New Harbor, Antarctica. Days 1 & 2 / by Shaun O'Boyle

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Explorer's Cove, New Harbor, Antarctica

More photographs of my 4 days at New Harbor can be seen on my main website here.

I'm just returning from 3 nights and 4 days at New Harbor, where I joined Dr Samuel Bowsers team (B-043-M) located about 50 miles across the Ross Sea from McMurdo. It’s a location where biologists dive under the sea ice studying the evolution, genome structure, and associated biomes of foraminiferan protists (forams).  There are three divers at the station, and they usually do 2 dives a day. The video they shoot is amazing to see, the light coming through the ice above, underwater ice walls and all sorts of ice features. The ocean water is crystal clear and below freezing, about 29 degrees F, so ice crystals form in the water column and on the sea floor where there are star fish, huge spider crabs, scallops, sponges, fish and seals. I can’t dive, but did watch from the dive hole and could hear the seals calling underwater, which translates through the ice clearly.

Being here is like being on another world. The first thing that struck me was the silence, when the wind isn’t blowing there is a stillness that I have not experienced before. Dead quiet. The topography looks like images sent back from the mars rovers, with no visible sign of life, and a hilly surface strewn with rocks and boulders. The camp is made up of two connected arched structures called Jamesways, which have been here since the mid-1980’s. Like many places I have visited here, the building have real character from use by various science teams over the past 30 years. There are photographs on the wall, artwork, maps, napkin sketches and graffiti which all add to the character of the station. The station is located at the edge of the Ross Sea at Explorers Cove, at the head of Taylor Valley, one of the ice free Dry Valleys in this part of Antarctica. The team has four dive locations near the station and one located about a 1/2 hour snowmobile ride away at Cape Bernacchi. Here are photos from days one and two, I'll post images from days three and four separately. Click on images for larger version.

100 foot high tabular iceberg on flight out to New Harbor

100 foot high tabular iceberg

Jamesway structures at New Harbor Station

Dive team out on ice preparing for a dive

The hard labor of clearing a dive hole after it was unused for 5 days. Several feet of ice had formed.

Mike surfacing after a 35 minute dive

After dive dry off and warm up

Heading back to station

Multi-year ice get pushed up by sea ice pressure and coated with wind blown sand

One of the dive holes is located at this Jamesway building on the ice

Inside the dive Jamesway

Laura working in the lab

Several groups of Forams sorted under the microscope

Groups of Forams

Back at the Station

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Lunch time

Sleeping Jamesway for 6 people, cozy living but very comfortable

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Laura took me on a trip out to Cape Bernacchi where there is a dive hole, and stranded iceberg on the way

Seal tracks in the snow

Evening hike up a hillside near the station gives a view up the Taylor Dry Valley

Commonwealth Glacier in the distance

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Near 11 pm at station