If it’s a Fire Drill…

If it’s a Fire Drill…it must be Sunday, or Saturday.  A quick check of the calendar and daily reports might prove me wrong, but it seems that three or four things have been happening on weekends with a fair amount of regularity. 

First, I think every Saturday and Sunday since we’ve been at sea have been sparkling clear blue – perfectly wonderful Pacific days.  Today is no exception.  We’re traveling between PEAT 3C and 4C and the seas are nearly flat, with almost no rollers or swells.  The ship is also extraordinarily quiet, compared to being on site with the constant drone and vibration of hard-working thrusters and drilling equipment. 

Sunny, clear weekends mean great weather for fire and safety drills. It’s kind of fun to see everyone gathered at muster in their hard hats and bright orange life preservers.  It’s a break from the norm, and I like knowing that Chief Mate Jerry Embry would command my lifeboat and my good friend Bubba Attryde would work with Jerry to make certain we were safe. 

I also like looking around and knowing that my lifeboat would be filled with smart and capable people – 30 individuals from all over the world confined in a small space and working toward one goal. That’s how the JR works – 120 people working and living together on a 143-meter (470’) ship in the middle of nowhere.

In addition to sun and safety, travel from site to site is coming to mean two new weekend rituals for me.  The first is joining crew and staff on the deck to watch for the acoustic beacon to break the surface on its return from the seafloor. 

I’m not the only one who enjoys this diversion.  Anyone who can get out of the lab will congregate shortly before the beacon is expected – usually on the port bow – to watch as the ship is maneuvered into position to bring it safely back on deck with a crane, a guy, and a lot of coordination.  It’s just one more JR example of many people doing many things, to get more cores and improve our understanding of the ways our Earth works. 

The second ritual?  That’s a story for another day.


Photo:  Top:  Sedimentologist Junichiro Kuroda and Co-chief Scientist Heiko Paelike on "beacon watch."   Bottom:  The beacon.   Credit:  Leslie Peart, IODP Education Director and #1 JR fan.

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