Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When a door closes, a window opens

We weren't able to go to Cape Crozier to do our penguin census because of bad weather, so Jessica and Paul decided to do their mandatory check-out dive with our Dive Safety Officer, Rob, instead.

The dive hut is near Cape Evans (more about that in another post). Cass and I tagged along to help with the dive tending.

This is Cass in the dive hut.

She is looking at the Weddell seal that had claimed the dive hole as his. He was totally unconcerned that we were in the hut with him.

Weddells are some of the calmest and most unflappable animals I've ever met. Their curved mouths make them look as if they are perpetually smiling.

Come to think of it, maybe they are. We humans can be pretty hilarious at times, especially when we enter the water.

Here's a photo of the seal that Cass took. Can you see his second "face"? His name should be Janus after the two-headed Roman god.
(see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus_(mythology)) if you aren't up on Roman mythology.

Part of their mirth may be watching us get ready for a dive in a dry suit. It is a long and complicated process. First, you put on the suit liner, and then, pull on the dry suit, as Paul and Jessica are doing in the photos below.

Next, comes the double boots, double hood, triple gloves, tank and masks. (Remember it's -2 C water.) Here's Paul with most of the assembly on.

When Paul, Rob, and Jessica were ready to jump in, up came the Weddell seal again. They share a moment, pictured below.

The seal was quite happy to share the dive hole with our divers and looked a little puzzled at (and maybe a little sorry for?) all the gear that the humans had to wear. Our three divers waited until the seal left before they went into the water.

Paul and Jessica were in the water (below) once the seal decided to leave. While Jessica descended, the seal shimmied up past her so quietly that Jessica wasn't even aware of him.



Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of what they saw, but both Paul and Jessica raved about how beautiful it was below. Many of the species are vividly colored. If you are interested in seeing some beautiful photographs of the Antarctica sea life, try finding Norbert Wu's book on the topic. He has a masterful eye. See: http://www.norbertwu.com/galleries/Antarctica.html