Ob Tube

So there I was, stumbling through Highway One (main hallway) of 155 and Q (we’ll call her ‘Q’ to protect her identity) waved me over and asked, with hushed voice and furtive glances, whether I wanted to go see the new ob tube they’d sunk in the sea ice near Hut Point. As I posted earlier, with folks like Q the first obvious answer is “Hell yes! Thanks!” Once we were on our way, I put a little more time into the finer details: “So, uh, what *is* an ‘ob tube’?”

“Ob” stands for “observation” – it’s about a 20 foot long section of three-foot metal tube that’s been sunk into and through the sea ice. At the bottom is a cozy/claustrophobic (depending on your perspective) glass chamber from which you can gaze out at the world *below* the sea ice. Krill, and sponges, and amazing ice crystals under on the underside of the sheet and ooh! ooh! ooh! there’s a seal!

[hi mom, you may want to skip this next paragraph] The cozy submarine-like perspective adds a whole new level of otherworldliness to an already surreal experience. I imagine that, if you were claustrophobic, this would be your worst nightmare: at the bottom of a 20-foot tube with unthinkable tons of seawater – Antarctic seawater at that – pressing against the glass of the chamber, looking up at a solid wall of pack ice above you. Gaaaah. Yes, I was a little nervous too, I admit it.


[mom, you can start reading here again] But scientists who make and use ob tubes are insanely safety-minded, and have this down to a, um, science. And the window it gave into another world – I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’ve seen more than my fair share of amazing things.

Some pictures:

Ob tube is little green blob to the left of the hut out on the ice

2 responses to “Ob Tube

  1. Pingback: Around Mac Town | AntarcticArctic·

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