25 April, 1999

Journal 4/25/99

As I began to share with you yesterday, the team worked with the ZAPS sled in a search pattern over an area of the ocean floor. In order to safely maintain the ZAPS sled at a fairly regular distance off the ocean floor, it required the on duty team to maintain a high level of awareness, since this part of the ocean floor is rough, with hills and valleys. Through this terrain, the team guides the pulling of a precision instrument package that weighs in at over half a ton, suspended a mile deep on a thin cable. This feat requires the precision and finesse of a ballet troupe, executed from a floating platform with the momentum and gracefulness closer to a lumbering elephant yet the teamwork of the scientists at their monitors, watching depth and glancing at the unfurling chart of the sonar recorder, in constant contact with the engineers at the winch and officers on the bridge, keep the ZAPS sled “flirting” with the ocean floor.

Talking to the scientists, I learned that the plumes seem to rise up from the vent for a few hundred meters until their densities match the density of a region of the water column. Here they stop rising and begin to spread out horizontally. We had picked up on this horizontal part of the plume last night, but it was unknown how far this was from the vent source. The back and forth pattern was an attempt to close on the vertically ascending plume. Once this was found, it would be a matter of following this down. . . however, the vent has proven to be quite elusive, bringing to mind a story I recently read in preparation for my time in the south. In Sara Wheeler’s excellent book on visiting Chile, “Travels in a Thin Country,” the story is told of the German cruiser, Dresden. The Dresden made naval history in 1914 by eluding the pursuing British navy in the fjords of Chile for several months before finally being cornered by the Kent and the Glasgow in Cumberland Bay. Here, rather than allow capture by the British, the captain blew the magazine, sinking his own ship (I recommend Sara Wheeler’s travel books as works that synthesize history, reflective philosophy, politics, and practical information). I’m sure that the outcome of our pursuit will be quite different!

Today I’d like to introduce you to our computer and electrical engineers, Joe Bussell and John Prins:

As Joe put it, the engineers job is to listen to the ideas of the oceanographers and make them work. Joe has been doing this now for almost 2 years and loves it, making his previous computer support job seem like “pigeon hole work” and potential future work as a commercial engineer seem like merely “designing throwaways, recyclables.” Here he is met with a variety of problems that are always different, requiring all the skills he has gleaned his whole life, from the discipline he learned in the army to the modular approach of managing massively complex tasks that a buddy of his taught him back when he was designing robotic systems. The fact that he graduated magna cum laude with a double major from OSU in both Computer Engineering and Computer Sciences is no small issue either. This is apparent when you see him staring intently at a screen of numbers and watch his fingers fly over the keyboard, calling up analytical routines to clarify signals that noise had threatened to relegate to a useless footnote of the mission.

I asked Joe what advice he could give to my students who might wish to see themselves in his shoes one day and he mentioned two things discipline and reading. It takes controlled effort and worthwhile information to shape the brain and being into a potent, profitable force.

I guess the neatest thing about Joe is that, while being an incredible whiz at what he does, he maintains a focus on the truly importance of living; when I asked Joe what he’d like to be doing in 10 years, he replied “Being a good dad.”

John is working toward a degree in electrical engineering at OSU. When he heard of the opportunity to apply his engineering skills in this oceanographic setting (Dr. Klinkhammer’s lab) through a tutoring contact (John was the tutor), he jumped at it (even going so far as to volunteer for a while to demonstrate his abilities). Though many of his friends are also in meaningful internships, John feels this opportunity is radically different - not only does it allow him to be a part of the design and engineering process from start to finish (Dr. Klinkhammer will describe a parcticular need or problem related to the ZAPS equipment and Joe and John begin problem solving, right through to production) it also takes him on some pretty serious adventures. In order to make this trip, John had to take the semester off. When I asked him how he made the decision to do it, John said “there really was no choice.” He meant this both personally, for his own sense of curiosity, and also professionally - beside it being a strategic feather in his resume hat, John has a loyal team spirit and enjoys helping to “make it happen” with the rest of the team: “Two sets of hands and brains are very important.” John described a synergy to solve problems that yields results which seems to only occur when there is a team at work. I asked John what it was that he liked about engineering and he spoke of the thrill of learning the basis for how things worked. He explained how he had been drawn in to electrical engineering by sharing how he’d found it neat to take apart a wind-up watch but after seeing a digital watch, he had become enamored with the mystical ability to control electrons and make them work for you.

Well, I’ve watched he and Joe subdue electrons for over a week and I must say that they are a critical part of modern oceanography. Dr. Klinkhammer must have seen this as he pulled together in this modern oceanographic research team such a tight-working group of people, each who has excelled in his or her area through years of commitment to a variety of disciplines, that each of their work is art, integrated into the mosaic of the purpose of finding the undiscovered.

Well, as Joe would say, “It’s all good!”


Weather report for today (4/25/99):

(I’ve changed the format due to problems with tabs and spacing) Latitude (S): 62 12.6 Longitude (W): 57 15.5 Time (GMT): 0126

Depth (m): 1485 Temp (C ): -0.1 Barometer (mbars): 994.3

Wind Speed (m/s, knots): 12 23.3 Wind Direction (degrees) 185

Salinity (ppt) 33.7 Relative Humidity (%)

Joe and John, putting an instrument back together (Joe is wearing the cap).

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