December 6, 2003
|Chrissy van Hilst, R/V Atlantis SSSG Tech, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution|
Letise Houser, Shipboard Education Coordinator
After submitting my journal last night, I still found myself staying up until about 2 a.m. (0200). This time, though, I wasn’t doing work. Somehow, Dave Sims (one of the SSSG techs) and I started a conversation about horror movies. Turns out that we have something in common — we both are avid watchers of these films. Since my childhood, I have always loved to watch horror movies, and they continue to be my favorites as an adult. He and I laughed about the really bad “B” horror movies, raved about those that we thought were high quality, appreciated the classics, and recommended others we each should see. It was cool to find out more about him since he’s the one usually up late at night when I’m working on my Web site postings.
I finally went to bed and slept a whopping (and much needed) nine hours! I missed the launching of Alvin this morning, which carried Tara and Kay to the seafloor. This was Tara’s second time diving, but only Kay’s first. By now, you all should know what that means — initiation! When they returned, Kay was greeted with cheers and applause as she stepped out of Alvin’s hood. Once she made it on deck, the water hoses were fired up, followed by several buckets of cold water. Unfortunately for her, that wasn’t the end of it. Brian and Greg grabbed her by both ends and tossed her in the pool (see “Neat Stuff”). There are still several more first-timers left to dive. Shannon is one of them, and she will be going down tomorrow. Let’s hope that they don’t start getting too creative by the time it’s my turn.
Before lunch, I found the time to finally work out again. I ran on the treadmill for a while, which is much more interesting and complicated on the ship. I have to try and keep my balance as I run, because the ship is rocking side-to-side. Otherwise, the workout felt good, and I finished it off with some pushups and crunches. Afterwards, I got cleaned up and I threw a load of laundry into the wash. Finally, I was ready to start my work for the day.
When I am working, the time seems to fly by, and before I knew it dinnertime had arrived. Less than an hour before dinner, I was talking to Brian and Eddie about how I will have to ask Carl or Larry to make homemade chocolate chip cookies before the cruise is over. They are my absolute favorite treat, especially with pecans (which are my favorite nuts). Well, as I am walking up to the galley I walked past Colleen who is munching on, what else, but a chocolate chip cookie. I couldn’t believe it. Once I got there, I saw that not only were they chocolate chip cookies, but they had pecans. Carl must have read my mind! It is so funny the way those things work. Though he was disappointed in the way they turned out, I thought they might have easily been the best I’ve ever had. That was a nice boost to get me through the rest of the evening because I still had plenty of work to finish.
Now that all my work is complete, I am going to go treat myself to one of the many movies we have to choose from aboard the ship. Who knows, maybe it will be a horror flick!
A day in the life…. Oh where to begin.
This morning I got up around 7a.m. to go up on deck and check to see how things were going with Alvin and to get ready to be an Alvin Swimmer. It looked like things were moving forward and the sub would be ready to launch at 8. So I checked with the other swimmer and the launch coordinator to be sure that there are no special items on the basket that I needed to be aware of. The scientists are using some pretty high-tech instruments with very sensitive electrodes, and it is important for them not to be damaged when the sub goes in the water. After the pilot and observers were loaded into the sub, the launch coordinator called us and we got on the sub and waited for the final checks before launch. It is almost my favorite time of the morning — the sun is just coming up and I am sitting on top of Alvin getting ready to take a ride on the A-frame as we launch the sub. It is a lot of responsibility, but it is also a lot of fun. It is a unique experience to get to ride the sub out in the mornings. The recoveries are coveted because you get more water time. I like them, too, but there is something about starting your day off with a launch. These are often my favorite days. I have never been down in Alvin, but I am one of the few people who get to swim and help with launches and recoveries.
After my “swim,” I took a quick shower. I was lucky today and didn’t get stung by all of the jellyfish in the water. I am torn between being fascinated and terrified of them. I think jellies are awesome, but I don’t like getting stung. When you are swimming in water that is more than 2,500 meters deep, you can’t see the bottom or a reference point — all you can see is endless crystalline blue with jellies and the shimmer of copepods and other zooplankton. It is very different compared to swimming in coastal environments, and it is absolutely beautiful.
As one of the Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) techs on board, one of my most important functions is to get the e-mail. It is our connection with our friends and families and offices back home. It is also how all the pictures, movies, and updates make it back to shore. We use a satellite modem to send data back and forth. So three times a day, I “run the mail.”
Today, just like every day, after I got the mail in, I made myself my very own cup of coffee. I am a coffee addict, and I bring coffee and a cappuccino machine with me to sea. I figure I live out here, so there is no need to live without a few amenities. Actually, I have it pretty good. In addition to my morning coffee, I have a few other comforts of home, including my down comforter, decorations for my room (my Hello Kitty rug is one of my favorites), and, of course, my teddy bear. It is true he goes where I go even though I am old enough to travel without him.
After coffee, I normally make a round and see how everyone in the science party is doing, what problems they are having, and if there is anything I can do. Everyone works at odd hours on the boat, so I like to check in at least twice a day in case someone had a problem while I wasn’t around. This morning, I helped with a computer problem, set up some printers, looked at a data download problem, and helped someone find the right tool to fix something. It is pretty important to work as a team out here; we all have to help each other out.
This afternoon, I tackled a pretty big job, reterminating the CTD (see “Neat Stuff”). The CTD is the instrument we use to collect discrete water samples from different water depths and also measure the salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll content of the water column. The cable and winch that we use to deploy the CTD and lower it to 2,500+ m is pretty special. First of all, it has to be able to support over 1,000 lbs of weight, and it is also a conducting wire surrounded by two sheaths of stainless steel cable. The conducting part is important because that is how we get the data “real time” in the lab and how we tell the sample bottles to close when we want to take a sample. Reterminating is sometimes necessary if there is a kink in the cable or a problem with the electrical connection. It takes about four hours to re-do the whole connection.
After finishing the CTD, I took some time to myself and hit the treadmill. It is essential to get some form of exercise out here, not just for my mental health but also because the food is amazing! Plus, it is just fun to try and run on a ship that is always moving.
After another shower and some dinner, I made another round to check on the scientists. I joke about it sometimes by often referring to my job as the “complaints department.” People come to me with problems of every kind: the Millipore (ultra-filtered) water system is acting funny, my lab is too cold, my lab is too hot, I need to get chemicals out of the storage van, I don’t know how to burn a CD of my data, and so on. It can be frustrating, but it is incredibly rewarding when I get to help someone and thus worth it.
My evening job is generally the same. I make copies of all the footage from the day's dive and help get the night operations started. Tonight we did a CTD, and it went very smoothly. My counterpart on the ship, Dave Sims, is the night guy, so once the CTD got going, I relaxed for a bit before heading off to bed.
|Copyright University of Delaware, November 2003|