March 5, 2006
Why do divers fall off the boat backward?
Good question. Thanks for writing to us. The primary reason we enter the water back-first is to keep our facemask in place and to help keep our regulator and gauges where we can manage them better. We place our fingers on one hand right on our mask, and the other hand typically holds something important like our inflator hose. One other thing we do before we fall over backwards: We attach our collection bag filled with jars, and maybe also a camera, to our vest and place them over the side. They sink out of the way, so that we do not get tangled up in their lines.
Keep checking in on the Dive and Discover site, and take care.
Diving Safety Officer
Hello. We’re doing a project on your expedition, and we all chose people to be. I'm Kerri Scolardi for the project.
I was just wondering something about the weather up where you are. Have you ever had the same weather more then twice, and has it ever caused anything really serious? It's just out of curiousity.
Lauren (Kerri Scolardi)
I think today is an appropriate day to talk about the weather. We are currently experiencing 30-mile-per-hour winds and some 20-foot swells. At home (in Florida), this would be considered a tropical storm, and there would be news accounts of flooding and trees down. Out here at sea, it is just another day. The Southern Ocean is known for its rough seas, caused by frequent bouts of high winds.
This is my fifth research cruise in the Antarctic, and I have seen all kinds of weather. I have seen rougher seas than today, and I have also seen calm days with the ocean so smooth it looks like we are on a lake. During winter, when the ship is in pack ice, I have seen blizzard conditions and 80 mph katabolic winds that were coming off the Antarctic continent, and temperatures of 50 degrees below freezing. But one thing is for certain, I haven't seen it all, and that is a good thing.
As far as I know, there haven't been any major issues caused by the weather. Everyone is very conservative when it comes to working under strenuous conditions. When the seas are very rough, the captain closes the decks for the safety of the crew and the researchers, and most science operations stop for a while. Inside the boat, there are railings along every hallway and staircase for people to hold onto. All heavy items are fastened or bolted to countertops so that they do not fall on anyone's foot or head. The floors are a rubbery type of material that you’re less likely to slip on.
So I think you get the picture that the ship is well outfitted for rough seas, and things are quit safe. The only thing they can't avoid is getting stuck in the ice. That happens from time to time, when the ice is very thick. There is always enough food and fuel to keep the heat running until the wind changes direction or slows down and the ice flows loosen up enough for the ship to get through.
Thanks for writing!
We are students in Ms. Sherwood's (Byron's Mom) class at the Riverview School in Sandwich, Mass. We have been following your Web site every day and have some questions for you.
- How many salps do you need to catch to complete your project?—Cassie Laughlin
- Have you seen any sharks or seals in the ocean when you are diving?—Claire M.
- What was the big jellyfish the diver was trying to put in the jar on your video?—Brennan O'Shea
- Have you seen any killer whales?—Robbie Morris
- I am from Monroe, Louisiana, and I would like to know, where in Louisiana the crew members are from?—Walter Hendrick
- How cold does it feel when you are diving in the water?—Preston Ramey
Good luck on the rest of your expedition. We hope Byron will come and tell us about his experiences when he comes home.
Ms. Sherwood's reading class
We're glad you have been following our research cruise and hope you have enjoyed the daily updates.
1. There really isn't any magic number of salps we need to collect on this trip. Since salps only live in the open ocean and are so fragile, the only way to really study them alive is from a ship at sea. We plan on collecting live animals for our experiments as long as we are on the ship.
2. To date, there aren't any sharks known to live in the Southern Ocean. The biggest animal we've seen while diving so far was a long salp chain about 6 feet (2 meters) long. However, there have been several sightings of crabeater seals and chinstrap penguins swimming around the ship.
3. The large jelly in the video is a beroe ctenophore, or comb jelly. It actually eats its own kind, mainly feeding on other ctenophores.
4. Two mornings ago Kevin Labouef, the first mate, spotted two orcas (killer whales) from the bridge around six in the morning while on watch. Unfortunately, most everyone else was asleep at the time.
5. Although Edison Chouest, the company that owns the R/V Gould, is based in Louisiana, it turns out that there is only one person from Louisiana. The first mate, Kevin Lebouef is from Chauvin, located southwest of New Orleans.
6. Surprisingly, I don't really feel cold while diving. We wear many layers of clothing to keep us warm (see Hot Topic: "Antarctic Water Wear: Cold-Water Diving and Drysuits"). Initially, my face and head get cold when I first plunge into the water because they are the only pats of my body actually exposed the water. Luckily, I only notice it for a short while. After about a minute, I'm too busy as the safety diver concentrating on regulating my buoyancy and handing off tethers to the other divers and keeping the trapeze in order to notice the cold. Also, after about a minute or so, whatever skin is exposed goes numb. Toward the end of the dive, my toes and fingertips start to get a little chilly, but I have found that using hand and toe warmers (like those you ski with) work really well. We usually end the dive after about 30 minutes anyway, because most of us have filled all of our collecting jars and have used most of our air. The timing works our very well in that respect.
Thanks again for checking in with us.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Dear Dive and Discover People, lol.
Hi, I was just wondering what happens if you was to get under some ice when you were looking for salps and you happen to get stuck and nobody knows that you’re in there? Will they come looking for you? Do you have to wear some kind of a head piece that you can talk to the other scuba divers?
Thank you for writing and for looking at the site! Our divers haven't been diving under the ice, because salps (the animals we're looking for) aren't near the coast where the ice is, but further out in the ocean. We are now about 90 miles from the shore. Also, when they dive, they are all connected together with ropes, so they can't drift away from each other or get lost. They also have one person be safety diver, to check and make sure no one gets in trouble. You have to do everything possible to keep everyone safe when diving, so we check and doublecheck people. There are face masks that let divers talk to each other, but our divers don't need to use them.
Thanks for writing in, and I hope you keep looking at Dive and Discover,
Kate Madin, writer