August 13, 2009
We're still heading north. As of 5:30 am, we are at 77.53 N. The depth of the ocean is 3825 meters (2.3 miles), and still the sea floor is flat. The multibeam sonar shows nothing but a long purple line. Nevertheless, we need to be on watch to monitor the equipment. Once we reach a different part of the ocean, the sea floor features will change. Then, there will be other experiments to run and more varied data for people to analyze.
This is what being a scientist can be like. Whether in a lab, out in the field, or on a ship, scientific research often goes in fits and spurts. You spend a great deal of time preparing for an experiment. You work at high intensity, often for hours and on tight time-frames to get it started. And you wait...and wait...and wait for the experiment to be completed or the data to be collected. Then, the flurry of activity begins again when it's time to finish or re-run the experiment. Once experiments are completed, the data analysis begins. This is usually the most time-consuming part of research. With advanced technology, huge amounts of information can be collected in a single experiment, and hours are spent on the computer performing different kinds of analysis. I have a hard time imagining how this part of the process was accomplished before many of the calculations and numbers-crunching were computerized.
On days when we are waiting during our data collection or when there are not many new events occurring, I will describe some of the other aspects of life aboard the Healy, including living conditions, how the ship runs, food preparation, leisure activities, etc.
Although I have never been aboard another ship, everyone who has assures me that the living accommodations aboard the Healy are far superior than most. My room is the size of a large college dorm room, and is capable of housing three people. Fortunately on this cruise, there are only two of us - three of us would get a little cramped. There is a set of bunk beds, and each bed has a curtain around that can be drawn around it for privacy and to block out the light. There is a light mounted above each bed and a shelf for storing books, glasses, etc. Separating the bunks from the rest of the room is a couch, whose back folds down out of a cabinet for the third bed.
The room has two desks and three lockers for storage. There are also several tall file cabinets for papers. Every drawer and cabinet is latched so that they won't open up on their own should the ship pitch and roll. Each of the science party's rooms also has a porthole, which can be closed to make the room darker - we haven't done that yet , but it hasn't really been a problem for sleeping. I'm usually so tired that I have no problem getting to sleep. It's the announcement over the PA system (pipes) and alarm drill every day at noon that is a little disruptive. I also spend a lot of time looking out the porthole and watching the ice flow by. Yesterday, when I looked out, the Louis was perfectly framed, just sitting in the ice.
The room also has a sink and an adjoining bathroom, with a toilet and stall shower, that four of us share. Overall the staterooms are pretty basic - this is not a pleasure cruise after all, but they are functional and livable. Based on pictures I've seen from other ships, we are very fortunate. This is certainly not a bad way to spend six weeks.