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Today's Weather
Latitude: 64 35.23 S
Longitude: 68 33.11 W
Wind: 14 KT
Sea State: 3
Swell Height: 2
Baro Pressure: 993 mB
Air Temp: 3.8°C
Sea Surface Temp: 3.0 °C
Vis: Fog

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cold water diving hot topic

Check out the new Hot Topic with videos! Antarctic Water Wear: Cold-Water Diving and Drysuits
What Time Did You Say It Was?!
February 27, 2006
by Kate Madin

“Wake us up before the dive,” said the note on the whiteboard from Lena, because she wanted to prepare fresh aquarium tanks. “Don’t tell me it’s time to dive now,” thought Diane, when Kelly woke her from a sound sleep.

Two weeks out to sea, we are all on strange schedules, and it’s a prime topic of conversation. Though the ship’s crew stands traditional watches of four hours on, eight off, none of the scientists do.  “Changeover day,” Pat called it when we left Palmer Station, was the day everyone tried to stay up 24 hours and switch to working at night.

Studying live animal plankton often means night work, because the animals swim down deep during the day and can’t be collected by divers until midnight or later, when they swim back near the surface.

“I’m trying to stay on this schedule for diving at night,” said Brennan. Erich told the dive teams: “Pay attention to your level of fatigue, take care of your needs, and get your sleep when you can. It’s an important safety issue not to be tired when you dive.”

Some work as long as they can, and then sleep for a short period, like Lena. “I am running 24-hour experiments,” she said, “and I have two hours of sleep in 24 hours, and then a longer sleep.”

“When I get so tired that I’m not effective in the lab, and I can’t think,” Pat said, “I go sleep a while.” She went on, “On some cruises, I’ve known people to stay up so long that they fall asleep standing up, in the middle of a conversation.”

When divers get back with jars of live animals, it’s like getting gifts. By 3:30 in the morning, we’re so tired we’re getting a little silly. “Everyone seemed pleased with their presents,” says Pat, after dividing up the salps. “It’s so easy when you give them all the same thing,” Larry jokes.

 Most of us miss breakfast. “The other day,” said Byron, “I got up in time for breakfast at 7:30, and I realized when I got to the mess that it was 7:30 p.m., and I didn’t get any meal!”

“I feel good now,” Kerri says at 4 a.m., filtering seawater to see what diatoms are there for salps to eat, “but no matter what, it’s weird to be up at 4, working and going to the gym and things.”

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