May 19, 2005
Today we spent the whole day in transit. During this time, the modelers were working with the collected data and pictures and completing amazing feats. Roland Arsenault has a mock ROV that he can move around in all directions to get different views. I don't mean just moving the ROV on the screen, but moving it so you can see the top, bottom, and sides of the ROV. Colin Ware has a model of an underwater landslide. He was able to animate it so that you could see how it happened. Monsour Ioualalen, Fredric Dias and Stephan Grilli are working on a re-creation of the tsunami on Koa Phi Phi Island, which is Southeast of Phuket.
In all this time onboard, I still have not seen the whole ship. It is like a maze. Jill Friedman took me down to where the high frequency and medium frequency signals are delivered to the ocean floor. She explained that the pole can be raised or lowered according to what they need. She also explained how they maintain the equipment. After each trip, she has to oil and wipe the entire pole so that it will slide easily when deployed. It is really overwhelming to see all that she is responsible for because I am still working on remembering that the port side is the left side of the boat and the starboard side is the right!
Troy Kriesch gave me a tour of ROV operations. Up in the control van, there are seats for the pilot and co-pilot. The pilot is in charge of essentially "driving" the ROV. The cameras are used to see where they are going, but as you can imagine, it is very limited view. Operators also have altitude, direction, speed, and many other pieces of information to help them drive. The co-pilot helps the pilot and maneuvers the arms. The pilots use headphones that connect them to the bridge so they can keep the ship over the ROV or it would be dragged. We could hear the conversations and directions in the barn, where we have monitors to see what the pilots see. When the biologists or geologists saw something that was interesting, they could request that the pilots stop, move cameras or even collect samples. Another room onboard holds the navigation equipment that feeds information to everyone else. In the barn, we could see the latitude and longitude as well as direction, depth and speed on the screen. Not only do the ROV pilots drive the equipment but they also fix and maintain it. This is the group that identified the problem with the camera from the first dive and had it fixed for the remainder of the dives, essentially saving this expedition.
We had another beautiful sunset and many people gathered on the helipad to enjoy it. It was actually very social and peaceful. Everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the environment. Once the sun set, some of us watched stars pop out in a brilliant display. As we stood on the bow, the moon was directly overhead, we could hear the water splashing against the bow, the breeze was gently blowing as we traveled at about 11 Knots, and the expanse before us was breathtaking.
Tomorrow morning, we will have a helicopter land to pick up one of the crew members and take him to Phuket, Thailand. This does not happen often, so we are very interested in seeing this event. We have only a few more days at sea and it seems very odd to me to think that people go on research expeditions for months at a time. You have to have a special mindset to be with the same people day in and day out. Life aboard the ship is very limited. I miss not hearing current news or being able to watch the Discovery Channel or History Channels. I thought I would miss having food but that is definitely not the case as Marci Woodard, Bubba Stewart, Willy Varquez and Omar Flores keep us very well fed. I don't know how they cook 4 meals a day, 6 hours apart, keep the dessert cart stocked, fresh fruit out, the refrigerator stocked, the salad bar full, cheese and crackers available, mix tea, kool-aid and Gatorade, and keep the kitchen and eating area spotless. Now remember that the ship is rocking and they have to do this when the waves are big or small!
Tonight, there is not a sea snake in the moon pool but a brilliant blue trigger fish. He is bigger than my hand! We fed him some bread so I think he might stay with us awhile!
I haven't had a chance to visit with the engineers yet, but that is my next goal.