Our second day of training and safety and protocol lectures. But only three today. Whew! The first was an Environmental Field brief. Antarctica is a pristine continent with many unique sites. Treating our sampling sites with respect and practicing good environmental stewardship is a must in Antarctica. That means packing everything that brought to a sampling site, and bringing it all back. Everything. There’s nowhere in Antarctica that you can pee on the ground, they reminded us, and while it’s gross to wash a pee bottle, it’s even grosser to wash someone else’s.
Since we will be working in the Dry Valleys, we were given some additional information specifically for working within the McMurdo Dry Valleys ASMA, which contains five ASPAs. ASPAs are Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, and an ASMA is an Antarctic Specially Managed Area. Science (and other) activities in these areas are managed and coordinated to minimize human impacts to protect the ecological, environmental, and aesthetic qualities.
Our third and final safety talk was the Outdoor Safety Lecture, which is necessary for any recreation that involves being outside. We immediately put this training to good use. We went to see marine life thriving under the ice in McMurdo Sound (McMurdo Station is on the Southern tip of Ross Island). How can you do that without donning dive gear? The “Ob Tube” (observation tube)! The tube is narrow, and about 20 feet long, with windows all around at the bottom. There, you can sit and enjoy the marvels of the sea – the schools of silvery fish, jellies, a sponge and some crustaceans. We could hear seals and were hoping to see them, but sound can travel far distances under water so they may have been nowhere near us. I guess we’ll just have to hike around this beautiful landscape to catch a glimpse of the seals.