23 April, 1999
I've noticed, and am sure you have too, that the schedule has taken its toll on
my creativity...just as I'm sure it's taking its toll on each of the members of
the research group. I woke up at 330 AM this morning and found the group still
working. They had put the ZAPS sled off the side and were getting interesting numbers, perhaps the most encouraging preliminary results of the trip. Some of
them had been up for over 30 hours without sleeping, sampling on through the night. I worked on my map-making program while taking care of my watchstanding, unaware that next door in the lab they were starting to get very
interesting results. At 6:30 AM, Dr. Gary Klinkhammer, the chief scientist for
the cruise came in and said, "We've found a plume!" They triggered the water sampling bottles aboard the ZAPS and pulled her up. After pulling the ZAPS in and sampling the water, the team retired, finally feeling like they were on the
trail of the plume. It's a desolate, featureless picture outside, looking over
miles of deep blue, deep swelling ocean and trying to imagine that somehow, a mile beneath us there is a 20 meter structure that we can just pick out of the blue. Even the bathymetric map is not convincing when you stare at the featureless expanse of water and know that in short order, you must put your finger on a map and say, "Try here."
Later, the ZAPS team deployed the instrument along a submarine structure and soon began acquiring a signal that hinted at some kind of irregularity in the water column. As I write this, we are all gathered in the Dry Lab, where Dr. Klinkhammer's group has set up an impressive armada of computer workstations that are required to support his unique ZAPS sled. ZAPS is not only outfitted with the usual oceanographical equipment, including water sampling bottles (Niskin bottles), a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth sensors), and a nephelometer (used to measure parcticles in the water by how light is scattered), but it also equipped with his custom, in situ manganese and iron detectors, and onboard altimeter and attitude detectors. Under optimal conditions, the ZAPS sled can be manipulated and maneuvered, employing attitude
and directional data and signal strengths of various detectors to indicate possible directions of the vents, kind of like sniffing out a good bar-b-que! The lab is filled with more than just his group, as everyone is anxious to see this happen - this is, indeed, why the cruise is happening.
We've been crisscrossing the Hook Ridge area of the Bransfield Strait for hours, trying to coax the data and intuitional feel for the currents (very little hard data on currents exists for this region) into surrendering their secrets. It is just after 2 AM, as we cheat into the next day to borrow time, closing in on the heels of the benthic beast.
We chased it all night, but couldn't pin down its whereabouts, as though always
there just a little too late...But with every cast made with the instruments, we find a few more clues to the puzzle.
Good night for now,
Weather report for today (4/22/99):
Depth Lat. (S) Long (W) Date Time Temp Baro Wind /direction salinity
(m) deg min deg min gmt (C) mbar m/s - degrees
1243 62 13.0 57 22.2 4/23/99 2010 -0.2 982.1 17 115
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