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Daily Updates: March 2000
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partlycloudy weather

Partly cloudy
85.1°F (29.5°C)
Latitude: 9 deg 36.6 ’N
Longitude: 104 deg 17.2’W
Wind Direction: W
Wind Speed: 12 Knots
Sea State 0
Swell(s) Height: 3-5 Foot
Sea Temperature: 84°F (28.9°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1101 MB
Visibility: 10-25 Nautical Miles

what's to eat today?

Cheese Omelets
Scrambled eggs
Bacon and Sausage
Ground Beef on toast
Dry Cereal
Toast and Bagels

Hot Dogs
French Fries
Tomato Soup
Salad Bar

Chicken Cacciatore
Fresh Bread
Salad Bar
Home-made Chocolate Brownies with Home-made ice cream

Starting the Sonar Surveys - The Path to Discovery
March 27, 2000
By Dr. Dan Fornari

The sky early this morning was gray with patches of puffy white clouds that became more peach colored as the sun rose above the horizon. You will remember that yesterday, we had electrical problems with the DSL-120 sonar and in the evening, we had to bring it back on board to repair it. Bob “Yogi“ Elder and Craig Elder of the WHOI Deep Submergence Operations Group spent all night working on it. Trouble-shooting equipment problems at sea requires a combination of experience, making keen observations, and luck! Bob and Craig noticed that a particular component of the sonar’s electronics would shut off after working just 6 minutes. They were able to trace the problem to a small electronic component, called an integrated circuit (IC), that costs just a few dollars. Even though the IC is small and cheap, the DSL-120 sonar cannot ping without it. The problem was fixed by early morning and at about 0800 hours, we again deployed the sonar fish with the MAPRs mounted on the wire. Much to everyone’s relief, we started collecting data just before lunch.

Collecting data is a big part of being a scientist, whether you are a biologist working in the rain forest, a chemist working in a laboratory, an astronomer trying to understand the universe, or a marine geologist investigating the role that mid-ocean ridge volcanoes play in causing seafloor spreading. Scientists are trained to develop hypotheses, or ideas about how things work, and then design experiments to collect the data needed to test those ideas. On RV Melville, we are testing the hypothesis that the seismic events recorded by the Autonomous Hydrophone Array (AHA) are indicators of recent volcanic eruptions on the East Pacific Rise axis.

Developing hypotheses may sound easy, but how do scientists get the money to conduct the experiments? It is a long process! Three years ago, we (Dan, Maya, Mike, and our shore-based collaborators) wrote a research proposal to the National Science Foundation describing our hypothesis and presenting an experiment designed to test it. Because NSF always tries to fund the best science with the tax dollars that go towards supporting basic research, they ask other scientists to review and comment on every proposal. It took two years before NSF decided to fund the proposal. It then took another year or so before a research ship and the WHOI deep submergence vehicles were available to do the surveys we had planned. After all this preparation, it is no wonder that we are all anxious to see the mapping systems working well and collecting data that will test our hypothesis.

During the four-year wait, we collected more AHA data and learned more about earthquake activity on the East Pacific Rise. Now that we are out at sea, with the DSL-120 sonar system showing us images of the seafloor, we can’t wait for each new sonar record to come out of the printer. Will we see what we predicted, or something completely unexpected? Join us tomorrow to find out what our first data have shown us, and what new things we are learning about seafloor eruptions on the East Pacific Rise.