09. Cruise Letter #8

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

Letter #8

Sailing Day 21 (1/3/2008)

8 deg S, 110 deg W

We crossed the equator on the late night of 12/29/07. No fireworks, no celebrations… we just worked like bees. Equatorial crossing ceremony is planned sometime during the next couple days, so I will spare the description of equatorial crossing until I finish my share of humiliation. (see picture for GPS display when we stopped exactly at 0.00 degree)!

The surface water at the equator was cooler and more greenish in color due to active upwelling of deeper water and higher productivity. We observed many different zonal (that is, parallel to the equator) undercurrents at the equator. Some currents flow to the east, and others to the west at different depths. Quite complicated structure here. Everybody wanted to collect samples at the equator, so our night sampling was like a party. The ocean color has changed to deep cobalt blue again as we sail away from the equator.

It has been continuously chilly at night although we have had some sun during daytimes. I wear 2 layers of long sleeve shirts when I work at night… kind of embarrassing.

Despite the busy work schedule, some people celebrated the new year’s eve at midnight of 12/31. I found a group of people dancing like crazy on the weather deck with loud dance music on, when I went out to take samples. At least one of them was in thick red exposure suit, stepping around like one of teletobbies. There was even a D.J. One of the ship’s engineers brought a pretty sophisticated mixer unit and giant speakers. At 00:00, they blew horns, screamed, jumped, chanted, what not… I was grateful that alcohol was prohibited on board. Anyway, happy new year! I tried to greet the new year’s sun on January 1 of 2008, but I could only see the ominously dark clouds in the sky instead (see picture). We are now experiencing a sea state with sizable swells from remote storm. If I’m not careful, I might fall off from a chair… but not too bad so far.

As I mentioned briefly earlier, the ship burns lots of diesel fuel. It consumes 4700 gallons a day when she sails whole day at 12 knots speed, and 2700 gallons a day when she steams for 12 hours and works on stations for 12 hours. It burns 1000 gallons a day even when it completely stops at port by running one service generator out of 6 she has. It is discouraging to think about how much carbon this research ship emits to the atmosphere when she travels around the globe to research global climate change…

Chief scientist and I have been discussing with captain (CO) to increase the ship’s speed so we might be able to make up some science time loss we had in the beginning. This ship will steam to the Antarctic after having a brief port call in Easter Island and will return to Punta Arenas, Chile without fueling in between. The target fuel consumption for San Diego-Easter Island trip is ~93,000 gallons and cumulative consumption to Antarctic and to Punta Arenas is 20,3000 gallons. Naturally, the captain is rather conservative in using up fuel. He wants to keep at least 10 days worth of fuel for emergency, and tries to keep the fuel consumption low if possible for this reason. We understand his concern, but think his desired spare is too much. So tug of war is still ongoing. Fighting high seas and treacherous winds in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current region is always a big concern for navigators. Sometimes they need to utilize 3 generators on to fight the seas. Recent sinking of a big cruise ship in Antarctic sea and its vivid photos seem to have made some psychological impact on him too, I think. I never knew I would learn how to estimate the ship’s fuel consumption rate in daily basis, besides calculating the ship’s navigation schedule. We need our own estimates to deal with the ship’s officers. More knowledge is good…. no?

It’s been a kind of puzzle for me and chief scientist why it takes so long sometimes till the ship stops completely at the desired stations. We’ve recently learned by accident that a little competition has been going on among the mates (who are driving the boat) to see who could park the ship at the closest distance from the way point (pre-determined latitude/longitude coordinate of the ship’s position)… Good grief. Chief scientist and I are considering to give them mile-by-mile boxes on the map with the oblivious map coordinates instead of exact decimal points to let them park the ship in reasonable time…

As of this morning, we’ve arrived at our final buoy service location in 8 deg S. Unfortunately. the buoy moored a year earlier was lost. It might be displayed in one of the sea men’s bars in a remote island or something… if it was vandalized and taken away. We are going to move to a nearby location to deploy a new buoy. We then will sail down to Easter Island doing water sampling and measurements. On previous buoy stations, scientists helped the crew retrieving and deploying buoys. Recovering 4-km length of special cable was not very easy, although the buoy itself was lifted by the crane. (see picture)

Whiskey Tango Echo Charlie out…

Dong-Ha Min

on NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown in the South Pacific Ocean