Flight to McMurdo Station, Antarctica

We waited five extra days while in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The weather at Pegasus Airfield in Antarctica was unfavorable for landing a plane.  We became familiar with 4:30 AM phone calls indicating renewed 24-hour delays.  To our great enthusiasm, on October 7th the call came indicating the flight was a go.  C-17 Globemasters are remarkably loud inside (everyone wore hearing protection), and it is fascinating to see exposed ventilation, hydraulic and electrical lines that are normally covered from view inside commercial jets.  Our first view from a small port-side window of the vast ice of Antarctica was humbling and awe inspiring.



Scientific Diving at Friday Harbor Labs

During the first half of 2015, we were trained as scientific divers under the supervision of Dive Safety Officer Pema Kitaeff at Friday Harbor Labs, part of the University of Washington.  The labs are on San Juan Island, near the coast of Washington, USA.  In June, we used SCUBA diving to collect sea spiders from hydroids, we brought them back to the labs, and we studied aspects of their biology.

Collecting pycnogonids in Puget Sound (Washington, USA)

In the US Pacific Northwest, pycnogonids typically grow to maximum diameters of only a few centimeters. They feed on soft-bodied, sessile organisms, such as hydroids, anemones, and sponges. We collect pycnogonids on SCUBA (see video on right).  

It's hard to see and collect small pycnogonids, which usually are well camouflaged (Fig 1). We therefore collect hydroids and other potential foods, bring them back to the lab, and look for pycnogonids using a dissecting microscope (Fig 2).

Fig 1. Cryptic Pycnogonid covered with algae and other organisms

Fig 2. Pycnogonid clinging to hydroid under a microscope. Blue tick marks equal 1 millimeter