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Daily Updates: March 2000
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partlycloudy weather

Partly cloudy
82.4°F (28.0°C)
Latitude: 9 deg 57.5 ’N
Longitude: 104 deg 18.8 ’W
Wind Direction: W
Wind Speed: 8 Knots
Sea State 0
Swell(s) Height: 3-5 Foot
Sea Temperature: 84°F (28.9°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1010 MB
Visibility: 10-25 Nautical Miles

what's to eat today?

Dry Cereal
Toast and bagels
Eggs to order
Fresh fruit
Blueberry muffins
Bagels with cream cheeses and lox

Pizza- vegetarian and pepperoni
Spicy chicken wings
Beef and Barley soup
Salad Bar

Bubba Gump Shrimp- shrimp with lemon
Gumbo - meat, seafood and vegetable stew
Red beans and rice
Corn Bread
Salad Bar
Apple pie and ice cream

March 28, 2000
By Dr. Dan Fornari

This morning, Peter Lean, one of the students on board was watching the eastern sky when he saw several small waterspouts. A waterspout is a small tornado -- a whirling storm caused by winds. It forms a funnel-shaped column of clouds that extends from a dark black cloud in the sky right down to the sea surface. Typically, the cloud column is 100 to 200 meters wide. Inside the column, air moves upward and sucks up water from the ocean surface. Waterspouts are common in tropical seas. This morning, we saw three of them. They looked as if they were pinning the cloud layer down to the ocean surface. These are spectacular ocean events to witness--as long as they are not big and are far away from the ship!

RV Melville continues to steam slowly across a calm, clear blue sea at 1.4 knots. Most people can walk faster than this speed. We travel so slowly because -- 2,500 meters below us -- we are towing the “sonar fish” only 100 meters above the seafloor. If we go too fast, we would not have time to pull up or let out some cable to “fly” the sonar fish over the seafloor’s changing terrain. In addition, if the fish flies too quickly over the seascape, it won’t be able to send and receive lots of sonar “pings” from each parcel of ocean floor, which we need to make the clearest possible images of the seafloor. It would be like trying to see the landscape driving at 100 miles per hour.

If you were a big, beautiful blue-and-yellow Mahi Mahi fish (also known as a “dolphin fish“) watching the sonar fish, or if you were aboard the Melville today, you might not think we were doing much. But life is actually quite hectic for scientists. Watches change every four hours, and people are busy doing many different things to ensure that we keep smoothly collecting our essential seafloor data.

We are about halfway done with our surveying here at the East Pacific Rise between the latitudes of 9°N and 10°N. We plan to keep surveying here until Thursday morning at about 0700 hours, and then pull the DSL-120 sonar up and head south to our next survey site. We are using the computers on board to process the sonar data and tomorrow we plan to lay out the records we have collected so far on the floor of the Main Lab. That will give everyone a chance to think about what the sonar images show and try to figure out where the eruptions have taken place on the mid-ocean crest. This is the fun part of solving a science puzzle. After the long wait between having an idea, writing and getting a research proposal funded, and actually going out to sea, this makes all that waiting worth it!