Into, and out of, the raging sea

Our cruise plan has some time built in for both bad weather and mapping the sea floor. The last two days we took advantage of bad weather to map the sea bottom. A large storm – sort of a mini typhoon (see weather map) – overtook us and then steered northward to the Bering Sea. We had sustained winds as high as about 43 knots and the largest waves were about 25 feet tall on Sunday. I found it endlessly mesmerizing to watch the waves tumble and go by the ship. When the waves crested, the top of the froth was blown away, leaving streaky lines on the lee side of the waves. People bound to land don’t have the opportunity to see such ferocious beauty.

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A weather model of the storm. We were roughly where the white + was located.

Inside the ship, there was a notable lack of energy and general malaise. Many people had some degree of sea sickness, and for those of us blessed with feeling better than others, we also were not too ambitious. Nonetheless, it was good weather for mapping the sea bottom with the ships’ excellent EM122 multibeam system. Going to the northeast with the weather, the Langseth was doing about 8 knots and the data was very good. Going against the waves, we were doing about 4.5 knots and the data quality was a bit ratty, but good enough. Its satisfying to let the multibeam system paint the bottom on our computer screens.

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      Zhengyang Zhao keeps an eye on the incoming data while playing a video game

Today, the winds and seas subsided to less than 20 knots and 10 feet and the skies were fairly blue, and the shearwaters were back to doing their speedy glides in the troughs between waves. On board the ship, ribs, chicken, and mac-n-cheese were on the Labor Day menu. People are more active around the boat – the gym was full this afternoon – and the students were back to working on their various projects. And cribbage was being played. Tomorrow evening we should finish up this chunk of bottom mapping and the seas should then be calm enough to let us get back to picking up more OBSs. Onward!

– Peter Haeussler, co-chief scientist, USGS – Anchorage, Alaska

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Em Schnorr, Cong Li, and Heather Fisher play cribbage.

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