Leaving Port – Day 6, 7/10/09

The sun was bright this morning. Most of the science party and many of the others on board came out to watch as the tugs pushed us out. We had a clear view of the Olympic Mountain Range and the snow covering the peaks. I spent a few amazing hours our watching orcas swimming by and watching land slip away.

We had our first fire drill today. And yes, for any students reading this, it is a lot like the ones you do at school. The biggest difference is that we have to wear a hardhat, safety goggles and a life vest. Coming back to my cabin to drop off my life vest I couldn’t help but notice the sound of the water splashing against the hull of the ship. It is very relaxing. The gentle sway of the ship is not too bad. Hopefully the good weather will keep up for a while longer. That way we can delay the sea sickness issues.
We did some more training for the core flow with Jerry, Expedition 323’s curator. He is another remarkable member of this project, bringing his experience of some 20 trips. It is around 6 days to the first drill site. The time is about 16:00.
*****
22:10 now. The sense of anticipation is palpable. The ocean is a little bit rougher than before. The ship is still remarkably steady considering. Meetings continue with different groups. Many are making the transition to the working schedules now. We have a meeting at 08:30 tomorrow, so I’ll have to hold of a bit longer on the transition. The sun has just set.

Comments

Fun At Sea

Hey Uncle Doug. I hope everything is going good. I know this is the kind of stuff you love to do. We all miss you and hope that you are having fun and learning what you want to learn. I will have to keep up with the blogs so we know how things are for ya so keep us updated :) Love you and hope you are having fun. We miss you. Love Shannon

Hi!

Thanks, and I miss you too. See everyone soon.

Following eagerly

Hey Doug,
It's so neat to read what your days are like on the ship. (could you elaborate about needing the washcloth & pillowcase please? - I'm working on MY packing list LOL). I can just see you on deck watching the whales. How did you score a private room? Which lab are you most looking forward to spending time in? What's been the most unexpected thing so far?

Following in your footsteps,
Julie

No footsteps on the ocean :)

First off, there are no wash cloths in the rooms. There are towels for bathing, but I like a good hand rag sized cloth. You might want to bring your own. The pillowcase... I don't need one, but someone wanted an extra. She said that the single one they keep on the pillows was not enough. I didn't have a private room at first, but my schedule changed from noon to midnight to 6am-6pm, and so rather than have my Stateroom mate and I disturb each other all of the time, he moved to a room with someone who is noon to midnight, since he is midnight to noon. Normally you are alone in your room during your off shift time anyway, so really it amounts to the same thing.

Which lab... wow. I thought I'd love looking at nannofossils the most, so my old answer was Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth, as reflected in the fossil record.


 
 

">paleontology
, but sedimentology looks fun as well. The

">chemistry
lab isn't really active at the moment, but I am sure that will be fun. Now that I know about stratigraphic correlation... I think that it'll be fun to watch them assemble the puzzle of the core, and add in the piece the various specialists collect. Hmmm... hows that for a non-answer? I think I'll love working with all of them.

The most unexpected thing so far... How well everyone seems to get along here. I am sure things will ebb and flow over time, but so far it feels like we've all known each other for years. We have a common purpose, and everyone is excited to start drilling. Very soon now!

Questions

Doug, If you're interested in Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth, as reflected in the fossil record.


 
 

">paleontology
, you could have studied my skin here at home. Aren't I funny? I am so excited for you that you are able to participate in this adventure. My questions, much to your chagrin, are related to the things that interest me....Where on the ship are the sleeping quarters (below water level)? How much of the ship's hull is below water level (1/2, 1/3)? I'm trying to imagine the size of the ship based upon the pictures. How many levels/floors are there on the ship? Does the ship rock or experience any jarring when the drill is active? At what point (in number of days) will the ship begin drilling? In the video on the home page, they discuss the depth of the samples. If you get to China, will you need your passport? How long does it take to collect a single sample? Does the noise of the drill bother you? Is the drill called a rig? Who does the cooking on the ship? It's so good to know your shipmates all get along quite well. Who owns the ship, pays the crew and funds the exploration? Are all the scientists American? If not, what countries are represented? How much of your time is spent in open air versus below deck? What kinds of things will you be doing on a typical day? Will your assignment remain the same throughout the trip? Thank you for your blogs. It's really cool to hear about your adventure and to know you are okay. Stay safe. Hugs, Linda

Some Answers, part 2

Q: Is the drill called a rig?
A: I think the best answer to that is that totality of the drilling mechanism is referred to as the rig. This includes the derrick, the drill, the pulleys and cabling. I am sure I’ve missed some things as well. It is a fairly complex set up.

Q: Who does the cooking on the ship?
A: The catering staff includes 15 people. They include the stewards, cooks and a baker. They clean the ship, do laundry and cook the meals (4/day, with sandwich items and bread available 24/7). It is amazing. Each meal time has 4 options (in addition to the things available all day). I recommend the garlic bread.

Q: Who owns the ship, pays the crew and funds the exploration?
A: Transocean owns the ship. They are the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. The science on the ship is funded by IODP from monies from the NSF. So the expedition is paid for by them but think of it as them paying extra to Transocean for running the ship’s operation.

Q: Are all the scientists American? If not, what countries are represented?
A: Definitely not. Since some of them work at U.S. institutions or places outside of their native countries, it is harder to say than looking at a list. I can tell you that represented in nationalities are Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. And that’s just the scientists. The technicians and the ships crew are equally if not more diverse.

Q: How much of your time is spent in open air versus below deck?
A: I am almost always indoors at this point. I take breaks to step outside, assuming the weather is nice. Since we about 20 days of transit, there isn’t much need to go outside during that time. I’ll spend some time outside when the drilling is happening, another 35 or so days, but that will be mainly to watch the drillers and technicians bring up core. Then I’ll be inside the labs assisting the scientists, or in my office blogging about it!

Q: What kinds of things will you be doing on a typical day? Will your assignment remain the same throughout the trip?
A: My plan is to spend half of my 12 hour work day maintaining the blogs, social sites, updating other online resources, video conferencing and that sort of thing. I’ll spend the other half learning the labs, talking with scientists and getting a feel for what is going on. Of course there has to be some flexibility in all of that since each task will have active and less active times. I have much more ability to adapt and modify my schedule than the scientists. I also have more access to tour areas outside of the labs. I’ll explore those some when the ships crew is less busy. They work during transit. I’ll be able to spend time with the drillers during transits.

Great questions! Read on, and ask more in later blogs if they come to you.

Some Answers

Lot's of questions... I'll see what I can do. Some will have to wait until we've started drilling on the 16th to answer. I am posting the first few now, and I'll finish with the rest later as time permits.

Q: Where on the ship are the sleeping quarters (below water level)?
A: My sleeping quarters are on the main deck. There are many staterooms on this level, but it isn’t the only place for them. There are quarters all over in fact. The Captain stays in the Master’s quarters off of the bridge. While certainly nicer than my own room, which has a bunk bed, a sink, a two door tall coat cabinet and a desk, it isn’t the palatial estate you might think the name implies. There is (I believe) another deck below mine that is at water level. I’ll try and find some schematics of the layout that I can post.

Q: How much of the ship's hull is below water level (1/2, 1/3)?
A: The “waterline” is an imaginary line circumscribing the hull that matches the surface of the water when the hull is not moving. So, for this ship, the waterline is about halfway up the hull. However, there are many facilities, including the lab stack, which are on the main deck. These give the ship a larger above water profile than below water, but I don’t know that I can say how they compare volume-wise. I’d wager that the water displacement of the are below water line must be fairly large.

Q: I'm trying to imagine the size of the ship based upon the pictures. How many levels/floors are there on the ship?
A: The number varies depending on where you are. Some areas have more “layers” (my word), but around 2-3. If you count the lab stack however, that adds an extra 3 layers. I am currently on the Fo’c’sle deck or the Forecastle. The name is truncated in various ways but stems from a time when a ship required a higher level fortification for archers or to repel borders.

Q: Does the ship rock or experience any jarring when the drill is active?
A: I’ll get back to you on this one.  I can tell you that the ship’s heave compensation system is designed to keep the drilling assembly as steady as possible. There are also 10 thrusters which serve as part of the DP or

">Dynamic Positioning system. This is in addition to the two fixed thrusters were are using currently. But the short answer is, if we are moving when we drill the core will break. Broken or incomplete core means more drilling or unhappy scientists. So movement is minimalized.

Q: At what point (in number of days) will the ship begin drilling?
A: We left port on the 10th, and we arrive on site for drilling on the 16th assuming things continue as they are right now. It really depends on where you start, where you drill, etc. We are having a fairly uneventful transit with good weather, so we are making good time. The original transit estimate was 7.3 days, so you can see there is some amount of variability.

Q: If you get to China, will you need your passport?
A: Every participant had to have a passport and/or visa as appropriate before we left. They were all turned in to the Radio Operator before we left. In part because those papers will be checked as soon as or soon after we reach the port in Yokahama. Also, if there is an emergency, it is his job to make sure all of them are secured should we need to leave the ship. I know I don’t want to be running around looking for my passport before going to the lifeboats!

Q: How long does it take to collect a single sample?
A: That’s a tough question to answer. There are a lot of variables involved. I’ll try to give you a vague estimate. Beyond that, it depends.
When we start drilling it will take about 30 minutes or so to start getting core back. It takes some of that time for the drillers to get things set up and get the drill to the floor of the ocean. After the first sample it will be a bit quicker to get the next section because the set up is already in place, but you have to wait for the drill to drop to the bottom of the hole. The holes gets deeper each time, so the wait time increases. The estimate to complete the first hole at site UMK-4D, which is labeled U1339A (54”,40,2.0 oN x 169”,58,9.0 oW) is 1.3 days. But we’ll be drilling 4 holes (U1339A, B, C & D) at that site, so the total time on site is estimated at 4.0 days.

Q: Does the noise of the drill bother you?
A: I’ll have to let you know. If you see a blog posted named “Can’t Sleep at All” you’ll have your answer. ;)

Your Blog

Doug,

My wife and I are enjoying reading your blog. Our son is on his first expedition with you and it is very interesting to get another perspective to life on the JR.

Paul & Peggy Beveridge

Hello Parents!

Very cool. I know him. Chris is on the opposite shift from me, that's 6pm-6am to my 6am-6pm, but I see him around all of the time. He is hard at work and is part of the well trained team making this whole thing happen. It is amazing to watch the technicians do their job. He was actually the first person I met the evening I arrived in Victoria. We had dinner together with the folks leaving after Expedition 321T. I am glad to hear you are reading the blog. I know there are others lurking about. Hopefully they'll chime in too! :)

Right now part of the core receiving area of the catwalk outside of my office is getting a fresh coat of paint... the excitement never ends!

Great stuff to do

Wish I was there with you to see all the goings on. I am watching a movie with Kevin Costner in the Coast Guard and guess where they are? You guessed it they are in the Bering Strait rescuing the crew of a sinking fishing trawler. Keep safe,have fun we love and miss you. Dad