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