The Obs Tube


If you walk off Ross Island where McMurdo is, onto the sea ice, there is an “Obs Tube” (Observation Tube).  I’m not sure exactly how its put in there, the fire department and some divers I suppose, but its a metal tube that goes down about 15/20 feet through the ice (which is probably 5-6 feet deep) and has a little stool and a 360 degree view under the ice.

To get in you have to take your coat off (big red is too bulky to get down into the tube), you slide the top of and start climbing a metal ladder to a wooden ladder and then you are in a space a little bigger than the tube with about 6 windows all around you.  I think the divers attach it to the tube from underneath.  Your buddy slides the top back on so there’s no light from above, just light that shines through the sea ice.  Not for the claustrophobic for sure!


The day I went I only saw some interesting plankton like things that were very small, one jelly fish and a good view of the ice from underneath.  I could hear the seals they sound like lasers, and some people have seen the seals swimming.  I’m going to try to go again before I head out to field camp since I think the sea ice will be melting and breaking up by the time I get back.  Yup… still in McMurdo with flights delayed due to weather.  But the first crew put in yesterday and I’m on the third flight, so hopefully soon!

Here’s two videos: The first one you can hear the seals, the second is just of the lonely jellyfish, but you can also hear a seal sound.  Enjoy!


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