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Today's Weather
Lat: 62 10.35 S
Long: 61 59.38 W
Wind: 30 KT
Sea State: 5
Swell Height: 7-9
Baro Pressure: 955.6 mB
Air Temp: 2.0°C
Sea Surface Temp: 2.8°C
Vis: 5 NM

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submitted by Mary Cook's class
from Batesville, Arkansas
The Night Dive
March 9, 2006
by Kate Madin

Friends and family ask: “Are you afraid?” “Do you see sharks?” “Isn’t that water cold?” At times I’ve been afraid, I have seen sharks, but not in Antarctica, and I say “the water down here isn’t cold for long.” That’s because my lips are numb almost instantly. Working in the open ocean is a lot like foreign travel: a chance to collect and photograph some new fantastic animal is like a chance to see a different culture. It never gets old.

Every dive is unique. I always feel like a guest, never really one hundred percent comfortable with my surroundings. The plankton I see and collect are not burdened with lights, extra weight, a buoyancy compensator, flippers, mask, regulators and all the other gear necessary to dive in Antarctica. Talk about multi-tasking! Try to get a fragile jellyfish into a jar—if you wave your hand, the animal disintegrates before your eyes. Other times, the animal is bigger than the jar! I relax my breathing, inflate my suit just enough to become weightless…floating. Got him! I pull out my marker and write the time on the jar lid. Into the catch bag with this one. Next. Soon, all the jars are full. Have I made a mental note of everything I saw, to record once back on the ship? Oh, yeah—check my air and realize it is time to ascend, but first, the safety stop at 20 feet (6 meters) deep. This is when I realize I am a visitor, relax and hang on the downline. The other night, I turned my lights off and let the bioluminescent animals and plants bathe me in green flashes of light.

Foreign land? You bet.

The first sensation is one of extreme cold on my lips, and I think, “Is it going to go away?” It always does, because your lips get numb. The only part exposed to water is your lips, but soon you forget about them. In the Zodiac, I’m really warm in the drysuit, so getting into the ocean is actually refreshing. I get in without lights, but you can see the dive float bobbing in the water, and other lights of the other divers. You’re aware of the others—you don’t want to swim across and tangle their lines, or hit their mask with your fin. After you’re settled and comfortable with your gear, you see your first plankton animal.

If you are the safety diver, you have to go in before the other divers. I don’t use lights until I’m near the down line. Two lights are attached to your arms, so your lights point where your hands point. Anywhere else, it’s dark. To signal others, you have to point one hand to light your other hand, so they can see your signal.

You can’t hear the other divers. All you hear is your own breathing—even louder because of the hood around your head. As safety diver, I go down 10 feet (2 meters), the other divers swim over, I hand them tethers (lines) and they clip onto them. Then they swim out on their lines, around me in the center. I’m not moving much, so when the air in my tank gets to a certain level, I know the other divers’ air is lower, and I signal them to go up.

On the way up, you’re getting ready for the struggle: getting out of the water is a lot of work. You have to get your heavy collecting bag into the boat, you hand up your weights and tank, and then get in yourself. But in the Zodiac, everyone feels relief and elation—we’re excited to go back to the ship and see what we caught. Then you have time to enjoy the fresh air, take note of how quiet it is away from the ship, and relax


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