7-29-2010: New (uprighted) video loaded on "Nitty Gritty" :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sea-faring Lingo

Just in case you wanted to know. :)
I'll add more as I think of them.

Window = Port hole
Kitchen = Galley
Dining Room = Mess hall
Bedroom = Stateroom
Sleeping quarters = Hotel
Captain's control center = Bridge
Storage = Hold
Janitor = Steward
Dishwasher/Food Prep/MessHall attendants = Stewards
Floors (1st floor, 2nd floor, etc) = Decks
Moving forwards = Ahead
Moving backwards = Astern
Front of boat = Bow
Back of boat = Stern
Right side of boat (like the passengers side of the car) = Starboard side
Left side of boat = Port side

Drill string = pipeline from boat to seafloor via which the instruments, drill bit,etc transit between the boat and the seafloor
Rig up = put all the instruments on the drill string to measure the borehole
Rig down = take them all off
POOH = pull out of hole

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Entertaining Ourselves

Entertainment on the boat is essential. Good thing we're so good at finding new and exciting ways to keep ourselves occupied! Our work so far (for the science party) has included:
1) describing core (the petrologists)
2) putting together CORK stuff (CORK scientists - though, not me yet)
3) Outreach meetings where each one of us spends a day describing our contribution to this expedition to the outreach team so that they can design lesson plans to take back to their classroom
4) drawing class with Dinah
5) tours of the boat
6) lifeboat drills
7) science meetings
8) processing the little sample material that we've gotten so far
9) writing the methods sections of the cruise report

With all that going on, we still have quite a bit of time to ourselves. So, our creativity is put to work so that 63 days doesn't look like a century away. The Transocean guys (drill team) do karaoke downstairs every afternoon (Hilarious!) along with their favorite 5 songs (Seriously, only 5) which include their ultimate favorite, Faithfully by Journey. They also play a lot of Foosball.

Some scientists play poker on friday night and have a dance party on wednesday night. Others organize shipwide activities like the Haiku contest (some of which were pretty freakin' hilarious - I'll post some later), a Kite contest (to be held early Aug - pictures to come) and a pet wall (my personal favorite). This was Buster's chance for a cameo. :) We also have movies at 7:15 every night and a gym.

The to-dos, the fun times and our own personal entertainment - books, internet, rig floor tv (only kidding) and our overdue to-do lists from home - have succeeded in making time fly. Only 41 days til we're back in Victoria. :)

Sunset at Sea

Last night, several of us braved the wind (gusting ~30 knots) to watch a beautiful sunset. The skies were clear as a bell yesterday so we couldn't resist trying to catch the green flash as the sun sank below the horizon.

Here are some of my colleagues. (From the left: Michelle, Katie, Stephanie, Beth, Jennifer and Dustin)

Here are some of our fearless leaders. (From the left: Geoff, Leslie, Dinah, Katerina, Mike)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Boat Signage

Not much to report these last couple of days. We've been drilling for awhile. The drill got stuck a few times and we had to pull out and flush out the hole with seawater but it looks like they reached their target depth this morning so we're pushing on. :)

In the meantime, I took the opportunity to post some charismatic pictures around the boat. Here are some signs you'll find walking around.

Instructions for the highly fashionable immersion suits. Thank goodness we didn't have to don them like they usually make us do doing the safety orientations.

Come with us if you want to live!
Signs directing us to the lifeboats where we are supposed to arrive in our immersion suits in case of an emergency

We separate all of our trash. The burnables get burned, the food products get dumped and the plastics & misc are stored until we get back to land.

Stickers of Expeditions past.

The entry to the Chemistry/Microbiology Lab. We have such a realist but hopeful sense of humor.

Also known as the Fo'c'stle deck or F-deck.
...BTW, I can hear your giggle from here! :)

Our toilets work via vacuum (like airplane toilets) and although they got a much needed "improvement", they are still pretty finicky.

This is the entrance to the "hotel" (where all the sleeping quarters are.)Because this rig operates 24/7, there is always someone sleeping.

Muster lists - tells who is supposed to report to which lifeboat in case of an emergency and which personnel have special responsibilities.

The photographer's door. Notice the "Geologists Rock" sign above the door and the collection of magnets. There is also magnet poetry on either side of the door which morphs pretty regularly.

Here are a few examples of the magnet poetry. Other examples aren't so innocent. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Signs of Life

For only the second time since we've been on site I have seen signs of life out here. The first was a small seagull-looking bird scanning the surface of the water for eats. I think he was a smidge far from home.

The second encounter with macrofauna (animals you can see with your naked eye) was a sun fish off the port side of the ship this afternoon. He was basking in the sun (as sun fishes do) and lending himself to a few photographs.

Here's a better photograph of a sunfishie:

Also, see Wiki for more info on these guys and their basking habits.

We've had some action in the microscopic realm too. (At least we hope so!) Early this morning, some mud containing little bits of rock came up with the drill bit. This is exciting because 1) the mud is from the sediment just above the oceanic crust * and 2) the little bits of rock in the mud are the only samples thus far of the upper oceanic crust in this area and 3) we got some for microbiology analyses. Granted these samples are contaminated to hell but they can be useful for background samples for the rest of our data.

* The oceanic crust is formed at mid-ocean ridges where lava erupts and cools on contact with the seawater. As the ridge continues to spread, sediment falling out of the ocean coats the ocean floor. At our site, the sediment layer above the basalt that we're actually interested in is ~230 m thick!

Friday, July 16, 2010

How's the weather down there?

Uh, Beautiful! Today and the past couple of days have been gorgeous! The sun is out, the seas are calm and the water is the most beautiful cobalt blue. The wind has been less intense than usual which makes spending time outdoors just awesome! The temperature outside is ~70 degrees (I'm totally guessing) and very pleasant but the wind chill (in the 50's - totally guessing again) is enough to keep most of us off the deck. That is, until beautiful days like today! :)

This was a couple of days ago.

This was yesterday. You can't tell (because of the auto white balance on my camera) but the water is the same color as it is in the picture above. Just gorgeous!

Weather is usually like this. Gloomy and gray with dark gray-blue water.

Deploying the re-entry cone

Here's a video hot off the press (just happened ~5 min ago) of the re-entry cone being deployed through the moon pool. Everything we deploy to the seafloor goes through this moon pool just like this. We were definitely running through the halls to grab our hard hat and glasses to see this! Enjoy! :)

And some pictures of us watching it.

All the scientists gathered on the balcony to watch the action!

Bubba, our "Toolpusher" and a fellow rig floorman supervise the deployment.

After deployment, the string is somewhat confined so it doesn't knock around when the boat rocks. (Don't mind the momentary change of direction - I forgot then quickly remembered to keep the orientation right so you didn't have to strain your neck.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nitty Gritty

Pictures of the Nitty Gritty drilling ops.

Pre-drilling ops:

Strands of the drill string.

Pieces of the casing and re-entry cones.

uuh...I forgot what these are called.... :/

The re-entry cone

Putting together the drill string:

View of the derrick from the HeliDeck. They're pulling up each strand one at a time using the DrawWorks.

A better view of the DrawWorks (yellow apparatus). It essentially holds on to the strand so that the rig floorman can assemble them into one long drill string.

A strand being carried up by the DrawWorks.

A strand in the grasp of the DrawWorks; being carried up the derrick to line it up to be attached to the drill string.

View from the rig floor. The red apparatus (forgot the name) holds the strands in place and screws them together before they drop through the hole in the rig floor and get ready to attach the next strand.

Attaching the strands.

Attaching the 20" casing:

The casings are attached in the same way the drill string is, using the DrawWorks.

Aligning and lubing the casing.

Attaching and securing the casing.

Spot-welding the casing so it doesn't fall apart!

Casing attached to re-entry cone and ready to deploy!

Getting ready to deploy re-entry cone through moon pool (a large hole in the rig floor through which all of the casings, re-entry cones, etc are deployed to the deep.

Here's a *new and improved* uprighted video of the guys loading the drill string. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Keepin' Busy

Our drilling crew has been working 24/7 and has been doing a fantastic job. Because of their diligent and hard work these past 4 days on site, we're already ~4 days ahead of schedule! Only have 53 days left in the expedition but it looks like we'll get to do everything on our wish list. (Knock on wood, of course - we all know Murphy is listening.) We're going to be drilling for the next couple of weeks or so and we won't have samples on board for awhile, so some of us scientists have been busying ourselves with other things. When we aren't working on some long overdue to-dos, we've been quite recreational. :) It's amazing how much you can get done when you're confined to a boat on the open ocean.

In addition to working on one of my quals proposals, I've been busy learning all sorts of new things. We've taken a few tours of the boat and we've all been involved in learning the ins and outs of drilling from the crew. We also have daily meetings (each with a different aspect of the expedition meant to educate non-specialists) which have been extremely informative. Recreationally, I've recently taken up crocheting so I've been practicing with just making a row then turning around and making another row. I'm getting better but I still get lost in the stitches around the 3rd row. Not sure what I'm doing wrong but my brain is certainly entertained trying to figure it out. Yesterday, I learned some Chinese characters and bits about the Chinese history and culture from a fellow scientist. And I've been studying my arabic and slowly working on writing it. :)

I've also been reading Robinson Crusoe - a fantastic book you should read if you haven't already! It strikes really close to home being out here at sea. When he discusses the difficulties they have with weather, etc, it definitely paints a different picture in my head now that I've spent some time on the open ocean. Very cool yet very strange sensation.

Other more group social activities so far have been playing cards, watching movies, our meetings, outreach lessons and a drawing class. Yes, a DRAWING class. Dinah (our onboard illustrator) taught us several techniques today using pencils of different hardnesses, different types of paper, erasers (plastic and moldable), a stump (a smudging tool) and our fingernails. She also taught us how to use these tools to create different textures and to shade 3D objects. And we're all pretty darned good at it. I think we have some closet artists in the bunch! We even have homework - to draw 10 different textures using the techniques we learned today and to pick an image that we'll use for future lessons in pen/ink drawing and watercolor. I picked a sunflower - no surprise there, huh? :)

With all these things to keep us busy, time has really been flying! Sometimes we feel like all we do on this boat is eat because every time we turn around, it's meal time again. Speaking of which, it's dinner time again! The key to being at sea, though, is to keep busy - if not with work then with recreation or with stepping outside onto the deck for awhile or working out in the gym. The goal is to avoid the "6th week blues". I'll let you know in 5 weeks if I was successful. Stay tuned! :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sea Legs

The boat has been rocking pretty good for the last 12 or so hours (we've had swells up to 9 meters) but I've gotten really good at walking through the ship without bouncing into the walls. I think I have finally gotten my sea legs. :) The normal gentle rocking of the boat doesn't phase me anymore and the stronger rocking doesn't make me woozy.

If you're curious as to how our ocean conditions are (and what science we're up to each day), see our Daily Ship Reports.

We've all gotten used to the ship schedule too. Meals are served between the 5s and 7s (5-7am, 5-7pm) and between the 11s and 1s. Movies are shown at 1:15, 3:15 and 7:15 (am and pm). Meetings between 1pm and 3pm and occasionally after dinner. We've settled into a shower and sleep schedule too which helps with the productivity on board.

We've all gotten used to the shipboard rules too. For instance, at all times in the hotel (the section of the boat where everyone sleeps), we have to walk softly, use whispers and be careful of slamming doors. This is because there is always someone sleeping 24/7. Also, to go onto certain floors on the ship, you need a hard hat and close-toed shoes.

Today is the 3rd day being at sea and I finally feel like I've gotten used to the shipboard life. We'll see how long it takes me to get my land legs back once the expedition is over. But I'm sure a little carbonated adult beverage is meant to speed up the conversion to land legs! :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Behind the Scenes

Today, we got a tour of the boat and got to go “behind the scenes” to talk to the Captain and the Drilling Supervisor. Here’s some places we went:

The Bridge (Where the captain steers the boat). Up here, Captain Alex explains to us that he’s only in control of the boat’s direction until we get to our site. Then he turns on the Dynamic Positioning (image to the left) which keeps the boat positioned over our site. (See QYMH for a description of the Dynamic Positioning on board.) While in transit, though, Captain Alex uses this entire panel of computers and dials and buttons (image to the right) to control the boats direction and speed. The chair in the back is the Captain's Chair!!

Here are some other shots from the bridge:

Wheel (for direction) and dial (for speed). Remember the big dial in the movie "Titanic" that had the huge lever? This is exactly the same thing, just smaller. To the right is a side shot of it. The speeds in each direction are "Dead Slow", "Slow", "Half" and "Full".

(Part of) The Dynamic Positioning System. One of the clocks on top is Greenwich time and the other is local time. The positioning system is very complicated and the control panel is HUGE! Very cool though! The blue panel on the right shows the ships position relative to our research site. The panel on the right shows how much power is being supplied to the thrusters, the cabin, the drill, etc. There's another panel that shows which thrusters are on, how fast they're running and in what direction. Thanks, Captain Alex for the awesome tour!!

Next up on our tour was the HeliDeck (Where the helicopter lands). Up here we got an awesome view of the crew loading the “string” (long tan thing in right image) for a drilling test run before we start our actual operations. (See 60 African Elephants for a description of the "string" and more pictures.) We have to do a test run to see how far we can put the drill into the ocean crust without turning the drill bit. So, we’ve loaded a heavier-than-usual drill bit onto the bottom of the string and then we will lower it into the ocean crust. Last time, they got 40 meters deep. This time, we’re hoping for 60 or more meters. Once we do that, then we’ll pull the string back up, move to our next site and do it again. These test runs are done ~30 m away from our actual drill sites. Assuming all goes well, we will begin drilling operations after our 2 tests. Drill, baby, drill!

Then we got to see the drilling deck up close!

Bubba, the Drilling Supervisor, controls the drilling machinery from the "Dog House". The long lever is the brake. The large dial tells Bubba how much pressure the string is experience. There are lots of other dials involved in this complicated operation but no need to worry! Bubba has been doing this for over 35 years!! Bubba is also the inspiration for the cartoon character seen on the Deep Earth Academy website.

The Re-entry cone which is over 6 feet in diameter. Once the hole is drilled the first time, we need to go back and re-enter the hole to drill deeper with a smaller drill bit. So the re-entry cone is put on the top of the hole so we can see it with the cameras that are mounted on the drill. Each re-entry cone has the hole number on it (see it on the bottom left in white paint?). This hole's number just happens to be U1362-A.

View from the drill floor. The drillers are hard at work attaching the string.