Thursday, October 8, 2009

Driving South (and West)

Clearing the harbor wall at Port Canaveral, Wednesday morning.

Casey donning his immersion suit during safety training.

Sunset over West Palm Beach on Wednesday.

Nothing but blue skies and sparkling seas as we continue South
Position at 20h00 EST
Lat 24° 23.4’N, Long 082° 04.2’W
68m water depth

After leaving port on Wednesday we sailed out past the harbor wall with the Kennedy Space Center launch site in the distance. Sadly, the only NASA mission launching today was ours, so no fireworks to see us off but on the upside, we headed out into beautifully calm waters and immediately turned south to follow down the east coast of Florida, passing West Palm Beach around sunset.

Other than our continuing science preparations, the main order of the day was a briefing on safety at sea, including a refresher course on what to do in the event of a fire or an abandon ship alarm – a basic safety requirement for any cruise, and a good thing to be acutely aware of, at the outset of every research cruise. Casey was our volunteer to don one of the immersion suits that we all have, as well as standard life-vests, for just the kinds of emergency that we’re all prepared for, but hope we’ll never see.

But of course, no first day at sea is complete without… …watching yourself on TV!? As luck would have it, Weds.7th saw the first airing on the Science Channel of a new documentary made during Nereus’ dives to >10,000m in Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench last May-June. So, thanks to the miracles of satellite television, at 9pm we were all able to gather in the ship’s mess lounge and watch a show starring many of our colleagues out here putting Nereus through its paces.

Right after supper I had given the ship’s officers and crew a quick run-down on what we wanted to be doing, scientifically, on the current trip so it was great that, on the same night, we could all sit down together and watch exactly how we would be planning to use Nereus to do it! You can’t ask for much better visuals than that – so thanks, Science Channel!

Today we continued south, wiring up the CTD-rosette with all the added sensors we have brought with us – Koichi’s Eh sensor that can detect for freshly emitted chemical signals from hydrothermal plumes and two new optical sensors provided by the ship to detect for fine particulate material erupting from any black smokers.

Tonight we had rounded the southern end of Florida and were headed due West, passing the Florida keys by sunset with dolphins playing around the bow. These are the kinds of “bonus prize” you can’t predict will happen on any research cruise but strive to savor when they do. Sadly, I was in my cabin, working, right after dinner this evening and nearly missed the lot! (Note to self: must try and get out more!)

Later tonight we’ll be past the Tortuga islands and at that point, around 2am, we’ll be heading out into deep water, veering southwest until we are past the western end of Cuba and then back to the south-east towards the Mid Cayman Rise and action. But before that, we need to test our gear out. First up, tomorrow after breakfast, will be a test of the CTD system down to around 1000m depth.

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