6 weeks 2 days from now
Arriving at our first site in a few hours!
Submitted by Alison Mote on Tue, 06/04/2013 - 12:19
Today is our 5th day at sea and I’m finally starting to get my sea legs. The true test of balance at sea is running on a treadmill when the ship is going through swells. Swells are rhythmic long-wavelength waves in the middle of the ocean, which feel like a mom rocking her baby to sleep (in this case a big, giant ship baby). I still sway back and forth while walking down the hallway, so imagine what I look like while running on a treadmill! I feel like I’m on a virtual reality version of the show Wipe Out, but I can’t see the obstacles that I’m running across. I’ve been trying to think of running more as a challenge than exercise, and then the ship rocks me to sleep when I’m finished. It's a win-win!
It’s been a few days since I’ve written a blog post, in part because there is so much going on that I’ve been a little distracted & overwhelmed regarding what to write about. We have been on extensive tours of the ship, including learning about science equipment in the state of the art laboratory facilities on board as well as the behind the scenes operational side of the ship. Yesterday we were guided through a tour of the operations side of the ship, which included a wealth of information about the drilling process, navigation, water processing, and the engine room, which is essentially the command center of the ship. It’s all very fascinating, and we will be spotlighting some of these facilities as we go! For now, we should discuss the excitement of reaching our first site!
We will be arriving at our first site at 11:00 am (AKDT = Alaskan Daylight Savings Time) this morning. As you can imagine, the ocean is a dynamic environment and the ship will be subjected to currents, wind, waves, and swells. How do we know we are in the correct spot, and how do we stay in that spot while we’re drilling?
Well, when we get to our first site, the ship will slow down. Easy, right? Slowing down and getting in the correct position isn’t as easy as you might think because it, in part, relies on the behavior of the ocean. Fortunately, the captain has a good knowledge of ocean currents (yet again, science classes pay off!), and will make adjustments for the environment as needed. Once we have slowed down, the captain will lower the ship’s thrusters, which are lowered beneath the ship to help control the motion and navigation of the ship. The ship uses Dynamic Positioning, which includes 12 thrusters, two GPS units, an acoustic beacon, and hydrophones spread throughout the ship. The beacon sits on the sea floor, sending signals to hydrophones that are located throughout the ship, which triangulate the acoustic signals to tell the captain exactly where we are and keep us in position over the sea floor. The two GPS receivers on board communicate with satellites in space to keep us in the correct position on the surface of the ocean.
In short, our Dynamic Positioning System has a series of advanced devices that work together to communicate between the sea floor, the ship, and positioning satellites in space to keep us in position. As you can see, there is a serious level of engineering that goes into keeping the JR in the correct spot!
Our first site will be drilled in water that is ~4000m deep. It will take approximately 9 hours to lower the core pipes to the sea floor and another few hours of adjustments and prep work before we will have sediments in the lab. We should expect to hear the call “Core on deck!” between 1 am – 4 am, at which time I expect all scientists will up and ready to greet our first samples!
What does any of this have to do with the image of the bunk bed pictured above? Nothing, but I know my students are going to ask about my sleeping arrangements when I Skype with them this afternoon, so I thought I would show a picture (the bottom bunk is mine). Hello Ann Richards School…I’m looking forward to “seeing” you soon!!