A Low Key Day

Tue, 29 Jul 2008 10:40 AM PDT

Transponders – Beacons of the Deep Sea

The 29th of July started with Andy Billings of Woods Hole, ‘surgically’ recovering transponders (deep sea acoustic navigation beacons) from the deep seafloor where they had been used to provide navigation for the Sentry dives.  The importance of these beacons is that they provide very high quality locations for the maps produced in a fashion that allows the bathymetric data to be positioned accurately with respect to all other Earth-referenced locations (such a those defined by GPS on land).  For later use in deploying the Regional Cabled Observatory Wet Plant (all the underwater components) it  important that all information related to the Primary Node 1 (Hydrate ridge survey) be located with great precision.  This is because GPS Units do not work in the deep ocean.  

Schedule Creep

Transponder recovery took somewhat longer than planned, in part because of some of those equipment ‘gremlins’ that seem to lurk in sea going systems. By the time we had recovered all our transponders; we had only enough time for a brief EM-300 survey over the third Node Site in the area which was located toward shore from Southern Hydrate Ridge, at a depth of only 500 meters. This site will require further surveying on a subsequent cruise.  It represents a key location where Oregon State oceanographers working with Engineers from Woods Hole and the UW will place a suite of long term moorings, hard wired to the Internet, for studying Coastal Oceanography.

Sentry Comes to Life

During the dark of night, there was a group of wee folk on board the ship who chose to endow the front of SENTRY with a toothy smile and a set of dark eye-brows and penetrating eyes.  The SENTRY Crew had been up very late the night before and were not astir until nearly Newport arrival time…. When the mischief was discovered, the grin on Dana’s face went twice around his head…. Is was a delightful sight.  The accompanying figure captures some of the smiles.

The Run to Newport

At about 0630 hours in a grey dawn we turned toward Newport Oregon and made the 5 hour trip in time to be in the harbor by noon. We had planned to dock at the Hatfield Marine Center Dock in Yaquina Bay.  We were invited to ‘park’ the Thompson next to the Oregon State Ship RV Wecoma, where it was undergoing tests.  Peter Zerr, the Manager of Marine Operations was the host, and we deeply appreciated his hospitality. 

Departures and Arrivals

During a compressed visit of a mere 3 hours we watched as five key members of our science crew went a shore: Dan Fornari, who generously gave his time and energy to the cruise, was scheduled to fly immediately back to Cape Cod.  Keith Grochow, father of the COVE software package we have come to depend upon for planning and data analysis, was flying to San Francisco where he has a summer internship with Microsoft Research.  Minhui Lih, the remarkable, computer science-marine biology grad student working with Deb Kelley, is headed to the East coast.  Lorraine Brasseur, our energetic post-doctoral fellow from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Wahsington D.C., must be in a management retreat all day of the 30th of July.  She flew the red eye out of Portland.  Finally, the mainspring of the cruise web site, Nancy Penrose, has taken off for the Oregon coast, with her husband, Dave, to watch the horizon and contemplate her writing career. Coming on board are Sesh Velamoor of the Foundation For the Future, located in Bellevue, WA, and Cara Mathison, a development officer from the University of Washington.

Meetings and Old Friends

The period in Newport involved lunch and science meetings with Bob Collier, Ann Trehu, and Marta Torres all researchers from Oregon State, in Corvallis.   Within two weeks they will be at sea studying Hydrate Ridge from the OSU ship Wecoma. We offered them all the data we had collected. Ann plans to work with TowCam and Erich Horgan on the upcoming cruise to explore changes in Hydrate Ridge – a focus of her research with Maria and Bob. We also had a surprise visit from Dr. Irwin Zuess and his wife Zona, Irwin, who for decades has divided his professional time between Corvallis and Hamburg, Germany, where is was past director of GEOMAR, a major Oceanographic Research Center.  Irwin was responsible for the early work on Hydrate Ridge and published a number of the seminal papers on submarine hydrate systems.

Green Storms

As we pulled out of the Harbor at Newport, into the Pacific for a 21-hour transit to Axial Volcano on the other side of the Juan De Fuca Plate, we drove headlong into a small storm.  Both Sesh and Cara were visited by an early queasiness and a slight greenness that the rest of us had not faced because of our gradual approach to the Pacific through the straits of Juan De Fuca.  Both showed early signs of recovering as the winds abated a bit further from shore.

Past ‘Hump’ Day

The term Hump Day on a cruise refers to the day that marks the mid-point of the cruise and in several ways this day in Newport represents that time-honored celebration of how inexorable the march of time is no matter how much fun you are having.  The day ended with the Thompson steaming westward at 11 knots and we anticipate a mid-day arrival at Axial on July 30th – we have four days to complete the entire Axial survey strategy. On Sunday evening we must head toward Cape Flattery and Seattle on the 32-hour transit home during which we will tie up our loose ends, process our data, finish writing reports and plan to arrive in Seattle early morning of August 5th.

Tomorrow: The Big Underwater Volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge – Axial Seamount