in the morning and then head home around noon.  Craig will be telling you about our visit there in his next post

Tuesday will be spent packing and taking care of last minute details. I suspect that Monday will be too so today was probably my last dive here at Palmer this season. It was a pretty one.

On a series of short survey dives that Maggie and I made for a special project about a week ago, we dove at a part of Laggard Island we never had before.  (See my earlier post “A Laggard Morning” for info on other work we do there.) On those dives we only were going down to 100 ft depth, which is shallower than many of the sponges the project works on can be found. But on a couple of the dives it looked like there was a wall below that which could be a good sponge spot.

Another great feature of that site is that it is on the more protected side of the island. Although it was a beautiful, sunny day today, there was a very large wave swell coming in, presumably from storms far away. So the seas at most of our best sponge sites were too rough to dive. It seemed to me to be a good day to go back to this new Laggard Is. site and have a look.

With Alan and station winter-over laboratory supervisor, Dave Minor, as our tenders, Maggie and I headed out to dive. The seas were rough enough that it was a bumpy ride out and I was concerned that even this somewhat protected site would be too rough to dive on. It was a close call, but indeed the seas were not too big to dive with.

We dropped in on the GPS coordinates of one of the survey dives from last week. As we swam down, I realized that we’d drifted a bit west of where we wanted to be and so started swimming towards the east. After a few minutes, a stunningly beautiful wall came into view. Sponges were indeed abundant and diverse. In one area, there were half a dozen or so very large vase sponges that we usually see only at the really rich spots for sponges.

We were able to collect a couple sponge species that we were looking for and, on the way back up, some red algae that we still need too. So the dive was not only beautiful, but it was scientifically productive. I expect that we’ll be back at that site in the future.

If indeed today’s dive was the last, it was a truly wonderful way to end the season!

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