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cloudy weather
58°F (14.8°C)
Latitude: 47° 55'N
Longitude: 129° 06'W
Wind Direction: SW
Wind Speed: 10 Knots
Sea State: 2
Swell(s) Height: 6-8 Foot
Sea Temperature: 54°F (12.2°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1007.8 MB
Visibility: 15+ Miles

what's to eat

Sausage links
Home fries
Scrambled eggs
Egg and cheese-wich
Pineapple walnut muffins

Portobello mushroom and cheddar on foccacia bread
Baked mahi with steamed rice
Beans and franks
Grilled bacon and cheese
Salad bar
Pineapple walnut muffins

Boneless porkchops with apple stuffing and gravy
Nut crusted grouper with red and yellow pepper relish
Mashed potatoes
Salad bar
Yellow cake with fudge frosting

crossword puzzle


The Night Shift
May 28, 2004
By Amy Nevala

At 2 a.m., my watch alarm beeps. I rise, dress, and stagger to the ship’s computer lab, where a group of sleepless graduate students, fueled with chocolate and hot tea, conduct a search for signs of an undiscovered hydrothermal vent field two miles below on the sea floor.

Kris Ludwig, a doctoral student from the University of Washington, is one of the night owls on Atlantis, where research activities carry on 24 hours a day. Each evening around 8 p.m., when Alvin is back on the ship, a crane lowers an instrument called a CTD (for conductivity, temperature, and depth) over the starboard side. For the next eight hours, as the ship steams slowly across the northern end of the Endeavour Segment, Kris and several others guide the CTD up and down in the water column, occasionally sending the instrument an electronic signal to collect a water sample. It’s looking for chemical signs of a vent thousands of feet below.

In 2000, scientist Marv Lilley from the University of Washington was working in this area when he detected chemical clues in the water that suggested the presence of a previously unknown seafloor vent field. “There’s no other way to find out where it is exactly, except by dragging the CTD around for nights at a time, taking water samples, and analyzing them for signs of the vents,” said Kris.

On the ship’s bridge, two Atlantis crewmembers are on watch. On my way there I stop in the galley for tea, and the normally bustling eating area seems strangely quiet without the steward’s singing and pan banging. The garbage barrel is stuffed with empty bags of microwave popcorn, snacks to accompany last night’s movie.

I climb three decks to the ladder leading to the darkened bridge, pushing my hip into the 150-pound, watertight hatch so it opens. “Hello?” I call, and Chief Mate Mitzi Crane and Seaman Ed Popowitz welcome me by flipping on a flashlight to illuminate my approach.

Blacking the lights makes it easier to spot other ships, so the bridge is dark except for the 14-foot instrument console freckled with buttons glowing orange, red, and green. This is the command center for Atlantis, and from here Mitzi scans the sea and monitors the vessel’s vitals, from the Global Positioning System to the engine room alarms. Tonight Mitzi reports that she saw the lights from another ship’s fantail before it disappeared on the inky horizon.

We lean on a counter overlooking the starboard main deck. Spotlights illuminate the crane and supporting CTD wires and shine into the water below. Serving as a counterpoint to my slow, sleepy movements are young sea lions, four to five feet long, that gravitate to the ship. They roll through the water bubbling from the ship’s stern thrusters, squirming like happy toddlers in a bathtub.

“Maybe they think the thruster is a Jacuzzi?” Mitzi says.

My wristwatch glows 4:56 a.m., and I leave Mitzi and Ed as light pales in the eastern sky. In the galley the cook cuts fruit, members of the early-rising Alvin group pour coffee, and in the main lab Kris and graduate student Alison LaBonte play ping-pong in celebration of a successful CTD cast before heading to bed for the day.

Outside, in the water churning from Atlantis, the sea lions continue their play.