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  • cayoung5 10:20 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Day 11-12 

    Yesterday I thought our optical experiments were unlikely to get in the water again and I wasn’t going to be able to go down to the bottom of the ocean in the Alvin. Today, the modems are ready to go in and I’m scheduled to dive at 6am tomorrow.

    In about one hour, Greg, Amanda and I will be attaching the optical network modems onto the CTD cable. Man did we ever pull that one off the tarmac! What can I say, I don’t want to jinx anything but everything is looking good. You can’t be afraid of jinxing things when you’re a scientist at sea, one because a scientist shouldn’t believe in such things, and two because there is a constant question being asked about your readiness to deploy by other scientists. So that is what this is, and I’m here to report that we are ready.

    As far as the Alvin dive goes, I was fourth on the list to go for our team (there are two teams with bottom time) but with all the weather and electronics problems that made us scrap previous dives, I got bumped. Ultimately, two experienced scientists (who had both been in Alvin numerous times in their lives) gave up their seats in order to move me up the list onto tomorrow’s dive. It was a very kind gesture. This is the new Alvin, re-designed at a cost of $41 million dollars and launched for the first time this year. They may not get a chance to go again for years. The only thing that could stop the dive from happening in ten hours from now is a freak storm that appears from nowhere or more unexpected electronics problems. The chances are in my favor and no matter what happens we’re blessed to be part of this adventure.

    We have a lot to do at the bottom which means we have to move a lot of stuff around, take sensor readings and take a lot of video images. We get to bring one pillow case of personal items. I’ll have extra clothes, paper and pen (no electronics allowed), and pictures of my family. I will be sitting starboard side of the ball. Sort of laying on my right side in a partial fetal position with my face pressed to the polymer window most of the time. We aren’t allowed shoes and the walls of the sphere are all padded with cushy black material so it’s really quite cozy. Actually we reside in less than half the sphere because a ladder comes down the middle and behind the ladder on one side are gas bottles (enough for many days of air). On our side of the ladder are all the controls and the three passenger positions. We have five windows to look out. One for the pilot looking out in front and two more on each side for each of the scientists. One of those two are at the small of your back so you have to twist around to your other side to look through it. If I am to ever extend my legs tomorrow I will have to ask the scientist across from me to move and make accommodation.

    The only tumultuous part of the journey will be launch and recovery when the Alvin might sit for a long time bobbing about in the waves. We don’t eat breakfast but we do get lunch in the ball and we are home before dinner. The lunch consists of both PB&J and cold cut sandwiches. The cold cuts are back on the menu after a brief hiatus due to policy which forced them off when a pilot got food poisoning. Can you imagine being stuck in a small sphere at the bottom of the ocean and having to do all that in a plastic bag basically sitting on two other colleagues laps? That would have been the worst place to be in the whole ocean.

    I can’t possibly end this entry that way. Let me also add that I will be back tomorrow evening to tell you what happened. I’m asking Greg to post something about his experiences thus far and to report what goes on tonight with the modems on the CTD cable too. Keep your fingers crossed for uneventful modem operations and an easy Alvin launch in the morning.

  • cayoung5 11:46 pm on July 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Day 8-10 

    Bad news, followed by good news, followed by disaster, followed by insanely good luck, followed by bad luck, followed by a fighting chance. That about sums up the past two days and brings us up to now.

    Bad news first. In the week we’ve been out here, Alvin has been able to dive only twice. From a passenger standpoint the weather is beautiful. Blue skies, sunshine, t-shirt and shorts on deck. Calm seas spread out across earth’s round dais and the sky so blue and flat, the sun’s orb so perfectly hung that the whole world appears as if through a tilt-shift lens. The Thompson (our sister ship) appears in the distance, bobbing on the horizon like a Battleship game piece. Sadly, it isn’t the weather you are experiencing that counts, but the weather that you might experience from which decisions are made.

    The potential loss of life with the Alvin means that the probability of weather must be considered both during launch and recovery operations. Foul weather, or more accurately the threat of foul weather has prevented Alvin from diving twice and an electronic error prevented it from diving yesterday. Most of the experiments on the cruise rely on Alvin’s manipulators to perform. And since our CTD has been down, that left Woods Hole’s Sentry and ASU’s Sensorbots as the only two exceptions on this cruise. This emphasizes the importance of our success. Unfortunately, we’ve faced considerable setbacks, starting with a microscopic soldering error deep inside one of our boards. It wasn’t repairable at sea and forced us to go to plan B early on.

    Now, the good news. Realizing the soldering error we moved to our backup electronics. Our guys on the beach (meaning our lab at ASU), scrambled to finalize some computer code for the backup plan. Their hard work, combined with Greg’s final insight into the memory writing subroutines and we had it working. That much has been true since day 3.

    Now the disaster. After waiting our turn for the winch, which was busy dropping cameras with acoustic release-beacons for Alvin to play with on the bottom the following day (which never ended up happening as explained above) we got on deck with our modems at 4am. The plan was to do a short 200 meter drop and back. Looking back, I should have known something was wrong because the upward facing modem blinked off  a few moments earlier than it should have less than 2 meters underwater. At that point there was nothing to do but control the winch and wait for the modems to return. When they did come up, the top housing was flooded with sea water, battery acid and some sort of congealed yellow material resembling gobs of hardened chicken fat.

    Understand that the housings were specifically Alvin Dive Certified with a pressure test record down to 2-kilometers depth, which was obtained on each housings at some expense. Needless to say, we were crushed and likely everything inside was too. High pressure saltwater and powered electronics don’t mix. Think dropping your $100,000 computer (you’ve got one of those, right?) into the toilet, for an hour, add salt, and extreme pressure, and you’d know what we were thinking when it came out on deck.

    Now for the insanely good luck. Triage in main science begins with getting the modem housing open. Since seawater rushed into the housing at potentially 200 meters, you can’t just open it because the remaining air inside is still under pressure. “But won’t the water just get out the same way it got in?” you ask. No, because holding in water is not the same as keeping it out. Think about how your car door only opens outward. Anyway, the flooded housing was opened as slowly as possible but it still had enough pop to explode in my hands. Breaking some screws and scaring the pants off Greg. If we had gone to 1.5 kilometers the housing would have blown my hand off, a hole in the sink and still had enough oomph to go through the hull.

    Once we got the electronics out we followed standard, “electronics rescue procedures at sea”. Boards are scrubbed with a brush in alcohol and deionized water, then hot air dried as you examine them for any corrosion. Let me cut to the chase. The boards still worked! A miracle! Only, it wasn’t…

    And now, bad luck. As we continued to run and test the boards, I resealed the housings with fresh o-rings and grease. In doing so I found the flaw that led to our housing failure; The origin of the problem was that when the housing is screwed shut, the boards could catch on a surface and release pressure on an o-ring while the system was at atmospheric pressure. If this particular o-ring releases from its groove then the high-pressure salt water will push it right through into the can. So we did a pressure test of the now re-sealed empty housings down to 500 meters and they held as they were intended to do. It seemed like we were a go. But, and here’s the thing about salt water corrosion, it continues even once you’re dry. By the time we were ready to deploy again, the boards ceased functioning.

    Finally, the fighting chance. WHOI electronics engineer, Al Duester, has a kit (and a mind for electronics) like no other. Back-ups of back-ups of back-ups of things he might need, ad infinitum. From resistors to oscilloscopes he’s like a turtle – he carries it all on his back. I wouldn’t say it to his face but when it hits the fan, “Let the Dues loose!” So Al gave us a back-up computer of a type similar to the one we lost. The beach team has written new code for it since it required different library files and Greg is busy as I’ve ever seen him soldering new connections and overcoming wiring issues.

    Everyone who reads this to the end, pray for us.

    • Deb 9:29 pm on July 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      We are praying…..

    • Barbara 4:36 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Jean Piaget knew that true learning occurs by analyzing mishaps and mistakes. I know it won’t be of too much cheer, but look how much you learned about high powered salt water and the perils of popping modem housings!!! Nonetheless, I am, indeed, praying for all you intrepid scientists.

  • tmozdzen 10:12 pm on July 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Nevada Field Trip, Day 5 – One Last Low Band Reading and a Steak Dinner. 

    The weather report for our last full day at the ranch indicated afternoon showers, but clear in the morning until about noon. We decided to get one last 2 hr low band measurement taken in the morning. On our way back the previous day, we noticed a spot 15 miles south of the ranch that looked favorable.

    As we loaded the car, the tire pressure indicator warned us that we were low 5 psi in one tire. We exited the car, had a look, and discovered it to be worse than just 5 psi. The tire was half flat.

    Luckily, John and the ranch hands had not gone into the field yet and were still working in the area. John had given us a lecture the first day about how fragile passenger tires are in this area. Even his rugged tires were all patched up. We needed a tire that was either a 10 ply tire or one that said LT on it for Light Truck. Ours were neither – they were the wimpy “P” tires for Passenger.

    So we asked them if they could help us with our tire. They pumped it up with air and then we easily heard where the leak was – on the bottom of the tire right in the middle and was caused from hitting one too many sharp rocks. The tire couldn’t be patched, it was a dead tire.

    John knew of a tire repair place in Austin, Nv, just 50 miles away. The man had a tire our size, and agreed to come up the road from Austin to deliver and install the new tire (actually a used tire). The deal was on.

    Raul and I drove to our observation site using the spare tire (not a full sized spare) and began setting up the morning’s observation. 10 minutes later, the repair man pulled up with his truck and proceeded to take care of our tires. Amazingly the whole ordeal only set us back about one hour. We thanked him profusely and paid him profusely, but it was worth it. He said, “this is my job, I fix tires.” And he was a very busy man indeed. He was one of the tire shops selected to patch the huge tires for one of the mining companies. He told us that those tires were very lucrative to repair.

    The sky was clear when we started but we knew it was going to be a race against time. Hour one: completed. Skies looking a little more ominous. Hour two of measurement began: how long would the sky hold off? We waited a bit too long and the high winds came. We furiously tried to shut down the computer cleanly, but the wind and now rain droplets were coming down too fast. Our shade structure twisted into a pile of rubble. We did manage to get the computer and instruments back into the car with no damage to them or us. We were a bit frazzled from the ordeal and drove back to the Ranch.

    We unpacked the car at the ranch, as it had not started to rain there yet, and repacked it properly. That hour of delay from the flat tire did cost us as we really needed that extra hour.

    As we were recovering from the earlier mayhem, the AC suddenly shut off and all was quiet – the power went out. OK, what next?! Fortunately, dinner was being cooked on the gas grill and we would not be denied our dinner. To kill 4 hours in the heat until dinner time, I went down to the hot spring hoping to cool off. The end of the pond away from the spring was indeed cool and it felt very nice to wash the dust off and cool off in the hot spring (luckily we are from Phoenix and have an altered sense of hot and cold). Showers at the cabin were out of the question as the cold water was too hot to stand under.

    We had a very nice dinner with the ranch manager John, with his wife, two daughters, the daughter’s 3 little boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), the daughter’s boyfriend (also the head ranch hand), and one college intern (female). We had great discussions about cattle, the history of the ranch and surrounding area, and of course, John wanted to know more about the topic we were studying. He got that the signal we are ultimately looking for comes from outer space and that it has something to do with shortly after the Big Bang.

    And to cap off dinner, the power came back on after being out for nearly 6 hrs. The day had a rough beginning, but a pleasant ending.

    We are now headed back to Arizona and are examining the data we collected.

  • tmozdzen 9:27 pm on July 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Nevada Field Trip, Day 4 – The Search Continues, but Nevada has a Monsoon Season as Well. 

    We processed our data from the previous day and noticed that the high band antenna had considerable radio frequency interference (RFI), but that the low band was much quieter. To view the antenna response, we plot the antenna temperature (basically power) vs frequency. An ideal plot would be a smooth curve, but when RFI is present, there will be occasional narrow RFI spikes at various frequencies.

    The frequency of FM radio is in the range of 88 to 108 MHz. Despite the lack of FM reception on our car’s radio, the low and high band antennas picked up a forest of spikes in the Radio Band. It appears one can not escape FM radio.

    Other than FM radio, the low band interference was not that bad. We decided to use day 4 to search the area for other locations which were good in the low band, by using our small biconical dipole antenna and measure for 10 minutes for a NS orientation and 10 minutes for an EW orientation.

    We traveled a 180 mile loop around the area, stopping in various (4) places. The first 30 miles were gravel roads and the last 40 miles was a gravel road – very rough on car tires.

    The loop took us 9 miles north of the ranch on Nevada Hwy 21 (Grass Valley Rd) and then 21 miles westbound on another road (name unknown) to Hwy 278. Going south on 278 for 41 miles brings you to Eureka, the first decent sized town in the area. The next part of the loop is 69 miles of Hwy 50 (westbound), which meets up with Hwy 21. 40 miles of the gravel road Hwy 21 brings us back to Gund Ranch.

    We tried 4 locations. The first location was on the road whose name we are uncertain of. We were able to get in a full measurement. The second location was a few miles south on Hwy 278 near the Alpha ranch. Our measurement there was cut short by about 5 minutes due to a rain cloud that popped up suddenly. Our third measurement was 30 miles into Hwy 50. That measurement was called off due to rain before we could even set up. The fourth measurement was also off of Hwy 50, but about 5 miles north of there on a side road. We managed to unpack and set up, but again, rain cut the measurement short.

    We did get in some measurements on day 4 despite the rain. However, lightening did add spurious RFI to our data, and the data might not appear as clean as it should actually be.

    At the end of the day, the Ranch Manager, John, paid us a visit and confirmed an earlier invitation to us to have dinner with him and his wife at his house the next day (steak from his cattle), but there would be additional guests because his wife had reminded him that it was his birthday tomorrow!

  • tmozdzen 11:33 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Nevada Field Trip Days 1, 2, and 3 – The Search for a Quiet Location to Listen for the EOR Signal 

    The EDGES program under Professor Judd Bowman is searching for a site which would be nearly as remote and quiet (in the radio frequency ranges of 50-200 MHz) as the current site in Western Australia, but slightly more convenient to get to. The Global Epoch of Reionization (EOR) signal is very faint and must be carefully extracted from a bright sky almost 100,000 times greater in magnitude, so the fewer stray signals we pick up, the better our chances of successfully extracting the signal.

    It was for this reason that Raul Monsalve (post-doc) and I (PhD candidate) packed a nice new SUV rental with our antenna gear last Monday and headed off to the middle of Nevada. It’s a long trip, so we were forced to spend the first night in Las Vegas. And on the second day, via the extraterrestrial highway (318), we arrived at the Gund Research Ranch operated by the University of Nevada Reno. ( During the drive on the second day, we were encouraged by the weakness (and most of the time the lack of reception) of FM radio stations.

    The ranch manager had a nice empty cabin available and was very hospitable. He showed us the boundaries of the ranch (100,000 acres when considering public and private lands) and told us of the hot springs in the area. One undesirable by-product of the hot springs is that the longer you let the cold water run, the hotter it gets, to the point of scalding. The ranch research focuses mainly on cattle, but people come to the ranch to conduct research on a variety of topics. He also pointed out several spots in the field that might interest us which didn’t have cattle roaming around that we might want to visit the next day.

    On the third day, we took the packed SUV out onto a field on the ranch property. The rancher warned us to get out of there asap if it started to rain, because the road would get slick as butter and we’d have no chance of exiting. The road consisted of two tire tracks without vegetation amid a field that was a forest of thriving desert scrub brush plants. After going into the field for about a mile, and fearing we might not come back out if we drove much further, we found a place to set up our antenna and take measurements.

    We brought 3 antennas with us and took measurements with all of them at this site:
    1) A low band antenna sensitive in the range of 50 to 125 MHz
    2) A high band antenna sensitive in the range of 80 to 200 MHz.
    3) A small biconical dipole antenna sensitive in the range of 50 MHz and above.

    After 2 hrs, we set up the low band antenna and took 2 hrs of measurements. We then switched antennas and took 2 hrs of measurements with the high band antenna. Because at 2 pm a few drops began to fall during the high band measurements, we decided to make the bi-conical dipole measurements in parallel to hasten our departure (we could do this because the dipole used a different piece of equipment than the low and high band antennas). If it really started to rain, there was no way we could shut down and get out of there in under 40 minutes, so we foolishly took our chances and completed all of our measurements. Luckily the few drops of rain stopped and we made an uneventful return to the ranch.

    We are now looking at the data we recorded and will update you on the results in the next blog entry. Pictures will follow when we have better internet connections.

  • cayoung5 5:31 pm on July 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Description of Science and Engineering 

    The theme of this cruise, the common thread that binds all the research going on, is future instrumentation and sensor development. Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory, University of Idaho, University of Minnesota, Institute GNS Science (New Zealand), and of course, Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration have come together on this cruise to push the boundaries of measurement in the most extreme place on earth, the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.

    The world of the deep ocean is way beyond intuitive experience. The first difference between surface water and deep water is the total lack of light. The last of the sun’s photons having been absorbed nearly 1.3 kilometers above you in the first 200 meters of ocean called the photic zone. It is absolutely pitch dark at the bottom, the only light we see is what we bring and what is produced by occasional marine animals. There are no plants here, only animals. The second difference is the pressure. Seawater is about three times as dense as a skyscraper – no steel beams or concrete but much less empty space. The Empire State Building has a density of about 342 kilograms per cubic meter and seawater has a density of about 1027 kilograms per cubic meter. That means 1.5 kilometers ocean depth is equivalent to having a 4.5 kilometer tall building on your head! Ironically, the only thing that saves you is that it also presses in on you in all directions. Alvin’s small titanium sphere (that three of us squeeze into), “the ball”, is spherical precisely because we exchange structural strength for material strength through the use of the sphere’s basic shape. The third difference is the water itself. In contrast to the approximately 2 to 4 °C ambient water temperature at these depths, water escapes from the vents at temperatures ranging from 60 to 460 °C. Around Axial these days we are hard pressed to find anything much above 350 °C. Due to high hydrostatic pressure, deep heated water can exist in both liquid form and as a supercritical fluid, possessing physical properties between those of a gas and those of a liquid. Realize that it’s not boiling even when it’s 460 °C! Besides being superheated, the water is also extremely acidic, often having a pH value as low as 2.8 – approximately that of vinegar.

    Now let me explain in detail what we are placing on the seafloor and why anyone would want to do that:

    Our project involves two different components. The first component relates to a novel, high-temperature glass material which is being developed for future use as a subsurface fluid flow tracer. The second component further develops a new approach to high-speed underwater sensing and wireless communications networks. Both project components are ambitious experiments that progress the mission of the National Science Foundation by providing foundational engineering research with the long-term potential to transform our approach to ocean science, education and policy.

    The goal of the first component is to test the stability of a new type of non-toxic, chemically-inert fluorescent glass in hydrothermal vent fluid. If the material can withstand the complex chemical environment of high-temperature vent fluid for an extended duration, it could potentially be used as a tracer for mapping subsurface fluid flow in the future. Such tracer studies will help to address some of the most difficult but fundamental questions we have about the Earth, including: How deep within the Earth does life live? What limits the growth of life in these extreme environments? How large is the subseafloor biosphere, and what role does it play in the carbon cycle? We will test this inert non-toxic material by attaching it to temperature probes and placing the probes in direct contact with high-temperature hydrothermal fluid for 2-3 weeks. Probes will be placed into hydrothermal vents using the Alvin Submersible. We will examine the material before and after vent fluid exposure using fluorescence microscopy, and evaluate any changes in its physical and optical properties.

    The goal of the second component is to characterize the range and stability of an optical multi-hop sensor network. Sensor networks employ a spatially distributed array of communicating nodes, in which each node collects and transmits data to its neighbors in a web-like fashion. Sensor networks allow scientists to monitor dynamic phenomena over an extended area simultaneously. Optical multi-hop networks will form an important part of the communication backbone for distributed, underwater sensor data collection to help monitor ocean phenomena over wide areas and volumes. Such networks can be joined by passing Remotely Operated Vehicles ROVs, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUVs, or other sensors (like those used to monitor the tracers described above) to relay data to each other or onto a cabled observatory or surface buoy for real-time reporting. On this cruise, we will test two optical modem modules deployed multiple times at varying distances apart along a cable. The data will be statistically combined in order to model and plan for future sensor network missions.

    This was a long one,  not really suited for a blog perhaps. I hope you made it through and maybe learned a little too.


  • cayoung5 3:45 pm on July 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Day 6-7 

    Weather picked up last night, winds gusting to 35 knots with 15 foot swells, projected to increase throughout the day. Two years ago out here it was sustained 50 knots and 50 foot waves for more than two solid days and about like it is now for nearly two weeks. Someone broke their ribs that year when they got tossed out of their bunk by the motion of the ship. Now though, sitting comfortably inside the hulking 270 foot Atlantis, the fifteen-footers split like hollow logs against our bow. Pitching down the back of the wave produces a feeling not unlike when your car cruises over an unexpected rise in the road. By now we’re hardened to the sensations, but we are none-the-less depressed by them.

    Depression sets in because even mildly bad weather like this is a game changer for deploying anything over the side of the ship, especially manned submersibles. Alvin deployment and recovery is perhaps the last ship operation in the world that still requires swimmers in the water. My guess is that insurance considerations will put a stop to this before too long. Watching them out in the sea is looking back in time, a throwback to the days of Jacques Cousteau. The color palette reduced to just five colors: blue, white, black, day-glow red, and sometimes yellow. It so happens that the divers are perhaps the best looking people on the ship and the risk they endure with every dive adds to their mystique.

    Alvin operations require swimmers at sea.

    Alvin operations require swimmers at sea.

    While we did manage to make a dive yesterday (as mentioned by Amanda below), we are now on hold until the weather lays down. Hopefully tomorrow we can get back on schedule. Until that time, I will use this opportunity to bring you up to speed on various happenings:

    Amanda Wilber has proven herself a valuable member of the crew. Despite what may be the beginnings of the flu, Amanda continues to work tirelessly in the main science laboratory. I think it’s the flu and not standard sea sickness because her bunk-mate, a tried and tested seaworthy soul, has been down for the count since day one. Amanda keeps busy, assembling components for a high-speed underwater camera. Once deployed, the system will monitor the flow rate from a hydrothermal vent. Amanda is also now in charge of summarizing the daily weather for the final cruise report.

    Greg Wells keeps his nose to the grindstone. His mind must form some sort of barrier to the tumult around him as he works two feet from his screen for hours. From the look of him now, you’d think he was still seasick. His pallor is slightly green and waxy and the only reflection in his eyes is the computer screen in front of him. When he does get up, his color returns, he’s all smiles and promises me he’s having fun. I will post again in a few moments a detailed description of the experiments we are conducting.

  • cayoung5 2:00 pm on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Amanda’s Log 

    We have arrived above Axial Seamount after 21 hours of transit from the port in Astoria. Yesterday was overcome with spells of sea sickness and drug-related drowsiness, which was difficult to tolerate through all the safety orientation meetings. Pale-faced and dizzy, we mustered to the main science lab with life jackets and inflatable survival suits (reminiscent of Gumby costumes) and were instructed on what to do when we hear certain alarms. Seven short rings followed by one long translates to “Abandon Ship!” – code for grab your survival suits, iPods, cellphones, and anything else you want to bring home and get out on deck. The Alvin divers and team members were then instructed to meet in the library to view a presentation and try on military-grade oxygen masks. To make sure the mask is sealed effectively, all bearded men are asked to shave before diving on Alvin. After a day full of drills, meetings, and vomit, we were able to spend some quality time together watching Troll Hunter in the ship’s theater room. The tasty steak dinner was a pleasing accommodation to our movie night – at least for those of us who could keep it down. Violent ocean waves rocked us to sleep and we awoke feeling rejuvenated and better adapted to the motion.

    Today at 08:00, the first Alvin dive commenced with Chief Scientist Tim Crone inside. Like a seasoned sea dog, Cody stepped out on deck to bid farewell to Tim and watched as the submersible was rolled out on tracks and lifted up and over the fantail of Atlantis. Two Divers stand atop Alvin as it’s launched to secure the hatch and remove the rope. Tim is going down to place a beacon on a mooring left by the Scripps Institute. Unfortunately, the mooring contains glass spheres which pose a threat to delicate exterior of Alvin and the autonomous submersible Sentry. The beacon will emit a signal to create a spherical “do not enter” zone surrounding the mooring. Tim also plans to flag hydrothermal vents (black smokers) within the caldera of Axial Seamount. Once flagged, he can update the coordinates of these features and correct any previous errors. Each smoker is given a name: Hell, Medusa, Anemone, Phoenix, Inferno, Fuzzy Tubeworm Bush, Mushroom, Styx, Marshmallow, Virgin, and Virgin’s Daughter. Pictures of these smokers are currently being taken as Alvin lurks below. When they come back up and download the data, we will be sure to post photos!

    For now, we have time to make programming adjustments to our Sensorbots and help others with finishing details on their equipment. After a long semester of homework and computer screens, it’s quite stimulating to work with my hands on construction projects. I even have a few cuts on my fingers as souvenirs. Walking out on deck is exhilarating as well. The air is fresh and brisk and when the clouds move away from the sun, the deep blue color of the water is revealed. On the starboard horizon, our sister ship, The Thompson, sits in the distance, amidst a hazy fog.

    Ocean Blue

    Ocean Blue


    • Stuart Wilber 2:44 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Hang tough Amanda,
      Sorry you’re having flu symptoms. Always a fly in the ointment! Still, it sounds like your are participating and giving it your all. Hope you feel better before expeditions end. Take in as much as you can, the planet is mysterious and amazing. Love Dad:)

  • juddbowman 12:07 pm on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Where is Alvin Now? 

    Many of us are excitedly following Cody’s adventure on the research vessel Atlantis!  If you want to follow the exact location of Alvin and the Atlantis, you can keep an eye on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s “Where is Alvin Now?“.  Right now it shows that they are at 45.94 N, 130.02 W (off the coast of Oregon).

    Curious about Alvin?  You can take a virtual tour of the submersible.

  • cayoung5 11:03 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Diving to an Underwater Volcano – NSF Cruise AT26-17A, Day 4-5 

    This is the first moment I’ve been able to look at a computer screen since we left port 22 hours ago. That’s not because we’ve been busy, although we have been, what with getting our experiments working, helping other researchers, and the various training and planning meetings. No, the reason I haven’t been able to look at the computer screen is because I physiologically have not been capable.

    Here’s the thing about sea sickness. Imagine the entire world is spinning without cessation. Massive, inescapable, juggernaut undulations. Asynchronous with varying amplitude. Any attempt you make to anticipate the next wave only makes it worse. The constant slamming, shuddering waves against the ship, like a knock on your brain stem and a rancid pulse in your stomach. That and the foul pockets of diesel odor and you don’t stand a chance. About five hours in and I started to crack. Six past cruises and I’ve got a system. No, not drugs (I’ve tried them all), no pressure point wrist-band nonsense either. For me, it’s nothing but saltine crackers and bug juice, that sweet red sugar-water the galley has in constant supply. That’s the only stuff that tastes and smells about as neutral going down as it does coming back up. A confident willingness to pray before the porcelain god and slowly, but surely, one emerges on the far side, a salty sea-dog, an iron-gut sailor.

    There are two experiments we are conducting here. One involves using the Alvin submarine to place a new type of fluorescent material we have developed directly in the orifice of a hydrothermal vent. The second experiment is conducted from on deck, sending optical modems over the side of the ship by instrumented cable.

    We have arrived onsite now. 1.5 km above Ashes Vent Field. It’s 6:00am, the sea is calm and the sky is grey and misty all around. I’d much prefer a grey morning as I’ve found the old adage to be true – “Pink sky at night, sailors delight. Pink sky at dawn, sailors forlorn.” Ashes is a hydrothermal vent field located within the Axial Seamount caldera. Alvin’s first dive has been selected as a Pilot in Training (PIT) dive. PIT dives are mandated to keep the Alvin pilots certified in good standing. Doing the PIT first will give us three certified pilots for the rest of the cruise and make their rotations easier.

    One final note for this post, our internet connection is the worst I’ve experienced out here. Past cruises I’ve been on were with a Chief Scientist who paid an extra $15k per day to provide additional dedicated bandwidth. This time, we share the satellite link with five other ships in the UNOLS fleet. We are limited to 10 kilobytes per transfer. That’s okay for text, images are near impossible and video is totally impossible. Even loading the web interface I’m using to post this is a burden. I’ll see what I can do, but for now, it’ll have to be image free.

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