Sue Oltman: Getting My Sea Legs, May 22, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Mission: STRATUS Mooring Maintenance
Geographical Area: Southeastern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Chile and Ecuador
Date: May 22, 2012

Science and Technology Log

It’s finally the day we will leave port!  I’m awakened by the feeling of my bed shaking and a crash of something falling, this could have been an earthquake.  The science party boards the boat after breakfast and spends a lot of time fastening all equipment down and securing it to shelving; even my laptop needs to be affixed to my desk with Velcro.

My stateroom is on the 02 deck, which is one floor below the main deck. I’m in 02-50-2 with a private “head.” Everything is made of steel (even the toilet and shower) and is bolted down, too.

Stateroom

Here’s where I will sleep for the next two weeks…and take naps so I can do my 4 a.m. watch shift.

As we move out towards open  ocean, the R/V Melville – all 278 feet of it –  is moving northwest at about 11-12 knots and all seasoned hands comment on how calm the seas are. However, there are factors such as pitch, roll and heave which I am not accustomed to!  Ocean conditions affect the ship with  roll of about 3° to 5°  – swaying back and forth to the left (port) and right (starboard.)  Pitch is the hull tilting forwards or backwards and is about 1 ° or less.  Heave is vertical displacement of the ship and is a meter or less. The roll starts getting to me after dinner, despite the sea-sick medicine! Fortunately, after lying down for a while, the sickness passes.

Next, I went up to the lab where all the monitors are to see what I can learn about our course. Watching the multi-beam sonar display (from the Bathymetry XTD) as the ocean floor drops out from below us is fascinating. An array of 191 SONAR beams maps it out. The colors appear like the depth color key on classroom maps we use of the ocean floor – dark blue where deepest and yellow or even red where it is shallower.

The monitors showed the ocean floor depth as it dropped from 2500 m to about 4700 m in an hour or so. The ship was beginning to sail over the trench!

This monitor shows the bathymetry or depth of the ocean in real time as we sail.

Two safety drills were conducted – a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. There was also training on the scientific equipment we will deploy, the UCTDs  (underway conductivity, temperature and depth probes), and ARGO drifter buoys. Sean Whelan led the class on UCTD training and Jeff Lord prepped us on the drifters. These smaller buoys will be released and will float freely, carried by the currents.

The UCTDs will be deployed hourly around the clock on the aft deck (back of the ship.) Salinity and density are derived from these values. The probe is dropped into the water, will sample for about 2 minutes to 400 m or so and then be retrieved. The casting line is then rewound onto the spool to be ready for the next deployment like a sewing machine bobbin being wound.  The data is transmitted to the computer via Bluetooth when a magnetic key is inserted to activate it.

UCTD

A UCTD is taken back to the surface after gathering data. Sean Whalen, an Engineering technician, taught the class on UCTDs.

Everyone was trained how to use the winch as they will need to use it on watch. Each watch has 3 people and is 4 hours long, and then you have 8 hours off. My assigned watches are 0400 – 0800 hours and 1600-2000 hours (4 to 8) so I will need to alter my sleeping schedule! Those on watch must stay in the downstairs lab and conduct UCTD releases during those hours. The instruments inside the UCTD are very sensitive and costly and must be handled very deliberately.

There is one more session. Keith – the ship’s “res tech” or resident technician – conducts a CTD handling class. The “rosette: is the circular frame in which water sampling devices called CTDs are placed to take water sampled in international waters. These are different from the UCTDs because deep zone water is sampled for salinity and temperature. This will be done about 7 times on this cruise. It is large and the instruments are housed in a sturdier casing so it is heavier and the winch operator must lower this into the ocean with a crane.

We are looking forward to be seeing some great sunrises and sunsets from our research vessel during watches!

Sunset

Enjoying the spectacular sunset with me are Elsie Denton, volunteer translator, and Jamie Shambaugh of NOAA.

Sue Oltman: Greetings from the Ring of Fire! May 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Mission: STRATUS Mooring Maintenance
Geographical Area: Vina del Mar, Chile
Date: May 20, 2012

Personal Log

I’m staying in the town of Vina del Mar, about 90 minutes from Santiago and close to the busy port city of Valparaiso.  Learning a bit more about the culture of this country. Once again, I’m reminded how useful it is to know other languages. The science team from WHOI (affectionately called by its acronym, pronounced hooey) is led by Dr. Robert Weller, the chief scientist, a renowned oceanographer whose expertise is moorings. The mooring for STRATUS 11 will be recovered and STRATUS 12 will be deployed. Another significant science contribution of WHOI is the Alvin submersible. Alvin has explored the mid-ocean ridge in the Atlantic Ocean extensively.

Valparaiso

From the R/V Melville, in port, looking towards shore, there are many smaller touring and fishing boats in addition to cargo vessels.

Last time, I shared that earthquakes are almost expected here, so there is a common concern about tsunami preparedness.  In 2010, many Chileans lost their lives due to a tsunami they did not know how to react to. The country’s leaders are trying to implement better evacuation plans, so there is a large public drill planned in about a week here. There are banners in the street announcing the upcoming drill!  Think of the school fire drills we have…a whole country will practice in a coordinated earthquake and tsunami drill to ensure that lives will be spared in the future.

Valparaiso colorful street

Many of the steep hills of Valparaiso were colorful – the homes and artistic graffiti.

The port of Valparaiso is very colorful and busy, with a lot of commerce taking place. New cars enter South America here, as does steel for construction and other goods. The U.S. oceanographic research  ship R/V Melville arrived and the team has been getting equipment ready for the mission ahead.  The new buoy and instruments have been shipped here separately, and the technician, Val Cannon, has been checking them out before they are deployed.It’s not an everyday event that a US Navy ship enters Chile, so local government will take the opportunity to somehow enrich their citizens.  A school group visited for a tour of the ship as well as an overview of the scientific research happening aboard the vessel. The Melville science crew prepared to give a presentation to the group of high school students on Saturday morning.  The research vessel  Melville had come into port on the heels of 2 weeks of  earthquake research by Oregon State University scientists. This scientist gave a presentation about her work first.

Scientists present to Chilean students

Dr. Sebastian Bigorre, WHOI, and Elsie Denton, translator, and I speaking to the students.

Next, Dr. Sebastien Bigorre (Seb) gave a talk about the atmospheric research in the Stratus project which I will elaborate more about in upcoming blogs.  He showed them the location of the stratus mooring and why that location is chosen – it is in the area of persistent stratus cloud cover in the lower atmosphere.  Did you know that some ocean water masses have a specific “fingerprint? ” This allows scientists to determine where that water mass travels to, and this reveals more information about winds and currents in the region.I gave the students an overview of the Teacher at Sea program and how NOAA  provides resources for science instruction, and invites teachers to experience cutting edge science in the oceans.  Teachers at Sea create new lessons and curriculum related to their cruises which are then shared on the NOAA website. The Chilean science teachers asked if these materials were available to them as well, and were happy to find out that they were.

Today was also a busy day of shipboard work inValparaiso, heavy work and long hours of getting the project’s equipment aboard.

Crates and crates of equipment and gear was unloaded, involving cranes and heavy lifting by all.  Even the top scientists are not exempt from the gritty hard labor! In the video clip, you will see Dr. Weller and other hardworking, versatile scientists assembling the mooring on deck. The ocean is all around us, but no one is swimming in it.
The water is pretty cool here, due to the Peru current which bring Antarctic water masses northward. There is continuous upwelling from about 1,000 meters where the thermocline is.

The coastline is on the edge of the Peru-Chile trench, part of the network of tectonic plate boundaries surrounding the Pacific. While on land, we are on the South American plate, and when we put out to sea, we will be above the Nazca plate.  This is a subduction zone where the trench descends to as deep as 6,000 meters in places! The Nazca plate is subducting under the continent. The R/V Melville will mostly be sailing in water in the 4,000-4,500 meter range.  This teacher is ready to set sail! Comment below to let me know your questions about the ship.

Answers to previous polls:

The KMS hat won! Upwelling is the movement of deep,cold, nutrient rich water to the surface. The cables can be over 4000 meters long.

Sue Oltman: Moorings and More, May 10, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Personal Log:

In a few days, I will be en route to Santiago, Chile and meet up with the Stratus  research team that I will spend about 3 weeks with.  The scientists are from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.  After some preparation, the Melville will depart from the port of Valparaiso.

Moorings will be referenced many times, I expect – and that’s not something we  often encounter in landlocked Atlanta, GA.  When something is “moored” it is fastened or secured in place by a cable, rope or anchor. So a boat can be moored as an alternative to being tied to a dock in a marina. Obviously, there will not be any docks and marinas in the middle of the eastern tropical Pacific!

Stratus surface mooring

One of the moorings we will recover during this mission (photo courtesy of WHOI)

The scientific instruments involved in the Stratus project are integrated into buoys and into the cable that secures them to the ocean floor. These surface data buoys are moored and are sometimes just called moorings. There are buoys in the ocean that collect all kinds of data way beyond just temperature – wind direction and speed, salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and more. Some provide early detection of potential tsunamis, a concern in this area – last month,Valparaiso experienced a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, and in Chile, earthquakes are no surprise.

Location map of Stratus project

The Stratus project focuses on a specific area in the open ocean. (image courtesy of WHOI)

Speaking of earthquakes, the largest earthquake ever recorded occurred in Chile in 1960. Technology and our ability to predict and warn has come a long way in the last 50 years! Stratus is using data to predict climate change – this cruise will be the 11th mission of the team to collect more data for this project. It is exciting to think of the potential this holds for us!
[polldaddy poll=6211066]

Personal log:

NOAA survival suit

Here I am with the NOAA survival suit – in a San Diego museum!

Ship life is going to be different for me! I’ve learned that there are some similarities in rules to the Rock Eagle and Jekyll Island field trips I’ve taken with students! First of all, I will sleep in a bunk bed; next, I am only allowed to wear flip flops in my cabin – no open toed shoes on the deck of the ship. I’ll be expected to clean my room and my own bathroom before I leave the ship. Absolutely no swimming is permitted! One thing that will be different is that there will always be someone working around the clock – and that means someone will always be sleeping. Safety is of the utmost importance – one of the first things we will do is conduct a safety drill. Instead of a PFD, NOAA uses survival suits in case of emergency.
What do you want to know about the ship? Send me your question by leaving a comment.

Mary Cook, December 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 22, 2004

Location: Latitude 31º58.92’S, Longitude 73º01.21’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Relative Humidity (percent) 88.87
Air Pressure (millibars) 1012.32
Air Temperature (Celsius) 16.59
Wind Direction (degrees) 228.6
Wind Speed (knots) 16.9
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 8.66
Sunrise 0643
Sunset 2058

Question of the Day

What is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas?

Positive Quote of the Day

“The air doesn’t even know its own temperature.” L.F. Richardson

Science and Technology Log

Actually, not much science happened on the ship today because everyone’s packing up and getting ready to off load tomorrow morning. The last radiosonde was released at 1600. We had an All Hands meeting with Captain Wright in the library. We were given instructions about disembarking and when to return to the ship.

It has been very sunny today. I think we have finally left the stratus cloud layer!!!! Bob Weller told me that today’s sunset was a good opportunity to see the green flash. I have never seen a green flash! I can’t wait!

Personal Log

This morning, out on the fantail, Diane videotaped me recapping the last three weeks of my life at sea. It’s hard to recap something of such magnitude. I’ve been putting it off for a couple of days because I just didn’t want to think about it being over. Besides, how do I condense it? Diane recommended that I focus on the highlights. It’s funny because everything has been a highlight. Of course, recovery and deployment of big buoys would be on everyone’s highlight list. And that was amazing. Just to think about being with the world’s best oceanic and atmospheric scientists who are deploying the world’s most sophisticated instrument for studying air-sea interactions is both humbling and exciting. The coordination of scientists, crew, and officers was really something to see. But what nobody knows is, that for me, just finding out how an acoustic release works was a highlight. And watching the SeaBeam as we passed over the Nazca Ridge. And holding the miniature cups for the first time. I’ve never touched anything that’s been 9000 feet down in the ocean. And watching the graph develop on the computer as the radiosonde flew up into the clouds. Having all those squiggly lines explained to me in a fashion where they now have meaning and substance was enlightening. When they deployed the Chilean Tsunami Buoy, I couldn’t help but think about how many lives this obscure little buoy could help save. Just gazing out over the ocean and letting my spirit soar has been wonderful, inhaling some of the cleanest air on Earth. There are so many monumental things that have happened to me in the last three weeks. My heart swells with gratitude to be given this opportunity. I have to say that the absolute most meaningful occurrence in the scientific realm to me was tossing the drifting buoy that my students have adopted. Our school’s logo and all their signatures are out there somewhere on that little drifter. Our little drifter. When I tossed it into the ocean I felt as though I was giving all my students a gift. A gift of opportunity and challenge. I’ve decided to name the little drifter Bob, for two reasons, the drifter is bobbing around at the ocean’s surface plus the Chief Scientist who requested a Teacher at Sea is named Bob. We’re going to put a big map up in the hallway at Southside Middle School entitled “Where’s Bob?” Each morning Bob’s latitude and longitude will be announced and plotted on the map. Bob Weller has been so helpful and willing to answer all my questions and helped ensure that I got involved in every scientific work done on the ship. Dr. Bob Weller is a big reason why the opportunity was opened up for a Teacher at Sea to participate in the Stratus 2004 cruise. Had he not requested that a Teacher at Sea be onboard then I would still be back in Arkansas eating Christmas candy, watching football, and hoping for a snowflake.

Of course, I’ll never forget those rip-roaring RHIB rides!

And still, I’ve yet to mention the human side of this experience. I’ve loved meeting all these people, each with their own special qualities that make ship life such a dynamic process. There’s not enough space to mention everyone’s name but each person on this ship contributes in a vital way. It may be washing the dishes or mopping the floor or operating the winch or taking pictures of clouds or standing watch. It’s all important and the people doing those jobs are valuable. The officers, marine crew and scientists all have my respect and admiration. Something I’ve noticed about everyone on the ship is that they have a refreshing spirit of exploration.

There’s no way I can recap this cruise without mentioning my mentor, Diane Stanitski. Not long after we met and the very first day onboard, she said (in her excited and bubbly way) “We’re going to write a book about this cruise! You’ll write it. Bruce will illustrate it. I’ll edit it.” I thought to myself, “Lady, you’ve got to be kidding.” But I smiled and said, “Sure, that sounds great.”

Now looking back, I can see that was a foreshadowing of things to come. Not just the book but everything else, too. Diane has helped me get the most out of being here. I mean, squeeze every bit of information, joy, and opportunity out of this experi

ence. “Redeem the time” must be her motto. She made sure that I knew what was going on and helped me understand the science behind it. Just like a good teacher, she showed me, told me, modeled proper technique for me, then, let me go on my own.

I knew that I liked Diane before I ever met her. On the NOAA Teacher at Sea website I had read her logs from a couple years back while she was in Hawaii. There was one scenario that conveyed her personality in such a way that I knew she would be a great person to work with. She wrote in her log about taking a RHIB ride to the buoy. The buoy needed repairs. Someone had to climb up on the buoy while it was bobbing in the ocean and fix it. A dangerous feat, I’d say. Anyway, Diane volunteered. In her log entry when she was writing about it she said, “Mom, don’t read this part.” I instantly admired her for considering her mother’s feelings even though it had been an exciting adventure for herself.

Diane has been a great mentor and I’m glad to say that, in her, I have found a new friend with a kindred spirit of adventure and yearning to live life to its fullest.

I have been truly blessed to have been a part of this whole operation.

After tomorrow, all the scientists will have left the ship and be going back home. I will spend a few days ashore then I will re-board the RONALD H. BROWN and continue on to Punte Arenas! I’d like to thank my school, the ship’s captain, and NOAA’s offices for given me this extended opportunity of a lifetime. This is my last log for about 5 days. When I return to the ship I’ll resume sending pics and logs once again. So tune in next week, same time, same station!

Until next week,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 21, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 21, 2004

Location: Latitude 26º56.06’ S, Longitude 72º17.13’ W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Relative Humidity (percent) 75.05
Air Temperature (Celsius) 17.08
Water Temperature (Celsius) 17.88
Air Pressure (millibars) 1015.65
Wind Direction (degrees) 205.79
Wind Speed (knots) 13.98
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.01
Sunrise 0652
Sunset 2042

Question of the Day

What does RADAR stand for?

Wayne’s Question of the Day

Are we there yet?

Positive Quote of the Day

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

Science and Technology Log

Today is both the longest and shortest day of the year! How can that be, you might ask? Today, December 21st has the longest daylight hours in the Southern Hemisphere and the shortest daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. This day is called the Solstice-the summer solstice down here and the winter solstice up there. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky for the southern hemisphere and its lowest point in the sky for the northern hemisphere. It’s the first day of summer here in Chile and the first day of winter back home in the United States! Today, the sun is almost directly overhead here at 26º S. But as Frank Bradley said, “It would really be nice if we could see it, wouldn’t it?” We’re still under the consistent stratus cloud deck so we haven’t even gotten a glimpse of the sun today.

Diane and I completed our first draft of the “Teacher at Sea” book and the special reading in the library went fabulously!

Personal Log

I have to tell you that the “Teacher at Sea” book has been a cathartic process for me. The book features Miss Cook, NOAA’s Teacher at Sea. It begins at Southside Middle School with Miss Cook and her students getting the good news of being selected for the Teacher at Sea program. Then the story follows her as she has all the wonderful experiences with the scientific work being done aboard the RONALD H. BROWN over a three week period. So during all this writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting we’ve had to review and analyze many things. On the last page we wanted to convey Miss Cook’s feelings as she returned home to her students. So how do you do that? How do you convey satisfaction and happiness and exhaustion and feeling blessed? How do you convey that your cerebrum has been inundated with fascinating, cutting edge science? My brain is so full of new information I wonder how long it will take for me to process it into my knowledge base as though it had always been there. Have you ever heard this saying? “The more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” I’m constantly saying, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” And I’m constantly thinking how can I make a good lesson plan from this scientific event? I’ve learned all this cool scientific “stuff” and all about ship life and it makes me realize how much more I need to know. I want to know more. And how do you convey that you want to be a teacher that leads her students to achieve their best; a teacher who inspires and guides her students into a higher plane of knowledge and experience?

Tomorrow is the last full day of this cruise. Everyone will be going their own separate ways. This particular group will never be together again. Never.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 20, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 20, 2004

Location: Latitude 26º19.99’S, Longitude 77º07.65’W
Time: 0810

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 17.88
Water Temperature (Celsius) 18.41
Relative Humidity (percent) 64.16
Air Pressure (millibars) 1016.86
Wind Direction (degrees) 183.76
Wind Speed (knots) 12.37
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 6.41
Sunrise 0714
Sunset 2101

Question of the Day

What is reverse osmosis?

Positive Quote of the Day

“Never spit into the wind.” Anonymous

Science and Technology Log

The last Argo float was deployed today. Bob Weller gave me the honor of waking it up! Waking up an Argo float is pretty simple. I passed a magnet across the “reset zone”. This triggers the float to inflate. The float is “awakened” a couple of hours before it is deployed.

Diane, Bruce and I continued working on the book. Bruce just has a few touch ups to do on the paintings. Diane and I are almost finished with the text and we’ve completed the scans of the original paintings. We must get finished soon because we’re doing a reading and presentation for everyone onboard tomorrow night at 7:30!

Mike Gowan, the Chief Engineer for the RONALD H. BROWN, gave us a tour of the engine room this afternoon. He said the ship’s engines are diesel/electric. We started in the control room which has a wall of computer screens, buttons and joysticks. They can drive the ship with joysticks from the engine room. But I wondered how they’d see where they’re going from deep inside the ship? There are huge computers and automated compartments through the engine room. I didn’t know the “engine room” was going to be numerous rooms located at different places throughout the ship. Our tour was like a hike from one end to the other going up and down several ladderways. After the control room we went into the engine room. It’s really LOUD in there. We were required to wear earplugs. The ship has six engines and one emergency engine. They provide electricity for propulsion and ship service needs. He showed us some huge canisters of carbon dioxide that are standing ready to be used to smother a fire in the engine room should one occur. Mike told us about the marine sewage device which works on a vacuum principal. When we push the flush button on the head (toilet) there is a great suction sound and all the “stuff” is whisked away! Mike also explained to us how they make water. There are two ways: reverse osmosis and evaporation. The reverse osmosis forces water through a semi-permeable membrane that separates the water molecules from everything else. The evaporation technique uses the excess heat from the ship’s generators to cause the water to evaporate and then the fresh water vapor is condensed and collected for use.

This afternoon was sunny and gorgeous! Diane and I took some time soaking in the warmth, enjoying the fresh air while gazing out across the glistening water. It can be mesmerizing.

This evening we interviewed Bruce Cowden, Chief Boatswain and artist-in-residence of the RONALD H. BROWN. Wow! Bruce has led an interesting life. He’s been working on ships since he was a teenager and started working for NOAA about 15 years ago. He has worked his way up to the boatswain position and he supervises seven people who keep the ship in good working order. They clean and paint all the time. Bruce also oversees the large machinery operations and conducts the buoy deployments. His main job is to make sure that everyone is safe and the equipment is kept in good condition. He has had “Captain Nemo” adventures like driving a one-man submarine at the bottom of the Caribbean in search of ancient fossils! The life of a seaman is not an easy life. He spends about ten months a year out to sea. He also shared with us his artistic hobbies. Bruce is a painter and carver. He showed us the carvings from the Taigwa nut. The Taigwa nut grows in Central America and looks like a small coconut. When carved and polished it looks like ivory. Bruce makes jewelry and whatnots. He is planning to have a craft show when he gets back to South Carolina.

This has been another great day at sea!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 19, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 19, 2004

Location: Latitude 25°07.83’S, Longitude 81°54.62’W
Time: 0830

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.04
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.42
Relative Humidity (percent) 56.95
Air Pressure (millibars) 1018.17
Wind Direction (degrees) 155.6
Wind Speed (knots) 15.91
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.99
Sunrise 0734
Sunset 2116 (9:16 pm)

Questions of the Day

Why is the sunset so late in the day?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The world of achievement has always belonged to the optimist.” J. Harold Wilkins

Science and Technology Log

We tossed the last of fifteen drifting buoys this morning! It’s not the end, but the beginning of a wonderful new program. I’d say the Adopt-a-Drifter program got underway with a big splash! Teachers and their students around the world can adopt a drifting buoy just like my students at Southside Middle School in Batesville, Arkansas. They can map its path as it goes with the flow of the ocean currents. These drifting buoys also provide sea surface temperature and air pressure. This information can be utilized to gain a better understanding of the global oceans. I watched as Jeff and Bob deployed another Argo float. These floats are lowered over the back of the ship and when the quick-release mechanism comes in contact with the water, the powder in a small device dissolves and this releases a spring that unhinges the float from the straps. The straps are pulled back onboard as the ship leaves the Argo float in its wake.

I sat down and had a conversation with Chief Scientist Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution about the importance of oceanic/atmospheric studies. He made some very good points that highlighted the fact that when just 1ºC of heat energy is released from the ocean water into the atmosphere it affects the air flows for thousands of miles. This then can be like a domino effect and continue around the globe influencing weather patterns for people everywhere.

At 2:00 we interviewed Richard Whitehead, Chief Steward. Richard is over the food preparation in the galley. Richard shared that he has been working on ships for over 40 years and has had several trainings for the position he now holds. He said that the menus were developed based on nutritional guidelines and availability of produce. Richard shared with us that they keep the produce fresh for weeks by keeping it very cool and placing it in special bags that slows the deterioration. He also said that there are many safety issues that concern food preparation on a moving ship. All the pots and pans are deep, there are railings on the stovetop, and special care must be taken with knives. The countertops must be covered with anti-slip cloths to keep everything from sliding around. He also said that they consider the weather when deciding what to prepare because you wouldn’t want to bake a cake while the ship was moving through rough waters.

We changed “6:00 Science on the Fantail” to “6:00 Science in the Van on the Bow” because we wanted to interview Jason Tomlinson of Texas A & M about his work with aerosols. First of all, Jason explained that an aerosol is not a spray can. It is a small particle in the air. Jason showed us the Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (TDMA). It looks like a mad scientist’s invention with wires, tubes, canisters, and radioactive components! It is one of the best devices in the world for analyzing small particles in the air. It draws in air from outside then dries the air. It then separates the particles according to size. Jason said that these particles are too small to see with the naked eye but they have a great influence on cloud formation and cloud life length. The TDMA can determine what the particles are made of by adding moisture or by adding heat. The TDMA costs about $70,000! He also showed us the Aerodynamic Particle Sizer (APS) which analyzes larger particles. They mostly get sea salt and dust out here in the ocean. Jason said that there’s a mystery about the sea salt and its influence on clouds. The APS costs about $35,000. He also said that occasionally they take in the ship’s exhaust and that destroys their data for that particular time. He concluded by saying that it all gets back to climate change and using these data to make better models for predictions.

After our interview with Jason, we ran outside to glimpse San Felix and San Ambrosio Islands! Our first land sighting in over two weeks! These small islands, located about 300 nautical miles from Chile, are volcanic in origin. They are basically huge, desolate rocks protruding up from the ocean floor. As far as I could tell nothing is growing on them. Seafaring birds do nest on the cliffs. Since 1975 the Chilean Navy has had an installation on San Felix Island where they operate a short airstrip, a weather station and a tide station.

Personal Log

I’m just beginning to realize that this trip is nearly over. We only have four days left. I knew it wouldn’t go on forever but as the old saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”. What a superb voyage this has been for me-a voyage that is continuing my personal quest to search out the majesty of Earth. In doing so it is my heart’s desire to absorb the inexplicable magnificence of our Earth. I want to be permeated with awe for the splendor as I soak it in with my eyes and ears and nose and skin. I am amazed. How can I take it all in? Where was I when the Earth was formed and hung in the nothingness of space? From where did this splendor come? Clouds and rain and snow and hail are amazing! Mountains and valleys and canyons and caves are amazing! Oceans and rivers and glaciers and springs are amazing! Rocks and minerals and soil and sand are amazing! People and animals and languages and ideas are amazing! And they all work together in a symphony of overwhelming magnitude. I believe that we’re all an inextricable part of this grand masterpiece. Traveling is not the essential element in a voyage. Life is a voyage no matter where you are. Our voyage is how we perceive our surroundings, how we face our challenges, and how we come to Truth. Actually, none of us ask for this voyage called life. We’ve been thrust into it by forces greater than ourselves. So here we are. We do have some choices, though. Will we make the most of this journey or will we let it sweep us along without ever wondering, and questioning and being amazed?

Until tomorrow,

Mary