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November 20th, 2013

Marine Sampling III - Winter Quarters Bay

by Terry Palmer

Winter Quarters Bay is the location where Robert Falcon Scott and his fellow explorers anchored their ships during the winters of 1902 and 1903.  The bay is adjacent to McMurdo Station and the site of some intense dumping of wastes from the mid 1950s until the early 1980s.  A lot of waste was bulldozed onto the ice and fell to the bottom when the sea ice eventually melted beneath it.  The bay is now contaminated with all sorts of chemicals (PCBs, petrochemicals, trace metals) that break down very slowly because of the extremely cold water. As far as we can tell, the pollution isn't spreading out, although we can't tell what is going on deeper than 36 m (120 ft) outside the bay.

Today we sampled in this waste site.  My description of this place sounds pretty nasty, and it is appropriate. It is still interesting to dive in here though; to see what can survive in these polluted sediments.  The water is very clean and clear but sampling the bottom disturbs the sediment and we can't help but get a little bit of gross sediment over our suits.  Luckily we wear dry suits and full-head masks and the contaminants don't permeate through the suits onto our skins. It is pretty much washed off as we swim higher in the water column so we aren't directly exposed to much of it at all.

This was an interesting day but a good one to be done with.

An old decaying drum

 

Some starfish hanging on a rock

 

Some old piece of rubbish with a starfish and some other life on it

An anemone on another piece of rubbish

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