05. Cruise Letter #4

Dong-Ha Min’s cruise letters from P18 CLIVAR/CO2 Repeat Hydrography expedition in the Pacific Ocean (2007/2008)

Letter #4

Sailing Day 2 (12/15/2007) – Saga continues

The weather is fine, sea is calm. Just gentle swells push the ship here and there… It is certainly warmer now compared to the days we had in San Diego. We are taking the last glimpse of the islands scattered along Baja California.

We had first boat and fire drills today. During the cruise we will do weekly drills for fire, abandon ship, and man overboard situations, so everyone would be familiar with the needed procedure. On fire alarm followed by one long general alarm, we should go to our designated muster stations with our life jackets. Scientists typically gather in the main lab area (we move to mess if there is fire in the main lab: plan B). Each scientist for each bunk is assigned with a specific muster station and a life raft for emergency situation. The crew do more elaborate fire drill with a hypothetical fire situation while the scientists gather in the lab area. Not long after the fire drill, there goes 7 short blasts followed by one long alarm….. that is the abandon ship signal. We went to our muster stations on the deck near each life boat. Then… we tried out our “exposure suits” in the lab. This is a thick floating rubber suit we would wear when we need to abandon the ship for whatever reason and ride on the life boats/rafts… Some people rolled on the floor to fit themselves in to the suit… others made it easy. We checked the expiration dates of our life jacket’s flash lights and got dismissed. Will do it again next week.

We have attempted to conduct a test cast in deep water (>4500m) this afternoon (well till evening), but so far we have had no success due to some electronic malfunction of our equipment. We worked on it while steaming to the south not to lose our time too much. We tested equipment on deck as well as instrument and cable in the lab… including the winch on the upper deck. We tried all possible permutations to test 2 winches, 2 cables, 2 electronic equipment, and 2 deck units in the lab. We almost tempted to call for a prayer meeting for this fiasco… Although we have failed 4 test try outs this evening, we’ve narrowed down the culprit. The aft winch (winch sits on the back side) seems to give a glitch in signal whenever it’s on… Will address this issue first thing in the morning tomorrow. For now, we keep steaming south towards our real 1st station. We should resolve this problem during the next day…

Some explanation of the situation. We lower an instrument and water sampler package (we call it rosette sampler package) throughout the water column all the way to the bottom of the ocean with the strong winch we have (see picture). Its special conductance cable can transmit the signal between the instruments in the water and the computer in the lab. The signal from the package sensors travels several thousand meters along the cable in the water and reaches to the computer unit in the lab. This is a heavy duty work which requires lots of coordination among various groups. One group in the lab controls the electronic units (we call it console) monitoring the real time data read from the sensors, the other group works on the deck to carefully lower and bring up the package in and out of the water and put it back on the deck, and the last group gathers around the package once it’s recovered on the deck to collect water samples from the clean water sample bottles (see picture). Of course there are winch operating crew on the upper deck, and mates on the bridge to maintain the ship’s precise position during our station work.

We have 3 rosette sampler packages for this trip. The main one (largest one) has 36-position 12-liter samplers and electronic sensors. The 2nd one (yellow frame in the picture) has 24-position 11-liter samplers and electronic sensors. The 3rd one is a ‘weather package’ with 12-position 4-liter samplers (which means we get very small amount of water samples). This is for really bad weather where deck work becomes so dangerous.

Each team is ready and now awaiting real action. Besides the water sampler package, things seem to be settling down. It will shake out better after the first couple stations of work during the next few days. I hope.

Whiskey Tango Echo Charlie out…

Dong-Ha Min

on NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown