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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Today was intense!! I knew sediment coring would be busy but it was crazier than I was expecting. Every hour and a half, we hear "Core on deck" which means we need to get our happy butts up to the Core Deck to take our samples. And check out how many people it takes to process the core on the CatWalk! We took 8 samples per core for 7 cores. That's how many samples?

We had just enough time to process all of our samples, prep for the next core and stop by the drinking fountain to wet our whistles then it was back to the Core Deck for another core. We've cored all the way to the basement which means we've gotten down through all the loose sediment and hit rock at the bottom. Very exciting since this is the depth we are most interested in - where the sediment meets the basement.

The sediment cores were awesome though. Today was my first time seeing one. Here's one to the left. It looks like muddy sludge for the most part but we have seen some pretty cool sediments. For instance, we captured an ash layer in one of the cores that is probably from a volcanic eruption in Washington or Canada.

We've got two more holes to drill and core in 3 more days. Our last core has to be on the ship by 10pm on Sept 3. That means we have 3 more days of science then we have to pack everything up and head back to port. As long as we've been at sea, we kinda wish we had more time at this site - very interesting stuff. Next time, though. :)

Gotta go! Back to work then it's dinner time! Oh, I forgot to mention that along with lettuce, we still have lemons. Those who know me know that I *LOVE* lemons! These little yellow guys have made the end of the cruise less tiring for me. Yes, I love lemons that much! :)

Monday, August 30, 2010


We left our CORK site today and headed off to our last study site, Grizzly Bare. The drill crew is tired from 55+ days straight of work but they're trying their best to get us through the last 5 science days. Usually, expeditions involve ~30 days of transit split up throughout the cruise so the guys get to rest for a few days after working hard for about a week. This expedition, though, we've only had 2.5 days of transit so they've really been working overtime. And we are very thankful for all they've done for us.

After sitting at our CORK sites for 53 days or so, we were very thankful to hear the anticipated "Thrusters Up" call over the PA that signaled we were off to our last site. It was nice to feel the boat move and to feel the wind in our face. Funny thing is that the transit made the boat rock more than we've been used to so we were all bumping into the walls in the hallway. It's like we had to get our sea legs all over again.

Now that we've reached our site, the drilling crew is back to the rig floor assembling our coring and drilling pipe so that we can core the sediment and the hard rock underneath. No rest for the wicked. This is the home stretch of a long cruise and it's taking all that the drillers have to press ahead and get the job done. And we scientists are pulling out every ounce of energy we have left to handle our upcoming samples properly and to do our science well. After all, this may be the only opportunity we have to do this science here.

Yesterday, we voted on our expedition logo that will be printed on t-shirts. The winning logo actually came from one of the drillers not the scientific party. He did a great job including all aspects of the cruise (even the microbes!) and we're all very pleased with the design! And today was our Operations Superintendent's birthday. He's an extremely important person on this expedition so we were all happy to celebrate his birthday with cake and coffee. :) Speaking of food, gotta go! It's time for dinner. I bet they still have lettuce!

Stay tuned! 134 hours 'til land!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


It's raining!! For some reason, it never occurred to me that it rained on the ocean. I always thought that the clouds got their moisture from the ocean, then floated to land THEN dumped all their moisture on the continents. Of course, silly, why WOULDN'T it rain on the ocean? I don't know. Just never occurred to me. Now, it does and I understand that it can rain anywhere - even the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Well, the drill crew have their parkas out today and the science crew not directly involved in deploying the CORK are indoors watching the operations from the TV. We had the first of several "wrap up" meetings today to inform us all of our post-cruise obligations - to do our science, to attend meetings and to publish our findings.

It's amazing how much time the science on this boat requires. Just to get this expedition scheduled on the JR took 12 years and multiple proposals. And the post-cruise work will take us all the way to 2014 and beyond. Wow, thinking about that just makes 2 months seem like a drop in the bucket.

Today, we're installing our last CORK and I was able to take video of the process from the loading of the CORK to the deployment of the ROV platform. Beth, the other microbiologist, made a better video that I will try to get so I can show you.

Later, we'll take a 5 hour ride to our last study site, Grizzly Bare! At GB, we're coring some more. This time, we're getting sediments! Very exciting for the microbiologists and water chemists on board! This also means we'll have samples on deck every 1 1/2 hours which doesn't seem like very often. But when you think about the crew needing ~2 hours to process each sample beginning to end, it means we're all going to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off! But we'll worry about that tomorrow. :)

Guess what, though! We still have lettuce! :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Answers to Food!!

I hope you all had fun calculating how much meat, milk and eggs the catering crew packed for our expedition. Here are the answers to the math problems:

1) We have around 100 people on board and everyone eats 2 pounds of meat every day for 65 days. How many pounds of meat is that?
(For those of you that calculated it based on 2.15 pounds of meat per day per person, you should have gotten 13, 975 pounds. 2 lbs per person per day is the actual number. Sorry I didn't update the entry before posting it.)
Well, 100 people x 2 lbs of meat per day x 65 days = 13,000 lbs of meat!! Here are the actual numbers. The catering crew packed 12,984 lbs of meat on board! We started with:
3,510 lbs of beef
2,891 lbs of chicken
3,622 lbs of pork
2,484 lbs of fish
477 lbs of lamb
Whew! That's a lot of meat!

2) And how many gallons of milk would you need if everyone drank a half a gallon every week. (Hint: We are at sea for 8 weeks.)
100 people x 1/2 gallon of milk per week x 8 weeks = 400 gallons of milk!!! Can you imagine how big of a refrigerator you would need for all that milk?

3) And how many eggs would you need everyone consumes 18 eggs a week?
100 people x 18 eggs a week x 8 weeks = 14,400 eggs!! Let's see, 14,400 divided by 12 would be 1200 cartons of eggs!! Wowzers! Those chickens must have been working overtime for us!

Now all of that is just the tip of the ice berg. We also have:
620 lbs of cheese
375 gallons of fruit juice
1890 lbs of flour
~1000 lbs sugar
boxes and boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables
lots of crackers and cereal
Soda, snacks and candy
Tea, coffee
Baker's chocolate , oats and cake decorating ingredients

So, where do we hold all of this food when we still have to store all the fuel, our paper supplies and the rest of our gear? The campboss (the guy in charge of our food and living situation) let me in on their secret. They have 2 huge dry storage areas where they keep all their dry goods like flour, cereal and sugar. And they have 3 *huge* ozonated refrigerators that keeps things fresh much longer than the refrigerators we have at home. And, yep, you guessed it, a HUGE freezer!

Check out the dry storage area to the left. Now, imagine this room filled TO THE TOP with food on every shelf and imagine this room is as big as your mom and dad's bedroom. Then imagine that you had two of these rooms just for dry goods. And that you had 3 of these rooms for refrigerators and another room for a freezer. That's a TON of space. ~1200 square feet to be exact. That's bigger than my house! And it's all stored on the JR. How do you fit all that on board, you might ask? Very carefully!


A week from today we will start our transit back to Victoria, Canada and a week from tomorrow, we will be stumbling around the port as we struggle to find our land legs. In the meantime, we have 7 1/2 more days to complete our science. Our tracer experiment went well yesterday. We should get results later in the year. Cross your fingers!! 12 years of planning has gone into this experiment so we're really hoping it yields some great results! Today and tomorrow, we are putting together the CORK and deploying it. Exciting!!

We have also started to pack up the microbiology lab. There are some materials going to Denmark, others going to Los Angeles and still others that will remain in the hold on the JR until our next cruise in the Fall of 2011. Several of our colleagues have already packed up huge crates of supplies and that's only a fraction of their total load. They've got a lot more to pack. Geez! There's a lot of planning and supplies that go into a 2 month expedition!

Speaking of large loads, do you know how many pounds of meat the catering crew had to bring on the ship to feed all of us? We have around 100 people on board and everyone eats 2.15 pounds of meat every day for 65 days. How many pounds of meat is that?

And how many gallons of milk would you need if everyone drank a half a gallon every week. (Hint: We are at sea for 8 weeks.) And how many eggs would you need everyone consumes 18 eggs a week? Now, it would be silly to think of us all eating 18 plain eggs a week. Most of the eggs we eat on board were put into baked goods like desserts, into fried rice and other cooked dishes and into quiches we had occasionally for dinner. Though, some of the eggs are fried up for us for breakfast or made into omelets. So, how many eggs do we need for that? If every carton holds 12 eggs, how many cartons of eggs would you need?

I'll give you the answers in a few days after you've had a chance to calculate them yourselves. I think you'd be surprised by your answers!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Another busy day in paradise. The experiment went well yesterday and now we're pushing on to CORKing the hole. We are spending today cleaning the hole and making sure it is deep enough for our experiments before we deploy the CORK. But that all happens on the drill rig floor. Today, I'm going to be busy in the lab preparing our microbiology experiments.

Since today marks the start of the single digit countdown, you can now hear people say "8 more wake-ups" and "less than 9 days 'til land" up and down the halls. We're starting to talk about how we're going to budget our time so that we leave when we need to and still get as much science as we can get done done. Totally different mood on board today. Our science is still in full swing but we're most definitely talking about how we're going to wrap up this expedition.

Everyone can tell we're toward the end of our cruise when we go for meals because the cooks are getting very creative. We apparently have an over-abundance of raisins and eggs because both ended up in our meatloaf this morning. It wasn't bad - just strange. But whatcha gonna do? What meal would you make with carrots, raisins, meat and eggs?

But we've still got lettuce, so who can complain?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


WooHoo! The countdown to the end of the expedition has started! Having only 10 days until we reach port, though, is both exciting (for we'd like to be home already) and distressing (because we have so much to do still!) Despite how tired we are at this point, we're still in the full swing of science. Today, we're starting an experiment in a borehole to test pressure and fluid flow before we install the last CORK. That experiment will take 24 hours then we'll start putting together our microbiology experiments and get them ready to go down in the hole. Busy busy busy!

We've started to prepare for the end of the cruise already - 10 days is going to fly by before we know it and we need to have all our paperwork ready when we reach port. So, packing boxes are out and our inbox is filled with all kinds of forms - customs, shipping, and accounting - to close out our shipboard work and get ready to ship everything home.

As for my personal things, I just recently did my last load of ship laundry! Ship laundry can be harsh on clothes and I'm very pleased to report that my garments are neither threadbare nor are they too small - both of which were worries of mine when the expedition started. I've already packed a few things too - stuff that I know I won't need in the next 10 days. (How many hours is that?)

We're all very ready to come home but we still have 9 science days and 1 transit day to finish it all up so we're going to be very busy down the home stretch. That includes all our cruise reports! Eek!! The catering crew on board has been awesome at keeping us nourished with a variety of foods so that morale doesn't plummet in the last few weeks. For instance, we still have lettuce and tomatoes!! We ran out of fresh and canned fruit around week 6 (much later in the cruise than we all expected) but we still have a few fresh veggies in the salad bar. This is absolutely astonishing! I guess that special refrigerator is living up to its reputation of keeping veggies fresh for a long time!

I'll try to write an entry every day up until we reach port to give you an idea of what we're doing to finish up our work here and get ready for our land legs. Stay tuned as the days fly by! Who knows, we may still have lettuce when we reach port. No, wouldn't that really be a shocker?! :)

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflection on SciMath Career series

What started as a simple project to excite my mom's 7th and 8th graders into learning math and science turned into one of the most inspirational activities I've done to date. My task was to go around the JOIDES Resolution and interview colleagues in different careers about the science and math they use in their career. I started with those usually in close proximity to myself and ended by interviewing someone I hardly see on the ship even though the JR is only 470 feet long. The aim was to engrave into the brains of my mom's students how important math and science are to various careers but I actually engraved it into my own brain. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

I had no idea how much math is flying through the heads I walk past everyday on the ship. I knew about science, obviously, because I'm immersed in it all the time. But math! My goodness! This whole expedition is math in action! I got really excited talking about 3D calculus and differential equations in the interviews. I remembered all my classes and how much I regretted not having the time to get a minor in math. I remembered how much fun it was to solve complicated problems even though I tore my hair out crunching the numbers and rearranging the equations. I had forgotten how rewarding math really is.

It was also a social activity I probably would never have initiated myself. I am naturally curious about what people do for a living and what they happen to be doing at the moment. But I'm also naturally shy. It usually takes me awhile (and more often than not, a catalyst) to break me out of my shell. There had been a few catalysts prior to this blog series (Wii nights, card games, etc) but none that went any further than light conversation. While researching for this series, I had to ask (relatively) personal questions like "did you always want to do what you do?" and "do you wish you would have taken more math?" - questions that, if it weren't for this series, I would have left this boat pondering. More importantly, though, I learned that a number of my colleagues stumbled on their present career through trials, tribulations and random chance opportunities. This, in itself, was a catalyzing experience. Throughout this process, I have felt myself open up and socialize more and when you're on a boat with 90 other people for 2 months, socializing is very important for sanity's sake.

I learned about them as people too. One of my colleagues reloads bullets as a hobby. Another likes to organize things like Legos. All of the sudden, they become more than the "Staff Scientist" or "Engineer" in the photo line-up in the hall. You now see them as a person and new friend and will for the rest of the cruise. It's true what they say about people you've been to sea with - they're friends for life. You'll see them on future cruises or at conferences and because you sailed on that one boat on that one expedition that one time, the next time you see them, they'll be an "old friend".

I didn't expect to gain anything in this experience. I expected only to gather facts to put into colorfully written passages to make kids go "Ooo, awww, math and science are cool! Mrs. T, what math and science are we doing today?" I didn't expect to get myself excited about math and science - I always considered myself ALREADY excited about them. I didn't expect to discover that art and photography use math and science. I didn't think I would enjoy being a reporter and I certainly didn't expect to finish the series wanting to interview everyone on the ship. In the end, the series sparked a lot of interaction with the students and a lot of excitement amongst my colleagues. Seems like I wasn't the only one who pondered the careers of their fellow sailors or the hobbies of their friends. Everyone loved the series but it was me who fell under the spell intended for the students. I am more excited than ever to study math and science and to never forget it. I am even MORE excited to hear the life stories of my "old friends" and to meet "new" friends. Perhaps, I engraved more into my brain more than I thought I did. Delightfully so! After all, learning the things I did writing this series made my heart smile!

Thanks, Mom, for the assignment! Even if the kids get nothing out of it, it was still a wonderful experience that I am likely to initiate in the future! :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

SciMath Career #8: Mechanical Engineer

Kevin Grigar is a very important man for our CORK operations. He's a mechanical engineer who helped design some of the key elements on the 3 CORKs we plan to install on this expedition. In the picture, he is fixing some wiring as another engineer looks on. After years in industry as a Mechanical Designer, he went back to school for Engineering to better his position and to encourage his kids to pursue higher degrees. Kevin uses math and science not only for his job but for his hobbies which include marksmanship and building things around the house.

Kevin is a master mental mathematician! As a student, he took a class called "Number Sense" that taught him how to solve several types of problems without writing anything down except the answer. To this day, he uses this very handy skill to design tools for temperature and pressure. He also does quite a bit of math by hand - geometry, algebra, and arithmatic....It's these basic skills that allows him to do very important back of the envelope calculations as well as draw up schematics to get his tools made by the manufacturers. Can you imagine where Kevin would be if he didn't know how how to use a mathematical formula? Eeek. Can't be pretty! So, what is Kevin's advice for us math novices? "Take as much math as you can!" Will do, gumshoe. You can never have too much math! Especially in engineering!

Much like the tool designers we've already met in this series, Kevin needs to be able to speak the scientific language in order to communicate with the scientists who need the tools he is making. He needs to understand the conditions for the experiment (the temperature, the pressure, even the types of metals he *can't* use like if he were building something that can't contaminate a microbiology sample.) Aside from all that, he needs to know his metallurgy, which deals with the strength of a metal and how easily it is to bend and break. Having the right material is important to every tool. You don't want to have a tool bending like an eraser or breaking like a pencil when you're trying to do your job. Kevin knows his science, though, so we rest easy knowing the tools he made for us are up to the challenge. Boy, are we glad he knows his stuff!

Kevin helped design the bottom part of our CORKs - you know, the part that actually goes into the borehole. That's him in the gray (second to the left). Since our expedition out here in the Pacific hinges on the success of these CORKs, we're really thankful Kevin is a master Mechanical Engineer. He has also designed some tools to measure pressure and temperature WHILE we are drilling out our core samples. Since we know so little about the sediment at the bottom of the ocean, it's very exciting to be able to see what conditions are like down there then be able to see the cores from the same area. SO awesome! Of course, none of this would be possible without the expertise of our Mechanical Engineer. And Kevin's job would not be possible without math and science! WooHoo! Go Math and Science!

SciMath Career #7: Photographer/Videographer

Meet Bill Crawford, our very talented Imaging Specialist on board the JR. He is an extremely enthusiastic photographer who packs a punch you wouldn't expect from a man less than 5'6". Armed with his macho digital cameras and his "PhotoNinja" hard had, Bill is anywhere and everywhere capturing the expedition goings-on to show those back on land what life and science on the JR is all about. Processing and organizing all those photos requires science and math though, and Bill has got to know his stuff if he is to showcase our work in the best light possible.

You wouldn't think that photography uses math but just check out the ratios and relationships Bill does every day to figure out how much "noise" (or background junk) is in his pictures! He also needs to know how to calculate angles and do arithmetic to invent new machines to photograph our samples. Here in the digital age, he's got to calculate distances, pixel sizes, pixel shapes, file sizes, areas and light intensities. After all, all graphics come down to math. Whew! Who knew it took math to create wonderful pictures like these?

As you might guess, photography and videography involves knowing optics (the properties of light and how it interacts with objects) and physics (how far sound and light travel). It also involves chemistry. (Betcha didn't guess that!) Back in the olden days of wet chemistry photography when people would develop their own film and print their own pictures, they needed to know what chemicals they were using, their concentrations and what they did. Nowadays in the digital age, chemistry pops up in dealing with printers and what kinds of paper and ink to use. It is also used for cleaning camera lenses. Yep, you read right! Lenses have special coatings that are very sensitive to certain chemicals. In order to avoid damaging the lens, you have to know which chemicals will clean which kinds of smudges and which chemicals can't be used on which types of lenses. Bill's knowledge of the science behind photography is what makes him such an outstanding artist.

Bill is more than a photographer here on the JR. He's our PR guy - the guy who shows the public how cool our work is! As Bill says it, "We're doing good, GOOD research here. Let's show everyone that!" Thanks Bill for using your math and science to capture, process and organize the JR photos. More importantly, thanks for communicating the importance and brilliance of our work here to those who support and are interested in our program. You're a treasured artist who has shown us how important math and science are to the simple act of taking a picture.

SciMath Career #6: Logging Scientist

Stefan Mrozewski is one of our three Canadians on board but more importantly, he is our Logging Scientist. That means he's responsible for coordinating what measurements that are taken of our borehole after we've done our coring, what tools and sensors are used to do the measuring and how the data from the borehole is analyzed. He is called a "logging" scientist because he "logs" various information about the borehole with depth (i.e. how big the borehole is at every depth, how the density and temperature changes and what the borehole looks like.) The information that he generates helps the scientists make very important decisions for the CORKs. Being the Logging Scientist means lots of math and science, though, but Stefan has it all handled! Good thing he knows his stuff - we'd waste A LOT of time, money and energy if he didn't!

Stefan uses all kinds of math - from fractions and decimals to geometry to calculus and everything in between. On shore, Stefan designs the tools we use in our boreholes that requires using rulers, calipers, formulas, fractions, and complicated equations. Even when Stefan goes to sea, he brings along math books to keep his mind fresh. Math is THAT important! With all that math though, there's still more Stefan wishes he could do. If he knew more the complicated math required to design tools and computer programs, he wouldn't have to rely on his co-workers to do it for him. So, what advice does Stefan have for all of us still learning our math? "Take the time to learn it. DON'T copy or cheat. You will be better off really learning and understanding it."

Stefan has had an interest in geology and nature from a very young age and it's a good thing too! Because geoscience and the other sciences are also important to the career of a logger. Stefan uses a lot of physics, geology, basic chemistry, electricity and magnetics to design the best tools for the logging. He also needs to be familiar with the material he is logging and the science objectives of the expedition. Computer science is also extremely helpful when Stefan needs to diagnose problems with the tools or computer programs. He also needs all this science to interpret the data that we get from the borehole. Imagine having a ton of cookies in a jar but no hands to pick them up. That's what it's like for a scientist to have tons of data but no knowledge to interpret it. That would be a big time bummer! Thank goodness Stefan has that knowledge!

Stefan works with lots of tools like those to the left. They all get attached to a strong string called a wireline and get lowered into the seafloor all the way to the bottom of our our borehole. Then Stefan coordinates with the drill floor guys to pull the wireline up at a certain rate so that the tools can make lots of measurements at different depths. So, his tools are essentially our eyes in the rock where our cores are from. The data he brings back show us what we can't dive down there and see - pictures of what the borehole really looks like, its density, its temperature, its size, etc. It's like being in a Magic School Bus that travels down deep into the Earth's crust! "Seeing" what conditions are like down there helps Dr. Andy and all the scientists decide how deep to put the experiments that go in the CORK. We're interested in specific layers below the seafloor and the logging helps us find them. Good thing Stefan is able to show us what the Earth looks like down there without us shrinking ourselves down in a magic bus! Thanks Stefan for being our eyes and ears down in our boreholes and for knowing all that math and science!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SciMath Career #5: Chief Scientist

On shore, Dr. Andy Fisher studies groundwater, streams and seafloor hydrothermal systems as a hydrogeologist at UC Santa Cruz in California. On board, he's one of our amazing (!!) co-chief scientists. He, the other amazing co-chief Dr. Takeshi Tsuji and many others wrote the proposal for this expedition, helped plan it to the last detail and have led us on this extraordinary journey to the bottom of the sea and beyond! Andy is all about the science and math. In fact, I'm pretty sure he dreams at night about CORKs, the seafloor and fluid flow calculations. :) It's that enthusiasm that makes him such a successful hydrogeologist and wonderful co-chief to work with here at on the JR. That's Dr. Andy in the blue hat watching operations with Dr. Jim Cowen.

In order to do all these calculations for how fast water moves through the seafloor, Dr. Andy needs to know a lot of math! I'm talkin' heavy duty trigonometry, calculus and solving complicated equations! In addition to all that hand-written work, he writes a lot of computer programs for his research that require algebra and geometry. Whew! That's a lot of math! But Dr. Andy wouldn't be able to do the science that he loves without the math. And without the science that he loves, he would not have a job. Yikes!

Dr. Andy breathes, eats, dreams and lives science to his very core (pun definitely intended). His research back in California covers all the bases - physics, geology, chemistry and biology - and he gets his kicks out of combining all four to figure out how the water in the world works and where it goes. He gets paid to learn new science! How cool is that?! On top of all that, he gets to excite the minds of students with all his cutting edge discoveries on the seafloor and on land. On top of THAT, he gets to help design expensive instruments and lead awesome expeditions to areas of the Earth we know so little about. He's got to have the coolest job in the world but he wouldn't be able to do it without science!

That's Dr. Andy on the far right in the blue shirt. Dr. Andy and Dr. Takeshi are responsible for planning and overseeing all the science here on the JR. They're what you call the "Big Cheeses"! Their expert planning and guidance has been a key reason why this expedition has been such a success thus far. Aside from our shipboard research, Dr. Andy has reminded us how incredibly fun math and science are, in general. Math and science are essential to being thoughtful citizens, critical thinkers and friends to our Earth. It's inspiring to be able to work with Dr. Andy and crew - reminds us all of how rewarding science and math can be!

SciMath Career #4: Captain

Alex Simpson is our Captain for this expedition. That's him on the left operating the ships Dynamic Positioning computer. 3rd mate Rene is in the back. Captain Alex grew up in a small mining town in Scotland and started his maritime training at the age of 17. He has gained lots of experience since then: 13 with cargo ships, 17 years with offshore oil ships and 8 1/2 years on board the JR. Even with all these years of experience under his belt, he still has to attend training courses every year to learn about updated policies, new technology and new equipment. For math and science though, Captain Alex has to independently keep up with his years of study so that he can keep us all safe and keep the boat afloat.

Captain Alex started his maritime career just after the first pocket calculator hit the market in 1973. In order to navigate, he had to learn trigonometry (fancy geometry) of shapes and also of 3D objects since navigation is based on the laws of triangles. Keeping the boat afloat meant learning algebra, geometry and calculus to calculate how much of the boat sat in the water and how deep. Even though we have GPS and computers now, he needs to be able to make crucial decisions and for that he needs to remember his math! As Captain Alex says, " Technology is only an aid to the world's most wondrous piece of equipment which is planted right between your ears."

Being the Captain of a ship also means you need to know your science. Just keeping the boat right side up and making it go where you need it to go means knowing oceanography (waves, winds, currents, etc.) physics and the law of flotation. On top of that, he has to look out for the health of the ocean (no littering) and everyone on board (no physical injuries). That means knowing his environmental and health sciences. Whew! You didn't think being a Captain involved that much science, did you?

Captain Alex does so much more than just drive us to our site. He keeps the boat centered over a very small spot so that the drillers can do their magic at the seafloor. He oversees the maintenance all marine equipment from the doors to the 40 ton cranes. AND he has to be prepared for any maritime disaster if we ever encounter one. Where would we be without Captain Alex and his knowledge of math and science? Definitely out in the middle of the nowhere without a paddle! The Captain says "if you are not prepared, [being a Captain] is a scary job." Good thing Captain Alex is prepared!

SOME WORDS FROM THE CAP'N (He's just so quotable!)
Motto of his gradeschool: 'Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom but with all thy getting, get understanding.' "Understanding is the most important word in my [Captain Alex's] vocabulary."
"The study of physics helps me gain the understanding of all the physical wonders the world has to offer, and there are many."
"Man was not designed to live on the water and steel should not float and indeed it doesn't float, unless it is designed, built, operated and maintained exactly to engineering standards. The raw power of the ocean's wind, waves and currents show no mercy to anyone who thinks otherwise..."

Put a CORK in it!

Yesterday, we landed our first of three CORKs in the ocean floor! As we all anxiously watched via TV, Bubba, Captain Alex and the drill team expertly placed our CORK into our first drill hole of the expedition. This requires great skill because 1) the Captain has to keep the boat in one place despite the wind and currents, 2) the CORK has to be put together properly (which takes days), 3) our scientific team needs to load all instruments and experiments on the CORK correctly, and 4) the CORK has to be lowered and placed inside the hole via the re-entry cone without damaging anything. Whew! With all that tension on board to get it all together, we waited with bated breath as it was lowered into the hole. And WOOHOO! We made it! One down, 2 to go. Oh, and an old CORK to pull up. We're a long way from the edge of the woods but every step counts!

If you're wondering what a CORK looks like and what it does, take a look at the photo to the left. The CORK is essentially a metal contraption with a plug at the top that corks the borehole sealing it off from seawater. The top of the CORK is to the right in the photo. Instruments to measure temperature and experiments to measure water chemistry and biology are fit inside the CORK in a way that they can be retrieved in later cruises. There are valves on the part of the CORK that sticks out above the seafloor that can be tapped with an ROV during later cruises to download data and check up on the health of the borehole. See the black plastic rectangular things in the CORK photo? Those are the valves.

It has taken years to design these CORKs and they've undergone several retrofits. On this expedition, we are pulling up a CORK put down in the mid-90s during Expedition 301. This is an older style CORK and the new ones are WAY better!! Below is an illustration Dinah did showing how the CORK fits in the borehole. You can see the CORK platform (what the octopus is hanging on to) where the ROV lands to do the CORK servicing and data downloading. The part that sticks above the platform is where the valves are . The part below the seafloor is where our experiments are. Pretty nifty, eh?

Beth Orcutt, the other microbiologist on the JR has made a wonderful CORK video that can be seen via YouTube. Thanks, Beth!!

International Kite Flying Contest

Today, I got to judge the JR's International Kite Flying contest on the HeliDeck. The scientists and engineers alike have been working on their kites in great anticipation of the contest that has been delayed twice. And what beautiful and interesting kites they made too! A good number of them were made with plastic bags, Caution tape, bubble wrap and any other scraps they could find on board. Very fun and I learned a lot about kite construction and aerodynamics. A recreational AND educational activity. That's what life on the JR is all about - Learning, Science-ing, and Socializing!

I chose not to make a kite for the occasion because I wanted to watch all the other kites instead of concentrating on keeping mine in the air. And I'm glad I did! It would have been fun to jump back 20 years to the day I built kites with my family but I would have missed the "Most Spectacular Crash" and the "You must be joking" kites. :) We also had categories for:

Most Colorful
Highest Flying
Most Creative
Most Dangerous
Smallest Kite
Best Constructed
Most Acrobatic

Below are the winners.
It was a wonderful day on the JR to have a kite flying contest. Everyone had fun showing their personality and kite flying skills. Even though we had a few casualties fall in the ocean, we still went back to work on the CORK smiling and recharged with sunshine.

SciMath Career #3: Paleomagnetism Technician

On shore, Trevor Cobine is a research specialist in geophysics but here on the JR, he's our Paleomagnetism Technician (or P-mag Tech, for short). What is paleomagnetism, you might ask? In a nutshell, the Earth has a magnetic field (which is the reason why our compasses point north) but that field switches (so that the compass points to the south pole) and back again - and those switches are recorded in the rocks we bring up in the cores. It's a way for us to know how old the rocks are (since we know when in Earth's history the field has switched back and forth) and consequently, to know when the lava erupted onto the seafloor. This knowledge is very important in our mission on the JR and without Trevor's knowledge in the earth science and statistics, we would not be able to date our lava flows

In developing software and maintaining the p-mag instruments requires statistics (calculating averages, errors and how far a certain number is off of the average) and signal processing (evaluating the quality of the data that come out of the instrument). In other words, he needs to know when the instrument is working correctly, if it is making precise measurements and if there's a problem, where there is a problem is. If Trevor did not know his statistics and signal processing, he would not be able to evaluate if the machine was spitting out good data or bad data. That is absolutely essential when getting any data! No one likes spending hours collecting bad data. No sirree!

Trevor has a strong background in geophysics (or the physics of the earth) that is key to doing his job. If he did not understand how rocks record magnetic fields, all the factors that can change a rock's magnetism or how to measure either of these, he would not be able to maintain software for an instrument that does just that: Measures magnetic fields in a rock and evaluates the data! Boy, would we be lost without Trevor's science brainpower!

As our P-mag Tech on board, Trevor's knowledge of science is especially valuable. Trevor maintains the equipment for our paleomagnetic experiments, trains us scientists on the instrumentation and software required to make our measurements and also develops software (see left) we use on board. In order to do all that, he not only has to know the instrument and the geophysics behind the measurement, but he also has to know what we are interested in knowing. To do that, he has to know geology outside of geophysics. It's a good thing Trevor got a Bachelors in Physics, a Masters in Geology/Geophysics and has years of experience in research. What advice does Trevor have for students? "Learn your geometry! It's extremely valuable and the simple math is always where you make your mistakes." Thanks Trevor for your expertise and for learning that math and science!

Monday, August 16, 2010

SciMath Career #2: Electrical Designer

Mike Meiring is a very important person here on the JR! He designs, maintains and operates the instruments we use to measure temperature and other parameters in the holes we drill into the ocean crust. Without Mike, we wouldn't know half of what we know about what lies beneath the ocean. And without math and science, Mike wouldn't be able to design and invent the tools we need to do our science. Boy, are we glad Mike knows his stuff!

Mike works with scientists everyday who need tools to measure certain parameters in order to do their science. In order to communicate with the scientists, he need to understand the science that needs to be done. He needs to know the terminology, the physics and the geology in order to invent and make tools that will do the job. Without Mike's knowledge of science, he would not be able to sail on this vessel, to be involved in drilling operations or work with electricity at all!

Math is also essential to Mike's job. He needs to know how to use formulas and how to calculate electricity, temperature, length and radiowaves. He has to understand the numbers he puts into the formulas and be able to work with units. Or else, he could miscalculate how much wire he needs or how big his circuit board needs to be. When dealing with electricity, that could be disastrous!

On this cruise, we need to know how heat moves through the rock and sediment under the ocean and how hot the drill gets when we plow our way through it all. For this, Mike designed and built a thermometer (called a thermistor; you can see it below) that goes just above the drill bit. Temperature is very important to our work because we don't want to burn up any instruments and we don't want to put experiments in the wrong places. We have no need to worry with Mike around though. He's an expert at speaking our science lingo and using his math to design our thermistors. Thanks Mike for knowing your science and math!

SciMath Career #1: Illustrator/Picture framer

Dinah Bowman is a professional artist and an illustrator here on board the JR who specializes in all things natural and biological. As a child, she dreamed of making a living doing what she loves to do: Art! She has also always loved the ocean and the marine sciences but decided in graduate school that her heart belonged in the colors and imagination of painting and printing. Today, she combines all her loves into a career painting scenes and animals from the ocean for those who love the marine sciences as much as she does! AND she gets to fulfill her lifelong dream of witnessing real oceanography research with the cutting edge science crew aboard the JR.

You wouldn't think that art requires science but it does! Dinah's beautiful artwork is often commissioned by museums, natural history societies and universities who are interested in communicating concepts in biology to non-scientists - concepts such as ancient environments and the animals that lived in it, or bacteria that live in the ocean, or the shape, texture and color of fish. In order to paint what the biologists and naturalists want her to paint, she needs to know the terminology - in other words, she needs to speak the scientific language. To paint an animal and it's habitat, Dinah also needs to be familiar with the anatomy, the environment and the habits of the animal. Or else, she loses the job! Eeek!

She also uses math on a daily basis. She owns and operates a business that frames pictures. On any given day, she is reading rulers, measuring lengths, adding and subtracting fractions, measuring angles and adding and subtracting decimals. Framing pictures would be impossible if you couldn't measure the size of the picture and you would not be able to make a frame for a 6-sided art piece if you couldn't measure angles! Dinah also uses air tools that require her to be able to calculate air pressure. Can you imagine where Dinah would be if she didn't know math?! Out of a job, for sure!

So far, Dinah has made over 20 illustrations of our coring, corking and sampling operations aboard the JOIDES Resolution. Here is only one example of her beautiful work. In this example, our drill bit is shown chewing up the rock disturbing the homes of the bacteria that live in the rock under the ocean. This and other illustrations help you and others back home understand what exactly we're doing out here on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Without her math and science though, she would never have been a professional science illustrator and she would not have had the opportunity to live her dream and be with us today. Good thing she studied her math and science! Go Dinah!

If you have questions for Dinah, you can post them below or visit Dinah's website.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Warding off the 6th week blues

Today is the 36th day on site (and 40th day since arriving in Victoria, Canada). We are entering our 6th week at sea when the dreaded 6th week blues are rumored to be hanging around. We're doing our best to ward them off and the weather is delightfully in on the plan. :)

The last few days, we've seen quite a few whales, undoubtedly on their way south for the winter. Although they keep their distance (and who would blame them with all the noise we're making with our thrusters and drills), they're still capable of dragging everyone out of their work and out to the bow of the ship.

Last night, we saw the most beautiful sunset we've seen the whole cruise. Pinks, purples, oranges...Reminded me of the Phoenician sunsets back home. Just made me smile. :) I'm afraid to say that the sunset lost against the whales last night. Alot of us were pointing our cameras toward the sunset capturing the beautifully painted sky but pointing our eyes and our binoculars to the right hoping to catch another spray and maybe a breach. Whale watchers were not disappointed. It was amazing! We saw two sets of sprays, one larger than the other which we interpreted to be a mom and her calf. You can see one of the sprays in the left side of the picture up top just under the horizon. Seems so insignificant but it all made our hearts smile.

Today continues our wonderful weather trend. Tuesday, wednesday and thursday were just too windy and gray to enjoy the outdoors. Then the storm passed and we were enjoying some nice weather. I thought yesterday was nice! Today was GORGEOUS! So gorgeous, in fact, that much of the science party jumped at the opportunity to bust out the flip flops, sun screen and bathing suits. Yes, bathing suits! A few of the scientists decided to take a dip in the ROV pool which I hear was very refreshing. The rest of us dragged out the lawn chairs, our books and our needlepoint and just soaked up every ray of sunshine. For a second there, it felt like a cruise liner. So wonderful. For once, it felt like summer. We all feel recharged having had a cruise worth's of Vitamin D.

As for the science, we just finished our packer tests and we've moved on to CORKing. (Packers are inflatable or swellable discs that we place at certain depths in the borehole to prevent cross-communication between the different zones of interest. For instance, we have identified via cores and logging data that there are two permeable zones. We want to put experiments in those two zones without fluid flowing from one zone to the other. So, we use packers!) The TransOcean crew and the CORK specialists have been hard at work putting together the CORKs on the drill floor. (A more descriptive entry about the CORKs coming soon!) Because of tensed wires and heavy machinery, only the experts and the occasional videographer are allowed on the drill floor. The rest of us watch from Drill Rig TV. In the meantime, we are enjoying the wonderful weather and warding off the 6th week blues.

Tomorrow brings a BBQ on the deck, a fire drill, a group photo on the bow and a kite flying contest! All working around the science to-dos, of course! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

More ROV action

I'm a little late getting these posted - they're from Aug 9th. But better late than never, right? :)

It was *really* windy that night, but we all braved the wind for a chance to drive the ROVs the way REAL ROVs like Jason are driven - in the dark by camera! The outreach team attached cameras and lights to each of their ROVs and raced each other to the Lego targets. First to pick them up using the ROV is the winner. The one who used the monitor to drive instead of looking at the ROV got double points.

Friday the 13th

Today was definitely not the typical Friday the 13th. In fact, we had the most beautiful day at sea so far! The weather was almost balmy and the sun was out the whole day. I sat outside for a good 30 minutes without a jacket - first time this cruise. The seas were calm. The wind was gentle, relatively speaking. And the sunset was a gorgeous red with a purple and pink sky. So serene! And to top it all off, a couple of whales off the starboard side of the ship were spraying every few minutes. Totally cool!

This evening, just before sunset, Dinah Bowman, our resident illustrator, showed us how to make do gyotaku, or fish printing. For this, she got a milk fish and a tiger prawn from the kitchen, thawed them out a little then painted a thin layer of block paint on them. Then she gently pressed rice paper, a cheap and very common paper in Japan, onto the fish and massaged the paint onto the paper. Very fun and very zen! Teachers, this can also be done with fabric paint and t-shirts with kids as young as 1st grade. Totally fun! Here's how my print turned out.

Yesterday, Jackie (an outreach officer) and I got to play with Legos designing a molecular biology lesson for her high schoolers. Lots of fun and even me, the "microbiologist" learned a lot about fluorescent microscopy and how to teach complicated lessons in an easy way. I will definitely look for more opportunities like this in the future. It was a blast!

I'm working on getting pictures from everyone so that I can share them with you. For once, I'm not the one on behind the camera. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meet the FLOCs

FLOCs are our microbiology experiments that we're going to put in the boreholes. For some of the experiments, we're holding rock chips on a piece of plastic with screws. For other experiments, we're filling these little containers with crushed up rock. We're going to allow fluid to flow through them and hope that the microbes in the fluid will attach to our rocks and start eating them. In a few years, we'll pull these experiments out of the borehole and check out what microbes are on them!

Yesterday, we started putting them together and getting them ready to go down ~400 meters below the seafloor!

Here's one of our grids. We managed to fit 12 rock chips on that itty bitty plastic piece! Also, see our little cassettes in the back with the black o-rings around them?

Here, I'm tracing and cutting out filters for our little crushed rock containers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Journey to the Center

This morning, we've reached ~500 mbsf (that's ~3200 m below sea level!) and collected our last core. Here's a couple of shots of what we've been doing the last 7 days.

Coming soon: A video of core coming on deck. The drillers transfer the core directly from the drillrig floor to the ALOs (Assistant Lab Officers) on the CatWalk. They prep the core for sampling then take it inside for microbio sampling.

<-- Here's what a typical core from this borehole looks like. Dark fractured basalt with some glass and some alteration (though you can't see it in this shot.) After we microbio folks have had our choice of samples (with approval from the petrologists) then the coreliner is cut and the core is cut, imaged. The petrologists go to work describing every last detail, from the color of the rock to thepercentage of alteration they have. Every day when we cross over (change shifts), we have a sampling meeting. At sample meetings, we all gather around, discuss the core description and decide where to take our shipboard samples

Once we get our samples to the lab, we sterilize our tools and go to town sampling our rocks. Then check out what we do with our rocks after we're done! video

In case you can't see the video, here are some pictures we took.

Beth, Jim and I handle all of our samples in this aluminum rock smashing box (so that we don't contaminate the microbiology living on them). We use sterile chisels and gently chip at the rock using a hammer. We always wear safety glasses just in case a piece of rock flies off heading for our eyeballs.

Our rock smashing box.

And this is what we do to our rocks when we're done sampling them! We flame sterilize it. Now, don't try this at home - We had to have special permission to even have fire inside our box! Don't want to be burning down the boat or the house now, do we?

Deck BBQ

Not the most ideal day for a deckside BBQ since it has been cold and gloomy lately, but the catering staff decided to treat us to a grill out to celebrate getting over the hump of the cruise. And what a welcomed surprise it was too. :) That's Benjie at the grill to the left - he's the 2nd Cook on board and the cook for the meals on my shift.

For me, I was more elated at the sight of a real smoker! Finally, someone outside of Texas (and my parents' house, of course) knows how it's done! It was a real protein-fest with yellowtail tuna, shrimp, pork ribs, steaks, bratwursts and hamburgers. Very refreshing for us carnivores! For the one vegetarian on board though, it wasn't as fun. :/ We had quite a spread of side dishes too - salmon salad, baked potatoes and apple/walnut salad. The TransOcean guys even brought up their karaoke machine (below) so that we could have some music. Good thing we all let the IPOD supply the music though - could have been ugly if any one of us took the mic!

It was a very refreshing lunch. Even though we had to bring out our heavy duty jackets to brave the chill, it was a nice break from the galley and it felt good to commune outside for something other than work.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hump Day

Today is the midpoint of the cruise. 29 days on site and 29 left until we return to Victoria, Canada. Time is really flying! We're still making good progress despite the slight delay due to cruddy borehole conditions. Knock on wood, no major issues yet. :)

The last 6 days just ran together into one drilling-cleaning-coring marathon. So far, we've reached 460 mbsf (meters below seafloor) and have retrieved 16 cores. We microbiologists have gotten quite a few samples with alteration materials along fractures and veins and we plan to get a few more out of the last few cores. The petrologists tell us that the cores have been really interesting (translation: cool but difficult to interpret). In short, they think we're in an upflow area where hot water is circulating up through this section bringing with it hydrothermal metal sulfides. We've hardly seen any carbonate in our samples indicating to us that we're in a higher temperature alteration area. Will be interesting to see the last few cores and to assemble the storyline for this borehole. A couple more days and we should be ready to log the hole (get data on the diameter with depth and other parameters down the hole) then do what we all came here to do...install the CORKs!

Speaking of CORKs, yesterday several of us got to paint them using epoxy paint (the same stuff they paint boats with). SO much fun! We strapped on our steel-toed boots, our hard hats and our safety glasses and went to town personalizing our CORKs. Pictures to come (don't have any on my camera so I gotta wait until some are posted on our shipboard server.)

Today is another fun-filled day. After the science party met for our daily discussion of the core samples, several of us watched the outreach team try out their home-made ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) in an inflatable pool on the sun deck. They even let us and some of the engineers drive! It took 4 days, lots of soldering, taping, drilling and wiring to get these little guys together. But they were totally worth it! The outreach team was able to pick up Lego rings from the floor of the pool and have ROV battles. Bejonty, one of the outreach officers, made a Lego man in a Lego raft and the other outreach officers had a blast sabotaging it, flipping it over and well...destroying it! Lego man underwent quite a few reconstructive surgeries only to be sabotaged over and over. We were all 5 again and it was such a blast!! Even Bubba, our Toolpusher took a break from the drill floor to revive his inner 5-year-old.

Here's a video of Leslie, our outreach coordinator, maneuvering an ROV in the pool:

Tonight, the science party has a "Back to the Eighties" dance party planned to celebrate Hump Day. Should be fun. Though, I think I will be a spectator/photographer for this one. :)

29 days left! Feels like yesterday we left Victoria (and forever ago at the same time.) We still have a lot of energy (and fresh veggies/fruit) so in the grand scheme of things, we are all doing great! The next few days we're going to be coring but after that, there will be more to report as we start putting together our microbial observatories, our OSMO pumps and the CORKs.

Hurray for Hump Day!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

That's Hard Core!

Early this morning (~0530), our first core section arrived on deck (on the left). We core in 10 meter sections at a time and at a drilling rate of ~2.5-3m/hour, we're getting new sections every ~4 hours or so. Really exciting stuff! The cores don't look like much but to a petrologist or a microbiologist, they're the second most beautiful thing we've seen all cruise (second only to the unexpected pebbles of upper oceanic crust we got awhile ago.)

The bummer about coring out here in the crust is that our recovery is iffy, meaning that we could run the drill core down 10 meters but only recover one meter's worth of rock. Other times, we will recover closer to 8 or 9 meters. This is because the material down there can get chewed up and washed away during coring. We never know what we're going to get but any pieces are good pieces to us! :)

When choosing our samples for microbiology, we are looking for surfaces on the rock that are likely to host bugs. (Go figure, huh?) Such surfaces are those that have been in contact with seawater long enough to alter. (Explanation: Where the ocean crust meets seawater, be it at the surface or along cracks, there are chemical reactions that alter the rock to secondary minerals. Such reactions are expected to be microbially mediated therefore, where there's alteration, there should be bugs!) Our first sample (on the right) turned out to be a bust though. Although it had some pretty cool alteration going on (see the black and brownish tinge at the top right of the sample?), it proved too hard to subsample. We use a rock smashing box and chisels (all sterilized, of course) to chop up our rocks into small enough pieces for our analyses. After creating sparks trying to break this piece though we decided to abandon our efforts and return the piece back to the petrologists. It was too hard core for us!

The next sample I was awake for (the second core came up while I was getting my 3 hours of sleep for the night) was MUCH nicer! Within 5 minutes of chiseling and hammering, we were able to get enough sample for DNA and microscopy samples and still have some left over. Of course, it always helps if the sample has a thick alteration rind. :)

Several more hours of coring to go! Then the loggers put their instruments in the borehole and take all sorts of measurements of the lithology (layers of rock in the crust) with depth.

It's only the 22nd day on site, so we're making excellent progress (knock on wood). If all goes well, we'll get to visit a site of MUCH interest to us and get some VERY desireable cores. We'll see though. We still have to CORK these holes first before we start counting chickens.

Stay tuned!