Updates: March 2000
|Daily Updates: May 2000
Latitude: 2 deg 10N
Longitude: 97 deg 42W
Wind Direction: n/a
Wind Speed: <1 Knot
Sea State: 0
Swell(s) Height: 3-4 Foot
Sea Temperature: 86°F (30°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1010 MB
Visibility: 10-25 Nautical Miles
Bacon, Peppers & Cheese omelet
Pancakes & Sausage
Hash Brown & Hot Cereal
Eggs to Order
Fresh Pineapple and Melon
Chicken Fried Steak w/country gravy
Green Beans Almondine
Strawberry Short Cake
Pollywog to Shellback -- My First Experience at Sea
May 3, 2000
By Clare Williams
It has been nearly six weeks since I arrived in Mazanillo,
Mexico. I had never been on a research vessel and I remember thinking: “Forty-eight
days with no shops, no phones, no school friends, no nights out
and no land! You had better remember to take everything you need,
because once you leave port you can’t go back.”
My first impression of the 87-meter-long RV Melville was that
it is much bigger than I expected, but it would become my little world for
the next seven weeks. I was surprised at the amount of equipment everywhere,
from hundreds of computers to the deep-sea instruments, Argo and DSL 120.
During the two days before we left port, we familiarized ourselves
with the boat, equipment, safety drills, the areas we would work in and what
jobs we would be expected to do. When we left Mazanillo, the weather was sunny
and the seas calm, but the boat was rolling enough for me to take seasickness
medicine for a couple of days, until I got my sea legs. Even with the very
calm seas we have experienced throughout this trip, the swell rolls the boat
slightly and you get used to not being able to walk in a straight line.
Chief Scientist Dan Fornari organized us into watch groups so
we can collect data 24 hours a day. Once the watches started, we all had to
alter our sleeping patterns to accommodate our watch times. I am on the Mid
or 12-4 watch, which means I stay up until 4 a.m. and then sleep until 11 a.m.
It doesn’t take long to get used to and most people set up their own
routine, which they stick to for the rest of the cruise. Spare time is normally
filled with sunbathing, reading, working out, watching movies and the sunset
every night, which is a great social event.
Watch standers have several jobs, depending on which deep submergence
vehicle is deployed. When the DSL 120 sonar or Argo II mapping systems are
in the water, we work inside the “Control Van,” a converted shipping
container that holds the controls for “flying the fish,” navigation
and data logging. During each lowering we have to plot the position of the
ship and the vehicle, log events, check that the sonar is working, and change
the tapes that record the data every few hours. The van has no windows and
when Argo is down, the lights are switched off so we can see the camera images
more clearly on monitor screens. It’s always a bit of a shock to walk
out into blinding sunlight at the end of your watch. If we are dredging or
rock coring, we spend most of our time in the Main Lab at the winch controls,
lowering and hauling in the wire with the sampling device on the end of it,
or out on the fantail retrieving the instruments and rocks. I have also been
working in the Rock Lab, helping to identify, bag and clean the rock samples
we collect. The watch system is hard work, especially when we are working in
the Control Van, and everyone enjoys the small breaks we get when the ship
transited from one survey area to the next.
I really enjoy living onboard Melville. Having all our meals
prepared for us is a great luxury. In fact, the only domestic chore we have
to do is our laundry, so we have plenty of time to do our jobs. I love being
out on the ocean with water as far as the horizon all around you. We are a
long way from shipping lanes, so we hardly ever see other vessels and it’s
easy to forget that the rest of the world is out there.
The wildlife out here is really abundant. I have seen huge schools
of tuna, mahi mahi, flying fish, giant squid and sharks. A pod of pilot whales
followed the boat throughout an entire day, and sea lions and porpoises abounded
around the Galapagos. The sunsets are almost always spectacular and I saw the
green flash for the first time--it does exist! At night, the bioluminescence
in the bow wake looks like something out of the movie Fantasia and we can see
the Southern Cross, shooting stars --more stars than I have ever seen in the
sky. It is it so clear out here.
The data we have collected so far have been really interesting.
Getting the data is a long and fairly slow process (the ship has to go at about
0.6 knots while towing Argo and about 1.6 knots while towing the DSL-120 sonar).
But actually seeing the seafloor, where no one has ever been before, through
Argo’s video cameras is great thrill. Watching hydrothermal vents never
mapped before, strange animals and the different lava terrains that go by on
the video monitors, it sometimes hard to comprehend that this is all going
on beneath us. It’s like another planet down there.
Stopping for two days in the Galapagos was a nice change, although
I wasn’t desperate to see land as some of the rest of the crew were.
Our Shellback ceremony on the transit across the Equator to Santa Cruz Island
was definitely an experience. Let’s just say it takes a while for your
hair to smell normal again! Snorkeling with sea lion pups is my most memorable
experience from the Galapagos. I wold love to go back one day.
In one week we will be back in port in Manzanillo, and I can’t
believe six weeks have gone by already. I have really enjoyed being out at
sea--making good friends, learning huge amounts about marine geology and geophysics
and seeing so many amazing places, animals and spectacles of nature. I would
particularly like to thank Dr. Dan Fornari for inviting us to come on this
cruise, as well as Dr. Rachel Haymon and Dr. Ken Macdonald at the University
of California, Santa Barbara, for teaching me a lot and helping to arrange
this experience. Fingers-crossed, I will be our here again soon doing more