Easter Microplate Expedition
March 14, 2005 Day 3
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Transit day 3:
We've been working to get a good connection back to MBARI for downloading the daily updates, hence the delay for you all. We have received clearances by the Navy to work at our dive sites and plotted the locations up to make sure our dives really fall inside the watch circles they specified. The weather continues to be perfect: calm seas, fair winds, and sunshine. The skies are so clear out here, and the sun so intense, that sunburn is a serious threat. We had a pre-dive briefing this afternoon, in which the Alvin pilots described procedures aboard the submarine, from safety equipment to video recording. The fit of the emergency oxygen rebreathing masks was tested on each of us, so that if there is an emergency aboard, oxygen will not leak from around the masks and be a fire hazard; those with beards are required to shave.
At the end of the day, we continue to travel on a 120° bearing making 12 knots. It will be the same for 7 more
days. We started our journey near 150°W
longitude at Tahiti and have just crossed the 140°W
longitude line; our destination is at almost 110°W longitude. We began near
18°S latitude at Tahiti, we are now at about 23.5°S;
we're not stopping until we're at about 38°S latitude. The distances are hard
to appreciate until put it in this kind of perspective: we have a
long way to go!
Bruce is passing an oxygen sensor around the edges of Caren's mask to test for leaks.
More about mussel pots:
Nearly 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to study all of the small worms and snails and shrimp-like animals that live among mussels at hydrothermal vents. I needed my samples to be quantitative—that is, I wanted the number of each species collected to be the same as what was living among the mussels on the seabed. The Alvin pilots laughed when I first came on board with my “mussel pots”—literally a 12-quart stock pot that you might use to make soup in your kitchen—modified for use by Alvin. The pots are lined with a drawstring bag made of Kevlar (that tough fabric used by the military to stop bullets), and there is a t-handle and take-up spool. On the seafloor, the pot with the bag held open by a dozen or so threads is pushed down over mussels, the pilot uses the manipulator on Alvin to twist the t-handle and pull the drawstring, closing the bag. Voila! The mussels and their associates are captured and returned to the surface, where we sort and count and identify them all.
Mussel pot being deployed on top of a mussel bed (left), and the mark left in the bed after the sampler is removed (right). Photos by Cindy Van Dover.
On this cruise, we have a brand new version of the pots—they are heavier than before, since this time I obtained
gourmet-quality stock pots manufactured by All-Clad, rather than the
thin stainless steel
pots from my local discount store. With help from
the machine shop at William and Mary, the accessories attached to the
new pots have been streamlined, making them easier than ever to
maintain. To be successful, we need to collect six good mussel pots from
each of two of the sites we will be visiting on this cruise. Keep count
and celebrate with us when we have
obtained them all!
–Cindy Lee Van Dover
I am still amazed to be so far out in the middle of the ocean, so far from land! I thought the view of the water on all sides might get monotonous after a while, but now I know I will never get tired of that beautiful blue color! The weather has been gorgeous so far, getting pretty hot in the day but pleasantly room temperature at night. Inside the lab is pretty chilly, so it feels great to go out in the sun! The sun is very intense out here in the South Pacific, so I’m covered in SPF 50 at all times but still getting a tan. Not bad! It will be interesting to see how crazy the seas get down at 38 degrees South, near the "Roaring 40s!" No seasickness yet from me, so hopefully my sea legs will hold out!
Aside from gazing out into the ocean, I’ve had a lot of other activities to keep me busy so far, mainly building mussel pots. These are the sampling equipment that Alvin manipulates to collect our samples at hydrothermal vents. The mechanism in the pot has been tested and changed many times, but we are always looking for more ways to improve! We hope that our many hours of measuring, cutting, grommeting, and testing will pay off for some great samples.
Today we had our group dive briefing to go over procedures on Alvin.
Tomorrow at 1pm I have
my briefing with the pilots where I'll see the inside of Alvin and
learn where everything is that I'll need to use. I'm hoping the weather
stays this nice so we won't lose any of our dives! Science meetings
happen every night at 7 pm up in the library. Two or
three scientists present their research at each meeting, with plenty of
discussion from everyone else. Tonight’s meeting also happened to
include some amazing underwater pictures of the reef life at Mo’orea,
thanks to some of our scuba diving comrades. What a great port for a
research cruise! I am giving my presentation tomorrow night, so wish me
All underwater photos were taken with the submersible Alvin, and are courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.