Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back on the road again

Here’s where we left off – running ahead of the seas into port last Monday evening.

Does this tool sled make me look big? Nereus put on a bunch of weight while we were in port – but in a good way, we reckon.

Becky (jumping) and Evan (already in the water) came by for a while this afternoon to take advantage of the wonderfully clear waters here and shoot some HD video of Nereus in action underwater.

Did I mention that Nereus is an unmanned vehicle? You couldn’t always tell that before today’s first dive. Here’s Phil (pilot) booking his space early and Jeff (geochemist) working hard to make sure he could get in there too. That only left Julie looking on – surely they could make room for a micro-biologist?
Position at 12h00 EST - Test Dive: Nereus 023
19°17
N and 81°33W
Water depth: 20+ m


Did you miss us? After a very busy two days in port we have now changed out our scientific personnel, converted Nereus from an AUV to an ROV, done a bunch of interviews with everyone from the local press to Astrobiology magazine and headed back out to sea again. Even managed time for a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir along the way somewhere too.

The most bittersweet moment, of course, was having to say goodbye to the folks who worked so hard on Leg 1 to get us to where we are and who now have had to head back home and leave the new guys in town take over as we head back to the seafloor. So for the record: heartfelt thanks to all.

To Dana, Louis and Mike for all their efforts in keeping Nereus running and getting us as far along in the mission as we have, and especially to Tina, Sean, Doug, Carla & Ko-ichi for their sterling and enduring work with the CTD without which we still wouldn’t have much of a clue where to look to find venting.

Dana and Louis were the first to escape to a conference in Biloxi where Dana was receiving the IEEE Oceans’ Lockheed Martin award at a dinner Wednesday night. Happily, all of the rest of the Leg 1 team were still around the ship working late yesterday when we finally got far enough along with our data processing to work out that Nereus flew through anomalously warm water on four separate occasions while making us a detailed map of our dive site last Sunday/Monday. Not bad for the last thing we managed to do on Leg 1 – we are now in REALLY good shape for Leg 2.

Today we headed back out to sea for all of a mile along the coast to a mooring in deep enough water to give Nereus a good testing in ROV mode. While Nereus has been used as an ROV before – last June it managed dives to >10,000m in Challenger Deep, Marianas Trench, the deepest point on Earth. Even so, with a new ship and a new team to work with, practice makes perfect so it was a good use of the day. Added to that, we know that the weather back in our work area isn’t super calm right now so probably won’t be ideal for Nereus for at least a day or two. So instead, we decided to take advantage of our good weather today to get some of that practice in, make sure we really could get everything we wanted to into the science basket, and check out other new things like the manipulator arm and our video cameras.

Tonight we’re off to our work area, but taking it gently so our new arrivals can get their sea-legs well before we arrive on site. We’ll be keeping busy over the next couple of days but don’t expect our first Nereus dive to the seafloor until Sunday or even Monday – but be sure we’ll keep you posted when we do!

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