was filled with frustration followed by incredible success. Dive 523 began
at the normal launch time of 0630 into dead calm seas and clear skies. A
brief dunk in the water and the vehicle came back on deck due to an
electrical problem. This was soon fixed—it was a cable burned by the hot
vent fluids! Back into the water with high hopes and expectations—but
only for another 30 minutes until the vehicle was once again recovered.
The acoustic modem that lets the pilot prevent twists in the tether was
not communicating. This had been a problem from the beginning, but each
previous time the pilots had been successful in resolving the
communication problems. Unfortunately, this was not the case today. Yet
another dive, and the pilots decided to replace the new modem with the
older compass. While the pilots labored on the vehicle, the scientists
napped, looked at samples, and caught up on email and paperwork.
Finally, at about 7 p.m., we gathered in the mess hall to
discuss our options. Chief Pilot Buck
Reynolds offered us a late night dive to accomplish a few high
priority tasks. Depending on the ending time, this would mean a late
launch on the subsequent day. We agreed to this and prepared to stay up in
the control room until at least midnight.
to the Busted Mushroom Site to collect fluid and check on our first
thermocouple array. The fluids at the Busted Mushroom Site had done the
trick! There was a new chimney neatly enclosing over half of the thermal
array (see left). We decided to let this grow for another day—let’s not press our luck…However,
this decision meant that the pilots (now Paul
Tucker on the manipulator and Buck Reynolds flying the ROV) would have
to sample the overlying chimney without toppling over the new structure.
We held our breath as the water bottles were each lifted
into the smoking orifice. The ICL-controlled
fluid samplers require that the manipulator hold them so that their
thin nozzles are delicately perched steadily within the highest
temperature fluids for at least two minutes. Notwithstanding the late
night hours, the light touch of the pilots did the trick (see right).
The last requirement was to install the long wand for the Osmosampler and the Hobo into the same chimney without disturbing the thermocouple array seen on the bottom left in the photograph (see below). The pilots accomplished all of this work requiring intense concentration in less than 2 hours, and then we all shuffled off to get some sleep.