Monday, August 22, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
It was a pleasure to return to the Gulf of Mexico and specifically to work aboard the R/V Cape Hatteras. The weather cooperated, making the seabed sampling easy, and the Captain and crew helped us collect all the samples we could in the short time we were allocated. The students worked tremendously hard, and Bob, the Steward, kept us well fed and hydrated. It was a very successful trip, and we now have an impressive number of samples to investigate the record of the Mississippi River flood and other events (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) that have impacted the Gulf system.
Once we hit the dock our stuff was packed and ready for unloading. What took us days to set up and collect, was packed into our vehicles within a couple hours. We have a long drive back, but we're glad were returning with a large load of samples!
I'll wrap up the blogging for this cruise by saying a huge thanks to Dale (the Captain who oversaw the mud mayhem and effortlessly guided us to many sites including those in some tough locations), Bobby and Larry (the Mates who navigated us to countless core locations and helped us sample the many sites), Mark and Robert (the Engineers who kept the ship running smoothly and the A/C pumping!...both are critical in the Gulf!), Bob (the Steward who filled our bellies with many meals), Tina (the Marine Tech who ressurected the CTD and assisted with our many needs), and of course, John, Steve and Mark (who worked with closely on deck, watching for our safety and tolerating our muddy mess, and all the while did this with smiles and a sense of humor). The Cape Hatteras is a special ship, which can really do it all, from coring sites where a person can stand (almost) to sampling the water and seabed at great depths. One of the reason the ship is so capable is the experienced, hard-working and amiable crew. I also need to thank the fabulous group of students who worked long hours on this cruise and made the trip extra enjoyable. Additionally, my co-investigators were a pleasure to go to sea with, and I hope we can find future opportunities to work together. THANKS! J.P.
Monday, August 8, 2011
We will collect our last core in about an hour…that will make 68 cores! Thanks to everyone for a job well done. Now it's time for the real work…to the lab!
Sunday, August 7, 2011
While the day watch (Noon-Midnight) has had the luxury of working during relatively normal hours of the day. I must admit they have worked extremely hard and have had fun doing it. They have collected and processed a ton of cores, and they have worked in intense heat, sweating like dogs and covered in mud. They mean business, but make the work fun by talking, singing, and occasionally, dancing. They have had some very tough days, and we have to thank them for a lot of our progress.
During a watch there are a variety of jobs that need to be done, including sample recording, coring/ctd operations, cleaning, sieving, filtering, erosion chamber monitoring and interaction with the Captain and mates. Some example photos are above.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Thanks to Alisha Ellis for the spooktacular photos.
Friday, August 5, 2011
The night and early morning hours does provide some different sites to see. I have heard tales of tuna, water spouts, famous drill rigs…impressive indeed! It is interesting to see this crew in the morning…the vampires seem to turn into zombies throughout their 12 hour shift. That said, many still pitch in to help during the shift change. It is always great to see so many people working together for a single goal…the science!
The lead scientists (Walsh, Corbett, Mitra, Xu) often get together between shifts to make sure everyone is up to date on the accomplishments of the previous 12 hours and we all agree on the approach for the next 12 hours. We sometimes make slight modifications to our plan as samples are collected and new information on the sea floor deposits are gathered. Today we are steaming toward the Atchafalaya River delta. Planning on several shore perpendicular transects to the west of the delta.
The fun and excitement continues…
Thursday, August 4, 2011
After only 6 hours on watch, the day shift is looking pretty haggard... but in a good way. The sun and heat have been relentless, and the work on deck hasn't stopped. But, despite being muddy and sweaty, they wear big smiles and show no signs of slowing down. A huge benefit for all of us is that the sea conditions have been ideal as you can see from the pictures above.
The cores continue to come up full, and we are very happy with our results thus far. We are seeing the same stratigraphic layers we samples on previous cruises with two important changes: 1) a thin layer (about an inch) of deposition from the 2011 flooding has been draped over most of the area and 2) the benthic organisms have continued to stir the sediments, slowly erasing the seabed record of the Gulf's great hurricanes (e.g., Katrina). So far, our expectations are being confirmed, but we'll see what the coming days have to offer.
After getting a good night's rest and a large lunch (actually their breakfast), the day watch (Noon-Midnight) was ready to rock the fantail in the mid-day sun. Co-Chief Scientist Corbett leads this small group (6 people total) of hard-working scientists. It was another very hot and humid day, so even with a tarp for some shade, they were sweating up a storm within 10 minutes of arriving on shift. Fortunately, the steward Bob and the crew, like John (not pictured), are proactive about making sure everyone is well fed and hydrated. John was nice enough to bring out a cooler with gatorade and water! "Service with a smile." he said, but really just a darn nice gesture!
At about 2100 (9 PM), we arrived on our first site. The "Sunshine Shift" started the sampling, but it was just a few hours until the "Vampires" had to report for watch. Our first hiccup in operations arrived quickly when the Marine Tech, Tina, discovered that the CTD water-column profiling system decided to stop working. These kind of challenges are the norm in oceanographic research and can be frustrating for all. But, I've learned t is always better to have a an positive attitude when things don't work as you hope, and it's wise to have a backup plan. Fortunately, our work is focused on collecting seabed samples, so this isn't a major issue. Of course, Tina would work hard in the coming day to see if she could ressurrect the sytem.
The first two cores went relatively smoothly. The Vampires trickled onto the deck at 2345, prepared to do some work...and ready to lose some sleep. The first night of a night shift is always tough because there is no easy way to make the transition. Most people tried to take a nap that afternoon, but that hour or two sleep is of little help the next morning when you still haven't really slept for 30 hours. It was a busy night, and people kept awake by learning their watch responsibilities and getting stuff done. By the morning, our faces and clothes were muddy, and our minds were numb. Everyone needed rest. But, it was a successful, productive night. As you can see from the lack of many pictures, our focus was on survival.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
After a good taco lunch, the scientists turned their attention to Tina, the Marine Tech, who briefed us on safety and other matters, such as conserving water, limiting web use, and being a good shipmate. Additionally, she showed a brief safety video which reviews emergency procedures, e.g., what to do in the event of a fire, man overboard or abandon ship. It was very informative, and everyone played close attention which was good to see. The fact is accidents happen, and everyone needs to be prepared when living aboard a ship. Once completed we did an abandon ship drill, and Bobby, Chief Mate, reviewed additional important safety concerns and procedures.
We returned to the mess area (location where we eat and, in fact, the crew keeps it quite tidy!) to review the science plan and activities with the science party. I (jp) explained how we are not only looking at the affects of recent flooding but aslo will examine changes in the sedimentary layers deposited by hurricanes Katrina, Rit and Ivan. Everyone was very attentive and sounds eager to get to work.
Today, we set up our instruments and equipment for going to sea. Everytime a new group of scientists boards a research vessel, they need to arrange the lab in the most suitable way for their research. The process of loading equipment onto the ship, getting it unpacked, testing it out and securing it to its temporary home usually takes a day or so, depending on the operations and cruise length, location and ship. The Hatteras is a nicely sized vessel with a large deck and 3 lab spaces, so there are a lot of options for oceanographic work.
Oh beautiful for spacious skies... yes, there is a lot of sky and wooded areas between North Carolina and Gulfport, MS as well as a lot of fast food signs and highway. We just completed the long drive in record time (without speeding, of course). We got nervous a couple times, because we kept returning to Greenville.
We arrived at the RV Cape Hatteras about 9 PM after completing the 14 hour trek. After a good meal, we're ready for some rest and then to get to work loading the ship tomorrow.