I’m 4 weeks in to this 10 week trip and right now my life revolves around diving down through a 3 foot wide hole in the 8 foot thick sea-ice to inhabit a super cold, super clear underwater playground for as long as my body can take it. The water in Macmurdo sound is the coldest and clearest surface water on the planet. 500 foot visibility and -1.86 degrees Celsius. It is so cold ice forms on the seabed between a depth of 30 feet and the surface. This “Anchor” ice coats the seabed like a carpet. Everything looks like it’s from the abyss and most of the species here are.
When Antarctica got cold all the coastal marine animals died out and creatures from the deep ocean colonised the shallow water. Huge Sponges tattoo the slopes, some of the biggest may be over a thousand years old. Massive Spider crabs and other weird creatures pick their way across the seabed. Urchins and beautiful Red star fish live out their lives in slow motion. The alien sound of Weddel seals add a soundtrack to everything I see. I feel like a child in this landscape. Every moment underwater here is new, ephemeral and profoundly beautiful in a way I did not think possible on this planet.