2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Under the Ice: Two Artists Collaborate to Connect Audiences with Antarctic Sea Life and Science

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Ms. Valentine Kass

ASC POC/Implementer:
Elaine Hood / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator

Ms. Kirsten Carlson

Kailua, Hawaii

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Sea Ice


"Hook and Fathom Antarctica" is a project to communicate scientific research and understanding about the planet’s coldest marine ecosystem. It will make this remote environment accessible to the general public by combining science and art in innovative ways. Two artists will collaborate to create an online journal, a traveling exhibit, and a nonfiction children’s book, all interpreting the science and sea life thriving under the ice. Through their artwork, they will also interpret the complexities of human habitation on the continent and convey how scientists plan for, experience, and adapt to working in an extreme and unpredictable environment.

Field Season Overview

Two participants will deploy for six weeks between 18 October and 28 November. The artists will work in the underwater observation tube by McMurdo Station, and also dive under the sea ice at various locations in McMurdo Sound to make direct observations. They will use field sketching, watercolor, color studies, pattern notes, writing, photography, and film to document their experiences. Participants will each conduct 20-50 dives per person in depths of 20 meters or shallower in McMurdo Sound. Potential dive sites include but are not limited to McMurdo Jetty, Arrival Heights, Cape Evans Wall, and Turtle Rock. Proposers have received letters of support from ASC Dive Services Supervisor Rob Robbins, and USAP Diving Safety Officer John Heine (Appendix 1) to support dive operations and integrate the artists with science projects on site. The group will require dive equipment and support by ASC Dive Services. They will use existing dive holes/huts, or will use a Reed drill to create holes in areas of interest; fish huts reserved by ASC Dive Services will be placed over holes. They will use ASC Dive Services’ PistenBully when possible to access dive sites, or will use a PistenBully or two snowmobiles from the Mechanical Equipment Center (MEC) pool. As part of their goal to interpret the complexities of human habitation in Antarctica, the artists are interested in re-purposing materials leftover from human activities and scientific research and forming them into artworks. Materials that may be re-purposed will be defined as this project continues to develop, and while the artists are in McMurdo. Appropriate permissions from NSF, scientists, and/or ASC personnel must be obtained prior to the artists obtaining selected materials. The group will also visit the Ross Island historic huts, including the Discovery Hut, Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, and the Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds (only if accessible over sea ice). They will take photographs and sketches of the huts’ interiors and the surrounding landscape. The group will use office space in Crary Laboratory, where they will create some artworks, review photos and film, and work on their online journal/blog.

Deploying Team Members

  • Kirsten Carlson (PI)
  • Michelle Schwengel-Regala