October 30, 2001
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Well, the time has already come for the last Alvin dive of the Extreme 2001 cruise. This mornings launch took place an hour earlier than usual due to the fact that the Captain planned to start steaming toward Manzanillo as soon as possible this afternoon. So, at a bright and early 7:00 a.m., Alvin was launched. Not only was this the last dive of the cruise, but both observers, Art Sundberg and Dave Simms, were also first-time Alvin divers. Dave, who is one of the SSSGs on Atlantis, actually wonhis position on the sub the other night during a crew lottery, and he couldnt wait to get in Alvin.
Needless to say, due to the extra-early start this morning and the accumulated effect of many late nights over the past two-and-a-half weeks, not too many people made it out to the fantail to watch the launch. In fact, the ship seemed almost deserted this morning, as most scientists tried to catch up on some badly needed sleep. By lunch, however, most had made it out from beneath the covers to enjoy a fantastic Mexican lunch. Todays lunch theme reminded us that Manzanillo is only a couple of days away.
Although we all realized that the end of the trip was fast approaching, today is really the first time it has begun to sink in. There are so many mixed feelings about leaving. A few of the scientists are anxious to go home to see loved ones and resume their normal life on land. I think that the majority of people here, though, wish that their time at sea didnt have to end so soon. Whether it be the want to accomplish more research and collecting, the opportunities to do more Alvin dives and see more of the deep, or even just the feeling of being on the ocean, these factors all make it more difficult to think about returning back to land. Personally, I absolutely love being on the water gently rocking with the swells, wanting to dive into the deep blue water, seeing nothing but the flat calm horizon every way I look, and just feeling so close to the ocean. Being fortunate enough to have been invited on this cruise to witness first-hand the process of a deep-sea expedition, and become a part of the excitement, hope, exhaustion, thrill, and chaos of the whole discovery process, is a rare opportunity indeed, and one I will never forget.
The afternoon science meeting quickly arrived at 2:30 p.m. and then Alvin made it to the surface a little after 3:00 p.m. Nearly all the scientists could be found on the fantail of the ship, eagerly awaiting the recovery of the sub and the stories that the observers had about the dive. As is customary with all new Alvin divers, Art and Dave got the royal treatment after exiting the sub. After being doused with buckets of ice water, they then became human sundaes, with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, walnuts, and a little covering of maple syrup poured over their heads. When asked about the dive, the smiles on their faces said it all
Since this was the last dive of the cruise, Alvin was given the extra scrub down today so that all of the salt water was sure to be removed before the sub was placed in the hangar. The side panels of the sub were also lifted off, and it was a very different view to see all of the wires and tubes and other insides of the sub exposed instead of the normal white panel coverings. It made me remember that Alvin truly is an amazing machine.
It was a beautiful day for once, as we have usually been surrounded by cloudy and misty skies for most of our trip out here, so many of us took full advantage of the sun and enjoyed sitting on the fantail for a bit after Alvin came to the surface. Others began the arduous task of packing up all of their equipment and supplies and cleaning their lab areas on the ship. Crates need to be packed up and stored, lab equipment must be sorted and organized, rooms need to be cleaned, and last-minute details need to be wrapped up. I think I will get to most of this stuff tomorrow .
Later in the evening, we had a seminar by two of the scientists on board, Eric Wommack and Becky Gast. Erics presentation was entitled, Just when you thought it was safe to go back in to the water Introducing the virioplankton, and Beckys presentation was, One extreme to another Protistian diversity in marine environments. Both seminars were really interesting and covered information about topics that are still in the primary discovery processes.
Tonight the air is full of relief in the sense that all of the missions of the cruise had been fulfilled, or at least attempted, and the anticipation for Mexico is clearly evident. Tomorrow is Halloween and there will be a BBQ dinner, and then a concert on the ship by some of the crew on board. We are expected to reach Manzanillo by the early afternoon of the 1st. Most scientists on board are leaving from Guadalajara on the 3rd to return home. How quickly the time has flown by out here! It will be hard to leave, but perhaps I will have the opportunity to join another deep-sea expedition like this one again sometime in the future .