Easter Microplate Expedition
March 18, 2005 Day 7
Please visit the ChEss website for additional information and translations in Español, Português, and Français.
More of the same, and we're getting good at it. The weather continues to be excellent (today was a little gray but still calm), and the ship is still going full tilt making 12 knots, at a bearing of 120° from north, toward our destination at 38°S latitude along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge. We passed the longitude of Monterey Bay (122°W) in the early evening tonight, only we were at 32.5°S and it is at 36°N!
If you’ve been keeping up with our progress via the webpage you know that we are currently in the middle of a more than 2300 nautical mile transit from Tahiti to our first dive site at 38°S on the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge. Of course, this 9-day transit is entirely worth the wait, as we will be exploring one of the most remote, and to date unexplored, sections of the southern Pacific ridge system. Until then, however, we wait, and wait, and wait. What would you do to fill time while trapped on a boat floating in the middle of nowhere? Here’s what we do…. Many of us have decided that a routine is the most effective way to prevent boredom and laziness.
Most of us wake up around 7 a.m. and eat breakfast between 7:30-8:00. After that many people exercise in order to work out the kinks from sleeping in 1X2 meter bunk beds. Yoga starts at 8:45, some folks use a variety of exercise equipment on board, including a treadmill, row machine (ha ha), stationary bike, and free weights, while others walk many laps around the ship (which is ~60 meters long with lots of ladders to work those thighs). Before we know it, and hopefully after a little bit of work in between, it is time to eat lunch (11:30-12:15).Caren, Jenny and Shannon in a yoga warrior pose on deck (not so easy to do balance poses on a ship!). Photo by Shana Goffredi, Cal Tech.
At 12:30 most everyone does computer work including writing/reviewing manuscripts and future proposals, data analysis, etc (basically this is a good time to work on things that our schedules back home prevent us from doing properly). This is done in the lounge, the library, our state rooms, or in the sun on the deck if one is reading scientific papers (or sometimes romantic novels). Before we know it (did I say that already?), it’s time to eat again. Dinner is from 5:45-6:15. I have to add at this point that everyone is thrilled with the food so far. Larry (the steward), Al, and Linda are keeping us happy. Highlights so far include Thai and Indian dinners, blackened tuna and mahi mahi, salads with every meal (although we wonder how long they will keep lettuce edible at sea), tofu!, fudge bars and carrot cake for dessert!
Al, in the galley, is one of the three crew involved with keeping us well fed and happy. Photo by Shana Goffredi, Cal Tech.
After dinner, we have our
nightly science meetings and at 8:30 is our favorite part of the day – story time!
We are currently reading the adventures of Pirates
with Scientists about a pirate ship that mistakenly invades the H.M.S
Beagle (Darwin’s ship) thinking it carries gold from
England. Each night we read aloud to each other and end up laughing
hysterically. After story time we often watch a movie and finally
we turn in around midnight just to do it all over again the next
day. Surprisingly, the days go rather fast this way. We
continue to enjoy our relaxation now since our schedule will become
hectic and hours will be long once we start diving and collecting
"When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand that’s why you came this way…" --Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young 1982 (and covered by Jimmy Buffett, my favorite). I finally DID see the Southern Cross! It’s a constellation in the Southern Hemisphere not visible from Virginia: bright stars that mark the four endpoints of a cross. It felt like an accomplishment in stargazing AND world travel—very exciting! Today was the first test of our babies—I mean, the mussel pots we have spent so long building! The
Alvin group fired up the manipulator arms on the sub to practice handling the pots, and they worked beautifully!
Gavin, the newest pilot, sat inside the sphere operating the controls while we watched the show from the outside, taking lots of pictures like proud parents. I can’t wait to see them work on the seafloor in a few days—wish us luck!
On deck, an Alvin pilot is coached through operating the mussel pot with the manipulator arm.
Size matters on a small world:
On the bridge of the Atlantis looking out across the endless expanse of water, my eyes play tricks on me. I think I see the large black back of a whale or the lithe leaping bodies of dolphins creating the white caps off in the distance, maybe there are birds on the horizon diving into a school of fish. Picking up the binoculars I look for them. And look some more, but it is only the wind and whitecaps. There is still zip to nil to speak of except for a comment of "a few more birds than we saw last time" from the watch, but I haven’t seen one.
Sunrise March 18
Reassessing my view, I see the variety and shape of the clouds as they stretch for miles, arching out over the edge of the earth. They seem to create a corridor, holding us to our course. The soft underbelly of the clouds widens and spreads like a manta ray wrapping its wings around the edges of the earth, pulling it in - creating a new horizon, a closer one. Being nearer, it makes the earth seem like a smaller place. I wonder how can all the multitudes of things living in the world today possibly fit on such a small ball?
Well, of course it isn’t that small. But the size of the world does indeed expand and contact in our minds depending on the context of how we see ourselves in it. Right now this ship is a tiny speck of flotsam, on the vastness of one of our mighty oceans. To see a bird, a whale or even another ship out here would suddenly seem like a miracle. The ship is now my floating world, all
60 meters of it. That point is never so clear as when a trip out in the zodiac for ditch and recovery of the sub is allowed. Suddenly that small
60 meter world looks enormous, solid and downright homey compared to a 3 meter rubber raft bobbing about.
Ship's position at the end of the day: 32.9°S 121.2°W.
Tahiti is a mere speck on this map.
All underwater photos were taken with the submersible Alvin, and are courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.