24 April, 1999
Well, we didn't catch the vent last night...the team worked through to breakfast, then winched up the ZAPS sled and called it a day (or night!). OFOS was being deployed as we went to breakfast. To some, a 7:30 breakfast might send shudders down the spine (not a teacher, though!), but to us, breakfast is becoming a point of light in the long night - "2 hours to breakfast!. . . 45 minutes to breakfast!" At the same time, breakfast imposed a time barrier, a time when the day team would be coming on, needing their time on the winches and to make their own navigational requests, thus we also saw breakfast as a limit "I think we can squeeze two more casts in before breakfast . . ."
During the down time, when the ZAPS sled is in the baltic room (kind of like its hanger - it has a huge hydraulic door and extendable boom/winch to lift the sled and hoist it out the door to lower it over the side), the engineers use this time to process any samples that may have been taken and ensure the sled is ready to go for the next run. They can also use this time to evaluate the data stream and evaluate their algorithms for converting the digital voltage signals into useful numbers on a computer screen.
I went to bed at 10:30 AM and got back up at 2:30 PM - there was a slide show by the European scientists to summarize the initial findings of their photographic survey of the ridges. Their feelings were that it was pretty inconclusive, with the most encouraging news being the discolorations that might indicate hydrothermal precipitates.
After the slide show, I worked on the journal some and did some ping editing before and after dinner. At 9 PM, the ZAPS sled was back in the water, so I moved back to the dry lab to be near the action.
I took a break and decided to stand out on the deck space below the helo pad (a landing pad for helicopters). While there I realized that for all of the effort, sounds and motions, I feel like I'm on a spacecraft - the engines are always running - a low background rumbling - you have to suit up to go outdoors, you exit through what is essentially an airlock, and the ship’s bow and aft thrusters are slaved to the GPS (global positioning system) - they blast loudly, thrusting great jets of water to the port or starboard in order to keep us within a 10th of a minute or so to a coordinate punched into a computer. It really sounds like rockets kicking in as the ship is thrust back and forth to its required position. We are totally self-contained - - making our own water and electricity and carrying our own food and fuel. Though the NBP is rated for 75-day cruises, it seems like we could sit here on station for a year without need of port, taking samples...
I'm going to introduce to you Dr. Cara Wilson today. I do so here because since we've begun generating data with the ZAPS sled, she has been endlessly crunching numbers and churning out meaningful graphs of the various seawater properties being measured, which means she is one busy person right now! Dr. Wilson rejoins the team from the InterRidge Office at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France (she has worked previously with the team as a graduate student at OSU). InterRidge is an international organization devoted to developing and coordinating international research on ridge projects, parcticularly where international cooperation is essential, like the Arctic or Indian ocean ridges, which are difficult to study for logistical reasons. Dr. Wilson obtained her Bachelor's in Oceanic Sciences from the University of Michigan and then worked for Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY before going on to OSU for her doctoral work in Oceanography. She became interested in marine science because of its inherent interdisciplinary nature and the global perspective offered by oceanography.
We continued on through the night, searching at a set height from the bottom, towing the ZAPS sled horizontally across a grid (as opposed to the vertical sampling we did the previous night, measuring from the surface to 10 m off the bottom, a 1300 - 1400 m distance up and down).
I'll write more tomorrow, to tell you how it ended,
Weather report for today (4/24/99):
NONE TODAY, I MISSED IT
Q: How did you like the weather in Punta Arenas? Do you like the cold very much? The cold in Minnesota is easy to get used to but the hard thing about it is some times hard to get used to when it is at night and you are in bed and then there is a sudden cold that comes over you and you are saying i wish it was summer and then when summer comes around you say I wish it was winter. Minnesota is a very nice place to live if you like the alternating weather and all the cold then the warm. But the best thing about it is it is very nice place to relax.
I loved the weather at Punta Arenas. It's different and new, incredibly interesting. I don't think I'd like the cold all the time, all year round, but a little while is not bad, especially because when you go to Antarctica on a US mission, you must pass through NSF (National Science Foundation) who contracts an organization called ASA (Antarctica Support Associates) who contracts a Chilean agent (AGUNSA) who equips us with extreme cold weather gear (ECW). And wow, these clothes make it quite bearable. I've sat out on the stern of the ship in sub-zero temperatures with 10-15 knot wind blowing to write my journal and not had a problem...Yes, I love alternating things, whether it be weather or dessert!
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