November 29, 1996

Microbial Mat
on the Bottom of Lake Hoare
(Underwater photography by Dale Andersen)

The tent had warmed considerably with the energy of the sun, which now cast long shadows across the face of the Canada Glacier. It was 2:30am and I had been scarcely asleep for more than few hours when a loud, resounding boom startled me. The glacier was cooling off in the shade and refreezing channels of water heaved within the ice. It was time to get up and record some more--these were different sounds than I had experienced earlier! I quickly assembled my hydrophone rig and put on my crampons, scampering up the apron of the glacier to see if the hole I had bored 8 hours ago was still viable. Sure enough, a 1 inch ice skin had formed over the opening. This was easy to hack through with an ice axe, and I was in business--just topped off a little water and lowered the hydrophone in (see diagram).

Canada Glacier

Recording diagram

Click to listen to a sample of the sounds of the Canada Glacier.

For the next four hours, I was treated to an extraordinary percussion performance, as expanding and freezing ice creaked and fractured within. At about 6:30, still reeling from what I had been listening to, I stumbled over to the hut for some breakfast. Paula was up and came in for her morning shot of coffee. I made eggs and toast for the early risers as we eased into another day. I was having mixed feelings about leaving--things were just getting exciting in the sound department and I enjoyed the comradery of the group.

Paul had invited me to join him on a mission around the Commonwealth Glacier but, after a night of recording, I needed to take it easy and pack up my gear. Closer to camp, Dale, Peter, Ian and Rob finally had an open hole and good weather for diving into Lake Hoare. Ray and I went out to deliver a hydrolab for them to measure water temperature, salinity, and conductivity. On reaching their site, some two hundred yards offshore, Ray put together the hydrolab. Meanwhile, Ian surfaced as Peter was preparing to enter the water. Dale and Rob helped Peter get suited up for a 30 minute sample gathering dive. Peter was collecting samples from the microbial mat on the floor. In a succession of dives the group had collected numerous samples--it was a good day. Dale managed to obtain some stunning video footage of life at the bottom. A still frame from the microbial mat is shown above. The curiously surrealistic aquascape is reminiscent of the paintings of Yves Tanguy. The microbial mat lies at a depth of about 7 metres from the surface--beneath nearly 4 metres of ice. Supersaturated gases from glacial streams force bubbles into the mat producing the distinctive stalagmite features which can be discerned in the photograph.

At lunch time, we hauled gear back to camp and I put my things out near the helo landing pad. Lake Hoare and its community were a wonderful experience.

Ray Kepner assembles the hydrolab

Ian (right) surfaces as Peter (left) prepares to enter the water

Suiting up

Dale Andersen