I am going to explain to you what a day in the office looks like with Under The Pole, and how I have temporarily replaced the Sydney morning surf & sunrises.
After a decent breakfast to get the necessary calorie intake, time to prepare the gear to go diving. The part of the sea ice that we are currently exploring is about 4km away from base camp, so it requires us to have all the necessary equipment with us, not only to be able to dive efficiently, but also to manage any resuscitation (oxygen, defibrillator, a doona kept warm…). With the cold, even the smallest issue becomes a challenge, especially when talking about safety.
Once all this gear is loaded on the sled, time to hook it up to the snowmobile and cruise to where the sea ice becomes too rough and chunky to go through with it. One way only: pushing the sled through to the dive site, carving a path in between icebergs and blocks of ice.
It’s been about 1 hour already since we’ve started loading the sled at base camp, and we’re just arriving on site. Time to re-open the holes that have re-frozen overnight before getting ready to dive. Putting a drysuit, when it’s -20ºC outside, is really something! Add strong wind to the mix, and you need some kind of shelter or you risk major cold exposure, which could become a real danger later when underwater. This is why we’ve set up a small tent to get changed. Some kind of polar fitting room.
The cold can be so intense that we actually leave the tanks in the water overnight, hanging at the end of a rope. You think the water is cold?!…Well, at -1ºC, the water is actually the warmest place around here! We only take out the gear from the water only seconds before going under, or all the systems would frozen in minutes. With a little help from our surface safety support, time to jump in the little square hole, linked to the surface by a long rope in the hands of the person staying dry (but cold…). This rope is our life line: the only way to find the way back to the hole, and the only way to get back to the surface if things would turn sour.
After exploring the those frozen natural wonders, taking samples of the icebergs for scientific analysis, checking for new (un)identified life and taking images, the tanks are empty, time to follow the lunge and go back up.
Getting out of the water is the worst moment of the day. Within minutes, the drysuit is totally frozen and rigid. Time to take it out and get changed, before refilling the tank with the compressor we took with us. After attaching the tanks to the rope, time to drop them in the water and leave them there, to be used for further explorations the next days.
It is now time to push the sled again through the icebergs and find our snowmobile that will give us a comfy ride home. Arriving at base camp, across from the small village of Ikerasak, it is critical to unload all the equipment. The cold would damage any gear left outside, especially all the medical stuff. It has been more than 6 hours since we started loading the sled. We only dived for about 50 minutes. I saw ice-diving as a real challenge before I got here. I now realise that diving is actually the easy part.
Dinner time. A fun and comforting moment, with the Team, before going diving again, meters away from base camp this time. Tonight, there is a forecast for Northern Lights. It’s actually already happening. I grab my camera, and leave this warm meal behind, unfinished. It’s a real festival in the sky!
2am: time to go to bed.
Another day in the office.