The expedition aims to study how climate change has affected the rare ecosystems on the seafloor beneath the floating ice shelf, the largest and southernmost in the world. [Read more about the expedition]
This will be the first time that an entire scientific field expedition has been documented in 360-degree video.
Their digital equipment also includes 32 digital cameras, three drones, a remote-controlled drone submarine – and hundreds of batteries to keep them all running.
Food for all
The had planned to set out early this week, but several days of bad weather and low visibility kept them at the base until the weather cleared.
After a four week stay diving and taking samples at New Harbour, the expedition will move to a second site, near Cape Evans on Ross Island, about 30 km (18 miles) from Scott Base.
The depth of the ice at the sites chosen for the diving work is typically three meters (9 feet) thick, and deep access holes for the divers must be melted through to the unfrozen water beneath by hole-melting equipment.
A bit of history
The hut contains many artifacts of the original expedition, including extensive supplies of canned food.
Both of the field sites are well known to scientists, who have been tracking changes to the seafloor ecosystems of the Ross Ice Shelf for more than 15 years.
Getting to camp
They planned to spend 20 days at this site, diving beneath the floating ice shelf up to twice a day.
They are supported by staff from the New Zealand Antarctic program headquartered at Scott Base, at McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea.
Whenever two divers go into the water, a third is suited up and stands ready at the surface to help in case of an emergency.
Exploring the dark
Several expeditions have made surveys of the same sites in previous years, which allows scientific comparisons to be made of any changes.
Life in the deep
Although the depth is only about 20 meters (18 feet) the animal species are similar to those found in the deepest parts of the open ocean, including sea cucumbers, deep sea sponges, sea stars and brittle stars.
Watching the locals
Nutrients are relatively abundant this year because the ice shelf above the site was broken up during the Antarctic summer for two years in a row, which allowed more light to filter through.
Changes over time
The results will be compared to similar studies made at the same site in 2009, when the sea-ice had not broken for several years and the seafloor ecosystem was relatively food-deprived as a result.
Life on the ice
Ice from the floating ice shelf itself is not fit for drinking because it is salty and dirty with blown silt.
Trouble with the wildlife
Since it can be difficult for human divers to use the holes that have been occupied by the large seals, several diving holes are cut at each diving location.
A brief visit
“The penguin was probably feeling rather lost, away from its mates and far away from open water and food, and therefore heading straight for our camp and some human company,” the expedition members wrote in an update on their Facebook page, Science Under The Ice. “Then it continued on its way towards the open sea.”