Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX) Cruise
January 5 - February 26, 2002
Skip to Log Entry from the R/V Melville
February 4, 2002: Day 31
Ship @ 2/4/02 05:40, -66 12.8352 -172 1.2438
So. Patch In Drifter on deck
So. Patch Out Drifter @ 2/3/02 1530Z,-66 18.7, -171 25.95
No. Patch Drifters no fix today
R/V Revelle Log Entry: Hi again. Another busy day. We finished the SeaSoar tow last night at 2300 and then went off in search of the outside drifter that was stubbornly refusing to send its position. We could communicate by packet radio, but we got no location. And, because the antenna was behind the bridge, we couldnt hear the drifter if the ship was pointed right at it. That has been a problem all during the cruise, but it was the savior last night. We used the ship as a giant direction finding beacon.Go in the general direction of the buoy, stop the ship and turn a 360. The buoy would fade out when we were pointed at it. Go somewhere else and do it again.
No problem, except we had no indication of signal strength, so several times the buoy signal was lost, not because we were pointed at it but because it was too far away and just faded out.The buoy has a flashing strobe that shows up well in the dark so we had waited till dark to begin the search - but the moon was so bright that the strobe may not have even been on. Sea conditions were perfect though - flat, calm, and glassy - a low mist limited visibility to perhaps 1.5 kilometers. After several false starts, Pete and Eric were zeroing in. And at 0400, well after sunrise, Josh spotted it off in the mist. Mission accomplished. No worries, mate. With a quick change of electronics, the buoy was launched again, this time transmitting position - it will be the Out Station reference for MELVILLE now.
Off to pick up and relocate the In drifter for MELVILLE. Only 15 km to travel. And the wind went from dead calm to 40+ knots with corn snow that felt like rock salt in your eyes. The easy recovery went to 'heck in a handbasket'In an eye blink, the wind shifted and put the ship upwind and there wasnt enough horsepower to move away from the drifter. Its something to stand there with the wind howling, people screaming over it and the ship roaring to maintain position. We had to do a 270 with the ship to get around to the downwind side while we were attached to the drifter in the water. Whew!After some tense moments the captain got the ship around and we got the drifter aboard. Memo to Francisco - pack more spare drogues.
The patch continues to develop: the underway CO2 system that Gernot Friederich built is a great patch sensor now - every time the trace drops, were in the patch. I took a picture of the screen that shows several hours of data as we crossed the patch. MELVILLE says chlorophyll is nearing 10 times the original values. And a small bloom seems to be developing outside the patch - chlorophylls are up modestly at the control stations. Hmmm, can we compare an iron-enriched bloom with a natural one?
- Ken J
Position: 66 degrees, 16 minutes South, 171 degrees, 58 minutes West
R/V Melville Log Entry: A research expedition like this one involves a tremendous amount of equipment, resources and personnel, many of whom are not scientists, but in many ways bear much of the credit for a successful experiment. They are the people who actually make it possible for us to be out here, thousands of kilometers from land, and enable us to do what we do, safely in a cold and unforgiving environment. When you think about it, a research vessel must function like a floating human microcosm, in many ways it is like a little city or floating laboratory with a water supply, power plant, laundry, hospital, computer network, kitchen, library. It needs to be able to feed people, bathe people, sleep people, provide communications and laboratories. The laboratories must be extremely flexible and sophisticated enough to house all manner of scientific equipment no matter how small or how large, how simple or how complex the equipment is. The ship must also have the heavy cranes, A-frames, winches and other equipment that it takes to safely lower our scientific gear over the side and retrieve it. Each component from the most robust crane to the most fragile scientific instrument must function if the expedition is to be successful. All told, about 68 people are living and working together here on the Melville and they are never further than 76.5 meters (251 feet) from one another, for over six weeks.Space is very tight and we all, crew and scientists alike, must work together as a team to be successful.
People sometimes ask me what its like to go to sea on an oceanographic expedition. Sometimes my answer is: "Its really great, you get to go places where you have never been, see things that no one else will ever see and do great research that will lead to positive environmental change in the world." Other times my answer is: "Do you work outside the home?" The questioner may answer: "Yes, I work in a law firm"I say: "Ok, imagine that you take all your co-workers and clients, your mechanic, the network guy, a few people from ACE Plumbing and Heating, the bus driver from West Coast Tours, the brakeman and engineer from the 7:16, pack them into the office with work enough to keep you busy, lock the doors then rock the building back and forth, sometimes violently, for six weeks. You cant leave, in fact, you cant get off your floor of the office building. Telephone calls to your family or loved ones are $3/min and everything - everything has to be tied down or bolted to a wall, or it will fall and break with the rolling and pitching.You work for 16 hrs a day, sometimes 24 when things get really busy. You will use everything you know and learn many other things to get your job done, or fix some piece of equipment that you have never seen, but which is vital to your professional career. It is loud, sometimes grimy and smelly and there are guys driving forklifts all around your floor. Sometimes you drive them yourself."
This may sound extreme, but this description has been substantiated by my colleagues (Dr. Bill Cochlan and Julian Herndon) who after reading it asked "Why dont you talk about some of the negative aspects too?" Well, we still have 4 weeks to go and this is not about that. If you are an oceanographer, you love it. See photos of general lab space and tiedown. One of the people who makes it all happen and who is ultimately responsible for the safety of the vessel and her crew is the Captain. Chris Curl graduated from the California Maritime Academy in 1983 and immediately got a job as a seaman at Scripps, because no positions were available in the bridge department, and worked his way up from there. I have sailed with Chris on a number of occasions, as Captain on the New Horizon in 1992 and as a Mate on the Melville (during IronEx II) when he was standing for his unlimited tonnage license, in 1995. He has always been a relaxed yet confident and capable ship handler. Although Scripps rotates their crew and officers between their vessels, they also try to provide for continuity and institutional systems memory on the part of their senior Officers and Crew. Chris has recently been promoted to permanent master of this vessel. Melville is now Chriss home away from home. This means about 6 months per year, Chris is away from his family. "So what motivates you to do this?" is a question that usually comes up several weeks into a cruise. The short answer is that he takes great satisfaction in being an integral part of scientific studies that advance our understanding of the world. He has always been interested in oceanography and being at Scripps allows him to get involved with some large programs and meet some of the major players in oceanography today. In addition, he enjoys developing his ship handling skills (and we have put them to the test) and enjoys seeing the many different reaches of the world to which his job takes him. This cruise provides some ship handling challenges that involve avoiding icebergs in high seas and fog and maintaining station in some pretty strong winds. I asked about the challenge of following something you cant see and constantly changing coordinates.He says he is very used to changing plans, especially when it involves scientists, and his Kennedy grin breaks across his face (see photo).
He reiterates that he loves all aspects of being at sea, except that it requires that he be away from his wife Kim, his son Cassidy, his daughter Chrissie and mom and dad Shirley and Kent. I know I have missed some important moments at home while being at sea myself and I asked Chris what his kids think of this. "Cassidy wants to be an oceanographer when he grows up (maybe so he can tell Captains where to go?) and Chrissie starts asking Kim about her dad about two days after shipping out."So why do you do it?"Because I love it."
"What is in the future, Chris?"The Melvilles expected service life will be up in 2016 and many of the other UNOLS vessels are reaching the end of their duty cycle. What is in the future for oceanographic research vessel operations?"Well", he says, "people have to get interested in oceanography and recognize that it is a science that is bringing new meaning to global systems and things that will ultimately affect all of us. Then they need to tell their congressman that we need ships to take the scientists where they need to go, and then people need to vote."
- Kenneth Coale