State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Christmas at Sea

The white elephant gift table sitting just outside the sub hanger on Christmas. Some of the gifts were good. Some of them were not. Everyone had a fine time regardless.
The white elephant gift table sitting just outside the sub hanger on Christmas. Some of the gifts were good. Some of them were not. Everyone had a fine time regardless.

As you know yesterday was Christmas, and things are just a little bit different on such a holiday aboard a research vessel. Although the sub was in the water, many of the crew had the day off. As far as I can tell, most of them work around the clock, so such a rest was clearly in order. Dinner yesterday was also something special. Steward Carl Wood, Cook Mark Nossiter, and Mess Attendant Richard Barnes created a most delicious meal from scratch, including roast beef, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all sorts of veggies and fixins. We ended the evening with a white elephant gift exchange on the fantail. Alvin looked on from inside the hanger while sporting a giant Santa hat made for the occasion by the group from Austria. A jolly good time was had by all.

But the highlight of my day was the return of the VentCam. Project engineer Carl Robinson dove in Alvin along with pilot Bruce Strickrott and geophysicist Milene Cormier of the University of Missouri. They carried a set of glass-ball floats down with them and when they reached the seafloor attached these floats to the VentCam tripod to send it toward the surface. About an hour and a half later, officers on the bridge spotted the yellow glass balls bobbing up and down, and maneuvered the ship in close. Bosun Wayne Bailey and members of his deck crew brought the instrument onboard without any shouting or hollering. Anyone who has ever done any oceanography knows that this is the ultimate sign of a well-executed recovery.

The VentCam on its way back on board the ship. The system performed as well as we could have hoped during it’s first seafloor deployment. (Photo by Wanda Vargas)
The VentCam on its way back on board the ship. The system performed as well as we could have hoped during it’s first seafloor deployment. (Photo by Wanda Vargas)

After an initial look at the video we collected, it looks like the deployment was a success. The camera’s light balancing routine worked very well, and all indications suggest that the flow rate analyses will work just fine. Carl and I will now begin the process of breaking down our gear and boxing it up for the shipment back home. I will also start planning for the next VentCam deployment, which might come as early as July. It’s never too early to start preparing for a cruise.

Meanwhile, Scott still has four dives left for making pressure measurements, so his work will continue. I’ll be in the ball once more tomorrow as a supporting member of his team, and I’m looking forward to another dive. So far Scott’s project has also gone well, and I hope to help continue the trend.

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