Land, Ho! And a few more questions & answers

For the first time in several days, we spotted land today! Click on the picture above to make it bigger and you'll see the mountain of Vancouver Island off in the distance.  We're not headed toward those mountains, though.  We are heading along the coast and then we'll head in to Victoria, BC through the Juan De Fuca Strait, arriving in port at about 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, PDT. 

The reality is we were never far enough away from land to not be able to see it -- if the weather was clear enough. On our first day on site, we could see the mountains off on the horizon, but it's been too cloudy since then.  Now we're both headed for home and it was clear at sunset.  It's raining pretty hard right now, though.

Drilling work finished ahead of schedule.  We'd not planned to return to port until Sunday.  I'm ready to be able to talk to my wife and daughters and my mom on the phone again and ready to stop being seasick.  I really can't wait to talk to them!

There's still work for me and my fellow educators in the School of Rock to do tomorrow (and beyond), so tomorrow won't be all fun and games.  For right now, I want to finish up the last set of questions from Windermere, and then move onto some homework we teachers have.

Here are the new questions:

Nellie's Questions: Why do you wear suits like the gumby ones?  Also hi and I miss you.

We put on the Gumby Suits for reasons like the ones why we bring life jackets when we go on Uncle Mike and Aunt Anne's boat.  Just in case there is an accident.  The Gumby Suits are kind of like super life jackets.  They'd help us float in the water if the boat was in trouble.  They would also help keep us warm in the cold water. 

We only put them on for a drill.  That's the kind of drill that means practice for an emergency, like fire drills at school, not the kind of drill that we use to drill into the seafloor.

I miss you too, and I love you, and Kiana and Mommy!  I'm excited that I'll be able to talk to you tomorrow!

Question: Are you going to see an octopus?

I guess not.  On a recent expedition, an octopus made itself comfortable on the CORK they installed.  But we didn't get to see one on this trip.  You can see a picture of that here. That would have been neat!

Question: What animals/fish have you seen while you have been on the Joides Resolution?

We've seen a few little yellow birds, some gulls, and lots and lots of dolphins and porpoises!  And we saw a few whales, but only off in the distance.  Really all we could see of the whales was when they sprayed water out their blowholes.  That was cool, but not as exciting as the dolphins and porpoises.  On three different days there groups of dolphins or porpoises with more than 100 animals in the group.  That was very exciting!   One of my friends took this picture:

There were well over 100 of them, but only a few were jumping.

Question: Can the drill hurt any of the living things near the bottom of the ocean floor?

The drill isn't very big, and isn't moving very fast, and there aren't many animals living near the seafloor at the depths we've been drilling, so animals aren't being hurt.  The microfossils I posted pictures of the other day, are like plants and animals that are still around today, but when they're alive, they're floating in the water, so the drill will push them aside as it moves through the water.

Follow up on the tsunami question:

Some of the scientists and science teachers I'm with suggested a couple of ways you might model an earthquake under the ocean.  One way would be to use a plastic wading pool set up so that you could hit it from the bottom.  The earthquake would happen underwater, at the seafloor, so that would be a good way to model it.  Another suggestion was to put a big container on the bottom with air in it and a cover you could remove from above.  In an underwater earthquake, sometimes the land drops, so the water sinks down to take its place.  Another scientist also noted that underwater earthquakes don't always make tsunamis.  Sometimes along a fault (the crack where the Earth moves on either side in an earthquake), the land doesn't move up or down; it moves in a way where it's sliding along the ground.