He's A Really Cool Scientist
Why Dive in Freezing Waters?
Very few people realize that there is a research base in Antarctica, called McMurdo Station. About 1000 scientists and support people live there in order to study the most pristine and harsh environment in the world. McMurdo Station was originally built as a military base, but it has gradually been converted to a scientific research facility over the past 3 decades. In the early days, when McMurdo Station was run by the military, very little was known about the sea life which was hidden by 10 feet of ice, 10 months out of the year. Basically, the people stationed there didn't think anything could live under the water in such bitter cold conditions. They didn't think dumping large numbers of 55 gallon barrels, broken down tractors, and other large trash items into the ocean would harm anything, so they went ahead and dumped it. The garbage is still there on the ocean bottom, today. Scientists are worried about the possible risk to the marine environment so they started studying the garbage.
Before donning their dive gear, Chris and his team would start out using a Remotely Operated Vessel (ROV) to check out what was down there. The ROV is a small, remote-controlled sub, which works kinda like the cars you get at the toy store. Only this sub does more than just dive around under water. It uses highly technical equipment to produce images of the sea floor. It gives the positions (i.e Latitude and Longitude) of the barrels, tractors, dumpsters and other trash. And it takes videos of the sea floor. All this information is being used to create an "underwater map" of the trash to better understand how it's distributed and whether any of it is hazardous and needs to be removed. Believe it or not, the trash has formed an artificial reef and is supporting all kinds of sea life. If they take it all they could destroy what has turned into a natural habitat for Antarctic sea life. The scientists are going to use the data they have gathered to decide what to do with the trash.
Where'd He Learn to Do That?
Chris first learned how to dive under the ice up in the Canadian Arctic. He learned how to SCUBA dive while he was in college. But just knowing how to SCUBA wasn't enough. He needed some specialized training to be able to dive in such extreme conditions. When he was offered a job working up in the Canadian Arctic he got some training from the Diving Safety Officer at Moss Landing Marine Labs learning how to dive in a dry suit. Diving in a dry suit is very different from diving in a wet suit, which is how most people learn to dive. When you dive in a dry suit there is air trapped in your suit because it is designed to seal out water. Chris says, "If you hang upside down, the air in your dry suit can travel into the legs of your suit, making them float up. It can be really difficult to get yourself back into a head-up position if you're not trained and experienced in how to do it". Chris really enjoys diving in the cold waters of the Antarctic. He says, "Down there, the water is so clear and clean you can see up to 500 feet!".
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