We ballasted the Sunfish vehicle in a small tank in our lab yesterday. The tank is filled with water circulated into the lab from McMurdo sound, so the salinity (and vehicle buoyancy) should match what we’ll see in the field. This also means that the water temperature is around 31 F, and it is not pleasant to touch.
Some fellow researchers at McMurdo have a fish hut set up down on the sea ice where they collect invertebrate marine life through a drill hole. The hut protects the hole against refreezing and also shelters the work area around the hole. They offered that we could use the hut yesterday around 4 pm when they were finished for the day. Very nice! So, we packed up all our gear in the afternoon and planned to head out to the hut.
However, by the time we were leaving the station, things didn’t feel right. We were rushing, the wind was howling, and visibility was not good. The weather folks were in training all day, so we didn’t have a confident weather prediction. This did not feel like the right set of conditions for our first test of Sunfish under ice. So, at the edge of town, we made the smart call and turned back.
The hut is available to us again today. Currently, the temperature is -32 F. The wind is 17 mph, gusting to 32 mph. This time, we’ve got the whole day, and the forecast is for the wind to come down as the day goes on. We’ll pack up this morning and try again to get Sunfish under the sea ice.
Reporting by Peter Kimball