Well, we are really getting into this science lark! This time we got to go out with the dive team. This is us in the front of the boat (not a bad trip to work; beats waiting for a bus!). The UK is one of the few countries to run an all year round dive team and that team is at Rothera. The team is made up of four people: a Boat Man, a Dive Officer and two divers and they get to stay in Antarctica for the winter when it gets really dark. Because the sea freezes over, they have to cut holes in the ice with chain saws to dive through: very impressive! Working year round means that we can see what is happening in the sea every month, especially the big differences between the summer and winter.
As I’m sure you all know, in the summer, in Antarctica, we get 24 hours of light, which means lots of things are growing in the water and more importantly there are lots of algae for our cousins to eat. There can be so much algae that it’s like diving in pea soup! In the winter you can have 24 hours of darkness and not so much is happening. There are hardly any algae in the water, which means the divers can see for miles underwater (that must be sooooo amazing), but that also means not much food for our cousins. When we chatted to our cousins in the aquarium, they said winter was pretty dull and they slept a lot in winter to conserve energy (seems reasonable to us).
This is us having fun with the diver team: that’s Emily, the Dive Officer in the yellow boat suit; we are sitting on Dr Gail’s head and that’s Professor Lloyd just off to the left.
During the dive we got some sediment samples for Bel, the outgoing marine biologist. She is cataloguing the biodiversity (number and types of species) living in soft sediments (sandy stuff), whilst Terri, the new marine biologist is looking at the biodiversity of hard sediments (rocks). When we got the samples back to the lab, we had to sort through them to identify all the small creatures that live there. You can see how small they are, as we collected a few Mysella charcoti in the dish next to Clemmie.
We reckon Terri gets more exciting animals in her surveys, sometimes she gets nudibranchs. These are animals related to snails (but without the shell). Sam, the Marine Assistant really likes them. He is trying to collect all the different types round Rothera, like this Tritionella belli which we saw in the aquarium. He is also trying to raise baby nudibranchs in the aquarium, as three of them have laid eggs. He could be the proud parent of maybe a hundred nudibranchs (and he’s still only 23!). Now that’s impressive!