August 10, 2009
I'm starting to get used to my schedule. Watch from midnight to 8 am, breakfast, sleep until about 2 pm, work out, do some reading or writing, have dinner at 5 pm, science meeting at 7 pm, hang out, power nap for about an hour, have "mid rats" - another meal (usually leftovers from lunch or dinner) at 11 pm, and then back on watch. Some people I see all the time, while others I see in passing at one meal or another. My roommate is on watch from 4 pm until midnight, so I don't get a chance to see him too often. As we go in and out of the ice, I'm going to have to force myself to go to sleep because watching the ship move through the blue and white ice features at "sunrise" is hypnotic.
After an aborted attempt at launching the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) probe because of rough water conditions, they were able to take their readings. They also pulled up the bag of polystyrene cups that had been attached. What a great demonstration of the relationship between pressure and volume. If you've ever dove down to the bottom of the pool, you've felt the increased pressure in your ears. This pressure exerts a force on objects in all three dimensions (length, width, and height) and will cause the molecules in an object to squeeze closer together and decrease the volume of the object. Styrofoam cups are made by trapping air between the polystyrene molecules, so as the cups were lowered 3500 meters down, the forces caused the molecules to be compacted closer and closer together. Consequently, the cups got smaller and smaller. What started out as a normal coffee cup would now hold little more than a sip. The quarter is put in the picture for a scale reference.
Near the end of the watch, one of the crew members asked if I would like to participate in the launching of an XBT probe, an Expendable Bathy Thermeograph probe. This probe measures bathymetric (depth) and temperature data; however, it is expendable - they do not pull it back up. Once it reaches a certain depth (between 760 and 1830 meters depending on the type) and has sent back the data, the double-stranded copper wire attached to the end is cut, and the probe is released. It comes in a cylinder, which has a pin that needs to be pulled before it can be released - much like a hand grenade.
With this in mind and having been told about the "launch" procedures and "shooting it off," I was the perfect target for a little fun. The MST (Marine Science Technician) crew men - Tom, Dan, and Dan, told me I needed the appropriate safety gear to be protected for the launch. I put on an orange Coast Guard float coat, a pair of wrap-around safety goggles, a helmet, and arm-length gloves. I went to the end of the fantail (the back of the ship), and they put the cylinder in the "launcher." I was told me to brace myself in case of recoil, aim off the ship, pull the pin, and wait for the release. On their signal, I followed these steps exactly, and nothing happened. Here I am thinking, "Oh, no. What have I done wrong? Is this thing going to shoot off and knock me down on my rear end?" I looked back to the crew member, and he signaled me to point the nose of the launcher downward, instead of up. When I did this, the probe slid out of the cylinder and dropped into the water - no explosion, no recoil - just a good laugh. Better yet, all of this was videoed from the fantail camera, so I was seen around the ship. I guess I've been officially "punked." I'm sure my students will appreciate this.