Smooth Sailing

Well we’re nearing the end of our cruise now, only a week to go. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the cruise so far, I’ve met amazing people, learnt so much from both our successes and failures and all along the way eaten some of the best food I have ever tasted. When I imagined a research cruise through Alaska, I wholeheartedly expected it to be like what you see on the TV show, “The Deadliest Catch.” I expected pouring rain for the whole cruise, the ship rocking like crazy and huge waves splashing over the railing on the back deck. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have seen barely any rain; the seas have been mostly flat, and the weather has been clear and beautiful. All of which has resulted in some incredible sunsets.

The absolutely beautiful sunsets

Despite this incredible weather, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing retrieving the OBS stations. We began with a bit of a bumpy start as described in Helen’s post, where the rope between JASON and LT01 broke at the surface and LD24 (one of the deep sites) never came up. After those first few hiccups we thought we fixed the problems with JASON by putting on stronger rope which successfully pulled up a number of stations and we planned to circle back to LD24 at the end of the cruise. However, we still had many issues ahead of us. At times it seemed like anything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong. The problems included: ending up 6 hours too far west of one of the sites due to a typo in the location, the TRM (trawl resistant mount which covers the shallow stations) being upside down resulting in the need to send an “elevator” and JASON down, the pop up float being caught on something which required JASON to untangle it, the line snapping between JASON and the TRM or the line snapping between the “elevator” and the TRM. At one of the sites we were unable to even locate the OBS. We tried acoustically communicating with the station but recieved no response. We then sent JASON down to 2350m depth to help locate the station. We arrived where the deployment survey said the station would be but we did not find it there. We the zig-zagged our way acroos the sea floor and still were unable to locate the station. Despite this valiant effort, we eventually had to call this station lost and move onto the next station.

The back deck of the R/V Sikuliaq. On the left you can see the stacks of TRM’s. In the center is the “elevator” and to the far right you can see some of the deep OBS stations

Early on in the cruise we had a particular issue prone 48 hours where we only managed to pick up 3 stations in two days. We were put significantly behind shedule. However, everyone on this cruise is an optimistic and hardworking bunch. Pariculary Jen Granich who is part of the LDEO Science Party and a teacher at Valhalla UFSD Westchester NY, who would not listen to anyone who believed we were too far behind shedule to catch up. We learnt a lot from these few days and changed some of our strategies. Most importantly, we planned to always send down the “elevator” when we deploy JASON in case the TRM is upside down and in order to prevent the line snapping between the TRM and JASON. Despite the challenges, everyone has worked incredibly hard to try and put us back on track. We managed to retrieve 32 of the stations so far, which includes some of the deep stations, all the pop ups and all but one of the TRM’s. We now have just 12 more stations to go. Despite the challenges we faced, I personally believe that all these setbacks have taught me a lot more about the inner workings of OBS recovery and all the potential short falls than I ever would have learnt had everything worked out perfectly.

I particularly admire everyone on this cruise who despite our setbacks never lost their determination, optimisim and sense of humor. During and in between the collection of stations we have also had great fun on the cruise! One example is when Helen and I rediscovered our inner child by playing “Cat’s Cradle” during transits.

This is proof that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or more suited for a ship when life gives you rope (and on ships they give you lots of it) you can either give up or you can make something out of it, we choose the latter and made Jacob’s Ladder!

Helen making Jacobs ladder


– Kiara Daly – PhD student – Cornell University –


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