Transcribed from my journal. -Kurt 25 Nov 2001

Shipboard Journal

Note: This text was written while steaming up to Seattle, WA.

Thursday morning (01-Nov-2001), I got up at 3:30am and finished packing and sent some email. Sarah and I drove over to La Jolla and picked up Jenna. Then to the airport.

Thursday night, meeting Jeff Borgeld and the three students, went great. Everyone was very enthusiastic. Jeff asked me if I could survey an area for him that had a recent quake. We set up a time to meet the next morning, 9 AM at the ship. The ship was to come in at Fair Haven Dock out in Samoa off of Bay Street. All the students headed home around 9:30PM.

We stayed at the bar until the end of the World Series and then headed back to the hotel. In the morning, I woke up early and sat in McDonalds till 7:15 AM. The hotel (Arcada Motel 6 == not good) hadn't given JP and Denise their wakeup call. Jenna managed to fit ALL our gear in the rental car while we waited. We headed off to downtown Eureka at 8:00 AM and went to Los Bagels for breakfast. We all bought coffee mugs for the trip.

We headed out to Samoa around 8:45 and went over the bridge in the fog to get out to the peninsula. From there, we hung a left and saw great pine trees with hanging moss. Then we went past the Samoa Cookhouse. Just past the huge paper mill and power plant we hung another left. Then a right to an empty parking log with a large low building and a guardhouse. We told the guard that we were a port of the Thompson's science crew and he looked confused, but let us in.

From there, it got surreal. The pavement turned to gravel with huge puddles. We took a left into a graveyard filled with the rusting ghosts of ships and factories. Forty foot tall twisted, indistinguishable wreckage of the industrial age. We couldn't figure out what it all was. Then we came around the corner and there was the gleaming R/V Thompson at the doc.

We drove up to find people from the last cruise. JP and Denise started talking to a guy they knew. He showed us a large plot of the hydrosweep data they had just collected that covered the Eel River Canyon. As we got on the ship, we discovered the three undergrads had beaten us to the ship by about a half an hour. They already had picked out rooms. I went up to meet the Captain in his stateroom. Then I put my stiff in the chief scientist's room, which is on the 03 level next to the captain's room. I went down to the main science room to get setup.

JP gave everybody a great knot lesson. I got called up to the bridge where I met Pete and Chris for the first time. They had found discrepancies with the listed depths in my ship plan. I went back down and had Jose, Robin, and Stef plot the points on the map and figure the depths expected at those points. I went over the research goals and background with them. They were great listeners and asked tons of good questions. We all had lunch on the ship around 11:45 AM.

Denise, JP, and I headed off to run some errands and return the rental car. We ran into the UofW people at the airport. Their plane couldn't land due to fog and clouds in Eureka. We took the airport shuttle back out to Samoa getting there around 2:30 or 3:00PM. I took a nap in my room, totally exhausted. I found that Jose, Robin and Stef had stowed and tied down everything.

At 7:00 PM, the ship got underway. At 7:15 PM, we all met in the library for a safety briefing with the Captain and Tony. One person had to quickly leave the meeting to be sick, but was back in a couple minutes looking much better. That was the only trouble anyone had on the trip. There were some big swells during the meeting that made me feel a bit queasy.

After the meeting, we went down to the starboard deck to watch the lights recede. We were sent back inside as the ship went over the sand bars.

I had given the bridge two waypoints named core 1 and 2 o head over and survey with 3.5 kHz to pick core sites. Before I knew it, we were getting close and seeing familiar structures. I picked three possible points and had Robin mark them on the 3.5 kHz strip chart. I selected the outer two and had the ship come round to the one furthest west. I asked first to drill 50 meters to the west of the site. They put a 50-meter circle on the winfrog navigation display and the ship went for the first station. Took about 40 minutes to get on station. Pete and Chris were outside getting ready while we worked inside to get things figured out.

I went out to the staging bay to watch while trying to stay out of the way. It was really dark outside of the ship's work lights reach. There were some big swells. It was strange seeing birds in the TV monitor with swells at night. It was probably around midnight at the time. I couldn't tell if birds were flying or riding swells past on the screen.

Once Pete and Chris had the core in the water, we all met in the main computer room to watch the progress from there. In the computer room there is a real-time TV view of the wire drum in the winch room, the DAS display with ship stats, and the analog values of cable tension and wire out. The core starts out going down slow until it is past the bottom of the ship. Then they speed up to 30 meters per minute down to about 400 meters. Then they hold for a minute to make sure everything is okay. Then back to 30 meters per minute until we see the cable tension drop. They stop the winch right away, as that tells us that the trigger core has hit bottom and the piston core has already done its thing. Cable tension swung heavily with ocean swell in a huge sinusoid as the waves move the ship up and down. It got as high as about 12000lbs. It takes about 45 seconds for the core to get out of the mud. Then it's 30 meters per minute back up to the bottom of the ship. On the way up, there was one crazy moment when the cable tension went to zero. Freaky. Maybe there is a loose wire in the electronics somewhere?

The first thing on the deck is the trigger core. It gets brought in to the staging bay and the rear is placed on a stanchion. The front is on the ground. We use a large socket wrench to remove 4 large screws. This lets us slide off the tail. Then there is a 12-inch long metal cylinder that seals the back end. We have to wiggle it to get it out of the core liner. Then we use plastic tubing to siphon off the top water until we see mud. We put a tape measure down to the mud. We mark the outside with that length and cut off the top empty liner with a large pipe cutter. It is then capped and taped with electrical tape. As we put on the cap, we punch a while in the cap or at least burp the core with a screwdriver to relieve pressure as the cap is slid on. We lift up the core and take care of the bottom. We drill through 4 grommets in the sharp penetrator. A plunger is placed into the core catcher. The outer fitting is slide off around the plunger, which keeps the core from falling out the end. With the plunger still in place, we peel out the core catcher with our fingernails. The bottom end is capped and we label the sections using Roman numerals from the bottom up. We cut the core into a 150 cm section from the bottom and a smaller piece at the top.

While we are working on the trigger core, Pete and Chris use the orange HiAb crane from OSU to pivot the core up to the side of the ship and secure it. Then we come out and help extrude the cores. The core catcher usually has mud still in it on the outside of the catcher. We bagged that mud in Ziplocs and label it as "core catcher." Then the tricky part of pulling out the pin that holds the core catcher and housing together. The whole thing can be pressurized if there is gas. On the first core, the end cap really popped off. The bottom is capped and labeled with "BOT".

Then the extruding process really beings. Several people are at the top of the core holding onto a metal rod attached to the top of the core. These people push the core while the rest of the team hands the core along side of the ship. There are rests placed along the side and we have to hold the core up to keep it from dipping below the holds. The tricky part is that the core liner is not one continuous piece. The bottom section is 10 feet and the top is 20 feet. Between the two, the core often gets pulled apart some as the teams try to coordinate with hand signals. It did come apart some on the first and seventh cores (possibly others too). We capped the bottom section's top and the top sections bottom and label them. We took the bottom ten-foot section into the staging bay and leave it there until the top is processed.

The top of the core has a metal piston still in it. This is hooked to the wire, which is still attached and goes up the core barrel. This is all taken right over to the stanchions that are back about 3 feet from the edge of the ship. We section and label with Roman numbers again starting at the bottom. The last two sections are not cut apart horizontally. We place the bottom of the sections on the deck and cut off the piston. We siphon off the water and cut at the measured top of mud line. Hopefully the core only "sucks" a couple feet of water.

The second core was done while I was asleep. I got on deck just as Jose was finishing hosing down the deck.

The third core went really well. Everyone had learned all the jobs. People rotated between them. Each person got to try the pipe cutters, labeling, taping, toweling down the core.

We did a forth core 50 meters from core 3 after lunch and then I sent the ship North and had a slight breather. After dinner I ran into JP. He said there was interesting stuff on the 3.5kHz. We had been cruising for about 3 hours and had 3 more hours to go. I went down and was really surprised by what I saw. It didn't match what I expected at all. Looking at the maps and papers I figured out that I had an off by 1 degree error in my plan. JP helped me replan things while having the ship turn around right away. Went up to talk to the Captain and we worked out a good plan to get back on track. We planned a survey with 3.5kHz of the two control core sites, then a run to hydrosweep Jeff Borgeld's site off to the East and then back again to core. That put us arriving at the coring site at the time I had told Pete and Chris we'd be there with the old plan. I also planned the hydrosweep racetrack for the next day and then went for a couple hours of sleep.

I got up at 2AM for the preparations for core number five. Jose, Stef, Robin and Jenna mostly did this core. They did a fantastic job! After core number 6 we started doing hydrosweep. I had Jose, Stef and Robin doing watches and controlling the ship through the winfrog program down in the computer room. They told the pilot which line was next.

After lunch, we did a CTD with the rosette cage and then did the final core, number seven. Then we went back to hydrosweeping. As we tried to squeeze in one more line before having to go back to drop off people at Eureka, the Captain phoned down with a humorous "Nice try" and we headed back in.

The exit procedure to the tugboat was crazy. Pretty scary stuff. We lost on of the maps that I had given Jose, Robin, and Stef, so I owe them 2 more nice plots. Once everybody was on the tug and the work vests returned, it was good-bye waves as the tug headed off into the dark to take everyone back to Eureka. At that point I was the last of my science team without science to do. The ship headed back to UofW.

It was an unbelievably productive 48 hours on the Thompson. I had fantastic science and ship crews helping me out. That together with the beautiful weather gave me a first time as chief scientist better than I could have ever hoped.

Copyright 2001 Kurt Schwehr - All Rights Reserved