This morning we all came to work at the usual time. All except for Scott, who was several minutes late. The rule is if you are late then you have to wear one of the silly hats. Scott thought he was safe because the hats were already packed. However, Stacy quickly pulled out a hat and placed it on Scott's head. As usual, he was a really good sport about it and even posed for a picture.
We all were wondering why our flight wasn't listed on the "Departures" board. A little after 10:00am we were informed that our flight had been delayed by a day. A plane from Christchurch, New Zealand had been cancelled and this was the reason our flight was postponed. Stacy wanted us to finish packing just in case things changed again. In Antarctica it is possible for things to change back and forth several times and you usually get very little notice. The reason is that all of the flights are dependent on the weather and it can change in a matter of minutes.
In fact, yesterday I was running around in just my fleece jacket, but today was a very different story. The air was cold and the visibility was way down. Even the helicopters were grounded. As we are packing, Stacy suddenly yelled for me to take a look at something. I looked outside and was treated to a glimpse of "diamond air". This is where the air is so cold that the rain is crystallized into drops of ice and they glisten in the air like diamonds. It is really gorgeous. I was actually able to capture a very short video clip. You have to look real close but it is worth the effort.
Shortly after, the "diamond air" turned to snow.
One of the side effects was that the soda I put outside to chill was covered in snow. There was little doubt that it was cold enough.
We kept on packing because our goal was to pack all of the containers and take them to Cargo before the end of the day. After each container is filled, it is sealed with tape, buckles, or screws and then it is wrapped with two metal straps. They even have a special piece of equipment to connect the metal strap and crimp it. It was actually a lot of fun to learn how to use the equipment.
We also had to return some last minute items. Scott and I went on a trip to several places and we got an unexpected treat when we reached the Heavy Machine shop. Holly, the parts supervisor, took us for a short tour of the facility. It was filled with the largest vehicles I have ever seen. I couldn't get over how big the tires were. Here is a picture of me next to one of the tires. Another vehicle actually had tires that were even bigger than these. It was way cool.
One thing that we really wanted to do before we left Antarctica was to put SARA, the ROV that my students built, into the water. We filled the small test tank and crossed our fingers. Then we gathered everything around the test tank and hooked it all up. Stacy really liked our camera set-up. We are using a fish camera named SAM (this stands for SARA's Aquatic Mascot) that is connected to a small black and white television monitor. It works really well and it is lots of fun to see what SARA sees.
I was nervous that SARA would sink right to the bottom of the test tank. However, it turned out that SARA didn't sink but rather she floated because she had positive buoyancy. Buoyancy is basically how much an object floats. If it is positively buoyant, then the object floats. If it is negatively buoyant, then the object sinks. You want to try to attain neutral buoyancy by adding or subtracting weight from the object. If you would like to read a really good explanation of buoyancy, then go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buoyancy.
I have to admit that when we put SARA in the water and she floated I was really proud.
We needed to attain neutral buoyancy so we added lead weights. Eventually we worked out the right combination of weights and SARA was set. Doesn't she look awesome?
I took a short video of this momentous dive.
The dive in the test tank was a huge success and we decided that we wanted to take it one step further. We collected a chipper bar, all of SARA's components, and we headed for the jetty. Our party included Stacy, Scott, Addie (the dive locker supervisor), Judit (an artist), and me.
We ventured out onto the ice and walked towards where the Jetty used to be. The land was so very different from what it was like a week ago. The snow was melting and a lot more of the ground was exposed. The Jetty building had been removed and we had to hunt for the dive hole. Eventually we found the dive hole and it was in great shape. Stacy and Addie chipped out the ice and then scooped the hole free.
Scott and I readied SARA for her big dive and Judit took pictures. I should explain that during the dive in the test tank I got so excited that I accidentally let my camera go under the water. I didn't discover until later that it was not functioning correctly. It was kind of weird because none of the still pictures came out but all of the video was just fine. I was really lucky that Judit took photographs and was kind enough to email them to us.
Once everything was ready it was time to put SARA in the dive hole. The ice in this hole is 19 feet deep and SARA's tether is not that long. However, we wanted to put her in and look at the sides of the dive hole and anything else that might be in the water. She looked really cute in the dive hole.
Everyone worked together and the dive was a big success. SARA's buoyancy was very positive but we were able to add enough weight to counteract the effects of the saltwater. She was showing images of the ice wall that Stacy observed on the television monitor. Scott acted as navigator and I was the pilot. It was all very exciting.
When we got back to the lab I was absolutely thrilled. After I had boxed up SARA for the trip home I took a few minutes to watch the video that Addie had taken. It was so nice to see the final result of so many hours of hard work. I am extremely proud of my students and the SCINI team for making this all possible. I leave you with a short video clip of SARA in the waters of Antarctica. It was a long, hard trip but worth every minute. You go SARA and hats off to my students!