Sorry its been a week now, but i've got a lot of news to fill you in on. Hopefully some pictures too, if I get a few kbs of bandwidth here. Right now i'm sitting in the computer lab, taking a break between watching the winch uncoil and recoil (boy that's an interesting job.....like whitewashing the fence on the mississippi- you wanna try? Just give me your marbles). The rest of the crew is in the lab and the van working away at various maintenance and calibration projects. Right now, the sub is in the hangar, where its been for 4 of the last 5 days, and we have one less Girguis member on the boat. Why? Well first lets go back to when we were in ....
Dive 2: Charles goes down in the sub, and the mass spec works really well. The worm collection is a bit thin so i can't run my system, but that's all good because we're told that I am getting to go down on the third dive! Horray!
Charles getting a cold bucket shower reunion with the lab. Welcome back.
Dive 3: I went down in Alvin with Katleen from Kim Juniper's lab, and Bruce as pilot. There were a lot of objectives on the dive, and because of a number of things that became increasingly difficult to do as the dive went on, including moving a heavy elevator out of a crevasse it fell in, and trying in vain to find some suitable spots for Ray's camera apparatus, as well as some drained batteries. I did manage to get a bunch of worms for my experiments, so that was good news. Kat however, who wanted to do surveys for future deployments of deep-sea monitoring equipment, did not get a chance to poke around unfortunately. Sorry Kat!
Palm and sulfur worms from the JdF vents
That evening went quite late as I got some worms directly into my system for work, and was able to bank some extras in a holding vessel we keep in our pressure van on the upper deck for rainy (or windy) days. This will play heavily into the next section of my blog.... (*cue forbodding foreshadowy music*). After everything was in and set, I had a nice chat with Melissa and unwound for a bit. Then, because i was up late, i slept into about 10am the next morning, missing Heather's first introduction into the sub on the 4th dive. I figured it would be fine, since i'd be there to meet her with an icy embrace when she reemerged from the darkness below. So, at 10am i got up, made a coffee and walked into the lab. All systems were green on my worms- the cruise was looking good. Then Charles walked in and asked me "Did you hear what happened this morning?"
Actually there were three pieces of bad news. He told me the worst first, but i'll build the tension here instead.
1) The chief scientist got upset about a basket not getting cleaned out by the science party before the sub was scheduled to dive again. There was a miscommunication as to which lab group was supposed to clean it, and instead of talking to us, he proceeded to walk into the lab and shake out the remaining limpets and worms onto my system while it was running. No actual damage was done, and Charles moved my system anyways because of a time point so it wasn't sitting in the muck when i saw it, but at first i thought a chamber had exploded and spilled animals i didn't remember putting in. Needless to say, i was ticked off.
2) Poor Charles. The alvin computer that runs the mass spec was forgotten topside, so they weren't able to get any mass spec data during the dive with Heather. Compounded with the fact that i failed to get good data the dive before, this wasn't good news for the project. Fortunately, there were many dives still to come.
3) And here's the real bad news. Melissa has a habit of moving a fair amount in her sleep, and even sometimes sleepwalking. She was on the top bunk on this cruise, above Adrienne. At 8am, that day, she fell out of bed, hitting her arm and face on the desk on the way down the 6 foot fall. By the time I got up, she had been bandaged, the blood cleaned up from the room, and she was resting in the hospital. At first they thought she had broken her arm, but fortunately that turned out later to just be sprained. What she did do, however, was break her nose in two places. She's ok now, but we had to get her back to shore to get proper medical treatment. So, after Heather came up, we immediately set course for land. My cruise curse continues. By the next morning she was in better spirits, mostly upset she didn't get a chance to dive. We said our good byes and she got off onto a pilot boat helmed by the coast gaurd in northern washington state. We got close to land, but never docked, and I never got cell service to make any calls. So, sadly, with one fewer Girgoyle, we set sail to return to Juan de Fuca.
Bye Melissa! We miss you!
The trip back out to Juan de Fuca was one of the heaviest rides i've experienced at sea. I was running experiments so I couldn't just rest for the day, but fortunately i didn't feel the effects. I was in the minority however, as the 10-20 foot waves proceeded to take down a majority of the labs including some people who rarely feel sick.
The transit lasted all night, and we weren't on station until 6am the next morning. Needless to say, between that and the timepoints, i didn't get much sleep. However, that wasn't the end of our bad luck. The next day, the winds blew at 30 knots, and the dive was cancelled because they don't put Alvin in the water in those conditions. The day after another group went down to collect different types of measurements on deepsea gas composition, so i didn't refill my worm stock. That's when something really unfortunate happened to my system.
The refrigeration unit (reefer) that had been chilling what i call my bank stock (or large chambers holding worms at pressure and low temperature until i use them in my system) went down. The worms heated up enough that they used all their O2, and by the time i went to go reload my system, all 200+ worms i had ready to go had died. This meant i was out of experiments to do until we got more dives, and the next two were not for our group, and therefore unlikely to be getting me worms.
And then, the weather hit again. The last two days were both lost to 25+ knot winds. One group ended up rescheduling their dives, so we'll be diving where worms on the third dive, but at this point, we've lost a total of 5 dives - 4 to weather, and 1 to Melissa's dropoff transit. Now, because of a buffer day on the beginning and end of the cruise, and the one reconfigured dive by another group we're only technically down two dives. However, even though the sub is in the water today (with another group), the wind is up at roughly 20 knots. We'll see if it stays below the cutoff of 25 for the rest of the cruise.
So that's the quick catch up. I'll have a few more shorter detailed blog posts to follow in quick succession over the next couple days to catch you up on the more interesting moments over the last week, but that's the 30000 foot view of it. So in the last week, we've dove three times, lost a Girgoyle to a broken nose, transited to shore and back, and lost three days to weather. Yesterday was humpday, the halfway point of the cruise. We enjoyed candy packed by Mark and Suni (thanks you guys!!!!!!) after a clever but malicious prank was pulled on us by Kiana and Heather who opened the box up early (there were instructions not to open it until humpday) and replaced all the food with sample processing supplies. They thought it was hilarious to watch our crestfallen faces when we thought Mark and Suni had played the prank on us. I've learned my lesson. Never trust those girls. Also, they'll deserve what's coming - revenge plotting commences. Truly the only thing predictable about cruises is that nothing ever goes as planned.
It is a wild ride though. ;)