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partly cloudy weather

Partly Cloudy
84.2°F (29°C)
Latitude: 2 deg 10’N
Longitude: 97 deg 42’W
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

what's to eat today?
Bacon, Peppers & Cheese omelet
Glazed Doughnuts
Pancakes & Sausage
Hash Brown & Hot Cereal
Eggs to Order
Fresh Pineapple and Melon
Dry Cereals

Chicken Fried Steak w/country gravy
Creamed Potatoes
Tomato Soup
Buttermilk Biscuits
Salad Bar

Seafood Italiano
Vegetarian Lasagna
Green Beans Almondine
Garlic Toast
Salad Bar
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 research!

Dive and Discover Water Word Puzzle
[Click here for a printable version of Dive and Discover Water Word #2]

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