18 Sept 2014
Day 5 and 6 of leg 5
On day 5 we transited to Newport to pick up the second two legged mooring gear. One of the project scientists, Giora, gave us a presentation about plastics in the ocean. I have been interested in the Pacific gyre garbage patch since I did a presentation on it in 2007, which happens to be around the same time he started to study this topic. Giora worked on a tall ship on the east coast doing a semester at sea program. Part of the program was to take net tows of the surface water. Since the ship sailed a similar path year after year data had been collected and logged for many years. With the aid of a current model showing where these gyres naturally happen and the data of the plastic particulates collected a correlation was made. The model and the data showed that particulates in the ocean were transported to these gyre areas. The questions we are now faced with are, what is this doing to the ecosystem? And, what can we do to fix it?
When we hit Newport we got a tour of the engine room from the Chief Engineer. The Thompson is an amazing ship that can sustain life at sea for up to two months without returning to port. She makes her own water and can hold more fuel then I can even fathom. The z-drives and dynamic positions systems are also very interesting. Unlike a traditional ship which has props and rudders as propulsion and steerage, there are no rudders and the 2 z-drives can rotate 360 degrees independently of each other. Along with the bow thruster, the ship can stay in one position or move along a given path with amazing accuracy. After about 24 hours in port, and a trip to the local bar for dancing and sea stories, we headed back out to sea to place another 2- legged mooring.
16 Sept 2014
Day 3 and 4 of leg 5
Day 3 was dedicated to setting the two-legged mooring at Axial Base. This morning the mechanical leg of the two-legged mooring was set into place with a 12,000 lb anchor. Connecting the mechanical leg to the smart leg is the platform, known as the Beast, which sits 200m below the surface. A piece rises from the Beast to just below the surface to take water column samples. The top 200m of the water column is an important place to sample because it is the mixing layer and is diverse. We were able to help add extra floatation to the smart leg as it was deployed.
After the mooring was set into place the ROV ROPOS went down to connect the power supply and fiber optic cables. As of now there are no instruments on the mooring, but they will be added next week. Once ROPOS was back on the deck, this ship got underway back to Newport to pick up the equipment for a second two-legged mooring at Slope Base. In the next few days the entire process will be repeated.
15 Sept 2014
We left Newport last night and have been steaming most of today to Axial Base to deploy the two-legged mooring in 3000m of water. After the fire and boat drill, Skip Denny gave us a tour of the gear on the fantail that will make up these moorings. Two huge winches were custom made for the mechanical and EOM cables, and they take up most of the available deck space. There are also several types of buoyant apparatuses to keep catenary out of the EOM cable and to help retrieve the gear for servicing.
Midday the ship stopped to re-tention the mechanical cable on one of the big winches and the ships trawl wire. When the cable was originally put on the winch, there was not enough tension to match the weight of the 12,000 lb anchors it will be lowering.
When the deck was safe again to be out on, we were given a tour of the ROPOS control room and the ROV. It takes at least four guys to drive the ROV, a navigator that keeps track of the ROV and any upcoming hazards, the pilot who flies the ROV, and two arm manipulators. The ROV itself has some pretty impressive cameras, lights and other tools on board.
We made it to Axial Base about midnight, sent down a CTD to calibrate some of ROPOS’s sensor’s used in communication and navigation. Early tomorrow morning the first anchor will go in the water.
13 Sept 2014
Day one of leg 5 onboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson started with a safety orientation in the main lab. All the new students and members of the science team practiced donning their immersion suits and learned a secondary escape from their cabins in the case of an emergency. The ship was scheduled to get underway at 1000, but the departure time was delayed to 1600.
Legs 5 and 6 are dedicated to placing two two-legged moorings in about 3000m of water, one at Axial Base and one at Slope Base. These moorings are the first of their kind, a shallower one was placed earlier in the cruise in about 600m at Endurance. The moorings will hold a platform about 200m below the sea surface and that platform will have a flotation buoy that can ascend to just below the surface to collect data, called the shallow water profiler. Within the two-legged mooring, one of the legs is referred to as the smart leg and the other is the mechanical leg, or the dumb leg, the smart leg can send data.
Just before getting underway, the students met in the library with John Delaney, Kendra Daley and Julie Nelson. John presented some more background information about the project. It was interesting to hear John and Kendra talk about the process they have gone through to get to where we are today. They have been talking about this for more then 18 years. It's exciting to be a part of such a ground breaking project.
We got underway from the dock and everyone headed to the bow to go under the Newport Bridge and head out to sea. The ship started to pitch and roll and slowly people started to disappear below decks for the first night at sea.