OBS in PNW Day 3

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July 13th 2012
Published: July 13th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

A feeling like no other. The last time I set sail, my beloved and be-hated USS MEMPHIS was leaving the yards in Portsmouth, NH bound for her final 3 years of service to the greatest Navy in the world in Groton, CT. The grey paint and cold steel were the same. The sound powered phone circuits, the unique and coarse language of sailors were the same. Chow lines and etiquette, even the ice maker was the same. But this cruise was different. I was the rider, expected to stay out of the crew’s way and focus on the science and data collection. Needless to say, this was a stark contrast to the roughneck camaraderie I shared with the MEMPHIS boys, where we cursed the riders for breathing our air, eating our food, and sleeping in our racks. The casualty drills were as much our responsibility as the shiny decks and line handling. Here, it’s make yourself accounted for and stay clear so the crew can do their job. I’d so that’s the biggest adjustment so far is sitting back and letting them be a crew without asking questions or wanting to pitch in. After all, I’m on the science crew and they are the ship’s crew. Accepting that this expedition was partly going to be a two-week trip down memory lane, it was time to get down to business.
We met for breakfast on the mess decks at 0715, and then with Maya immediately after. It was then that we received our first assignment: figure out who everyone on the ship is, take their picture, and make a poster that included their position underneath their photo. This was somewhat of a challenge the morning of an underway, everybody is busy, and virtually nobody wants to chat. We took it for action though, and started work on it right away (photo 038). The second order of business was for us to figure out who was going to be standing which watch. Since there was 6 regulars and a kick, we were going to be broke into teams of two, each standing a 4-hour watch on a 12-hour rotation. I drew my bunkmate as a watchstanding partner and we both pulled what we thought was the short straw with the mids, 12-4… Hanna and Astrika are on the 4-8 and Caitlin and Natsumi the 8-12. With a pretty lengthy transit out to our first stop, John and I were going to assume the first watch around 0100 and we expected to retrieve our first seismometer around 0230. In the meantime, we all went out on the decks to greet the people at the locks that were there to which us fair winds and following seas, and get our last few glimpses of the Pacific Northwest coastline. The transit would include getting out of the canal at the University of Washington docks, through the locks, into Lake Union, out into the Puget Sound, and finally into the Pacific. We got some great shots during the transit out. We photographed everything from the bustling port of Seattle and intricacies of the canal system, to the wildlife of the coast and majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains. It was quite a ride! (Photos 2071, 2084, 2106, 2017, 2027, 060, 050).
As with all trips to sea (and seemingly everything in my life), training was required. Thankfully much of the safety briefings were just remediation for me, but the watchstanding was a brand new animal. Our duties would be primarily at two stations: Computer Lab and Jason’s Control Van. In the computer lab, we would be responsible for monitoring the ADCP (or Chirp) which is essentially a fathometer or bottom sounder. The trace put out from this display is useful to sedimentologists, and paleogeologists looking at topographic and depositional features of the ocean floor. The other is a multi-beam display which is a higher frequency beam that bounces off the top layer of ocean floor, providing a more in-depth 3D swath which returns to multiple transducers that are attached to the hull. We log ship’s position, course, speed, depth every half hour and follow our traces. It’s ok. I snapped a couple shots of that watch station and John diligently standing it (photo 001, 002). HOWEVER, then there is Jason. Jason is one of the most capable Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV’s) in the world (basically, Jason is a giant underwater robot armed to the teeth with HD cameras for video and still photographs). It’s operated by a team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and is quite possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen (photo 002 and 1375). Jason can take core samples, use SONAR to locate… anything (which comes in handy shortly), while photographing and videographing everything along the way. He has been used in high profile recovery and explorations missions, and has made several appearances on NatGeo and Discovery Channel. He’s pretty much my idol and I get to stand watch in the control room! WOOOOO!!!!!
Alright, back to reality. John and I have to initiate the watch at 0130 and get ready to retrieve our first OBS. Love the immediate action. Until tomorrow, it’s time for the seas to rock us to sleep…


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