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sunny weather

78°F (25.6°C)
Latitude: 25 deg 19.2’S
Longitude: 70 deg 02.5’E
Wind Direction: NE
Wind Speed: 15-20 Knots
Sea State 3
Swell(s) Height: 5-7 Foot
Sea Temperature: 77°F (25°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1018.2 MB
Visibility: 18+ Nautical Miles

The new elevator nears completion
and was launched tonight.

what's to eat today?
Daily Update: Missing: One elevator. Please return to RV Knorr
April 17, 2001
By Amy Nevala

Baffled scientists and the DSOG team spent last night and this morning searching in vain for our elevator, which somehow released from the seafloor in rough weather during our five-day absence from the 25°S site.

After more than six hours of searching the seafloor, ROV Jason pilot Marc Bokenfohr early this morning found the elevator’s anchor weight on the ocean bottom. This was strong evidence that the elevator’s trigger released prematurely, setting it free on an unplanned journey into the Indian Ocean.

We left the elevator on the seafloor on April 11, when high seas prevented its safe recovery. The 14-foot high elevator, used to transport samples and equipment to and from the seafloor, went missing loaded with over $70,000 worth of containers, scoops and other sampling gear.

Efforts to locate our elevator failed using the acoustic transponder signal. The transponder has less than a 10-mile range and works only when the elevator is submerged. The lack of a signal is one sign that the elevator probably floated to the surface and is not hanging in limbo mid-way up the water column.

“Once it hit the surface and headed out of town, we wouldn’t be able to follow it anymore,” said oceanographer Bob Collier.

We calculated today that it may have drifted with the southwesterly flowing currents as much as 60 miles from Knorr, its yellow floats bobbing in the blue waves.

“But there is no time to lose crying over lost elevators,” said Geologist Dan Fornari. “We have only eleven days left to finish our science programs and much left to do.”

This morning the DSOG team and several scientists made another elevator using spare parts and equipment brought along -- just in case this happened. Elevator number two will join ROV Jason on the seafloor tonight.

What will become of our lost elevator? Since we believe it rose to the surface, its location is “controlled by the currents,” said Second Mate Doug Mayer, who has 20 years of sea experience and a special interest in oceanography.

Surface ocean currents are driven by the wind. Their speed and direction also depend on the depth of the water, the underwater topography, the size and shape of nearby landmasses, and the Earth’s rotation.

By Doug’s estimation, there are several possibilities for the elevator’s fate in the Indian Ocean. First, it could simply circulate in the Indian Ocean’s gyre, a counterclockwise circulation system that occupies a large part of this water body.

A westerly journey into the South Equatorial Current is another possibility. This current bumps into Madagascar; eventually our elevator could wash up on that island’s white sand beaches.

Or it could flow from the South Equatorial Current into the fast-paced Agulhas Current, which flows south, hugging the southeastern coast of Africa. One day, South African beach-goers could spy our elevator off their shores.

Despite today’s setback, spirits remained high and scientists kept busy. Those in the control van used ROV Jason to map the seafloor and continue exploring around the 25°S vents. The Plume Team analyzed the data from the great hydrothermal plume they discovered yesterday at 24°S site.

In spite of the lost elevator, the show -- as they say -- must go on.

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