Science party at the midway mark

The storm has finally passed away after its rage for the last two days. I was awakened by the droning of the ship engine this morning, feeling totally refreshed. The sun shed its rays straight onto the sea water and dyed the dark water golden. Our ship and I were also luminous by the beautiful sunshine. A whale spouting water was seen near our ship!

The energy of the crew also seems to have come back. Various entertainments, like playing ping-pong and cribbage, watching movies and reading books, were carried out by people. This afternoon, WHOI expedition leader Tim provided us an ocean-bottom station (OBS) tour by dismantling the OBS protector which he called the “hard hat”. I was excited about the tour because this was my first time to peer into OBS. This tour constrained our understanding of how different elements in OBS work together under water and how the OBS communicates with the surface instruments. For example, when the station reaches the bottom, a water-level gauge first adjusts the orientation of the seismometer. The sensor is then locked and the digitizer and GPS start to work. Those explanations are crucial, not only for OBS recovery in this cruise but also for our future careers. I mean, who would know if some of us may keep working with OBSs the rest of lives?

Figure 1. (Left) Todd with his favorite “Viking” paddle; (Right) Todd and Shaun are playing ping-pong


Figure 2. (Left) A seismometer with its “hard hat” removed; (Right) Tim is talking about the mechanisms of different elements of an OBS

Our science party moves on. Lovely ocean-bottom topography images were obtained after a 3-day survey across the Alaska trench, and another 5 stations were picked up since Wednesday. On the other side, students have made great progress in their own mini “projects”. Em and I are starting to build a station database with collected information. Igor is analyzing the rising rates of different stations with time, and Ginevra is assisting with the processing of 3.5 kHz sub-bottom sonar data. On Wednesday night, people gathered together to talk about how we use plain language to explain our study to the public. After all, broad impact is an essential part of science.

Figure 3. (left) Geoff and Peter are talking about the ocean-bottom topography data imaged by the ship’s multibeam system; (Right) People are talking about how scientists explain their study to public.

It is hard to believe that time flies so fast and we have been in the middle way of our cruise. In next few days, we should pick up more stations and conduct another survey. Another storm may hit us on Friday afternoon, but it should be smaller than the last one. Hope everything goes well!

Cong Li, AACSE apply to sail participant, graduate student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


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