Monthly Archives: January 2014

Handling trash at sea

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The trash compactor.

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Innocent looking bales of trash in a freezer container.

Handling trash at sea onboard this ship takes a little homework.  This current trip is 45 days and being that we are in the hot South Pacific we need a plan.  On top of that, being a research vessel and being “green”, we take things even further (cough cough).  Basically the only thing that goes overboard is ground up food waste.  The trash is all collected daily, compacted into bales and rolled up to one of the forward decks were we have a refrigerated shipping container to hold the bales.  All cardboard is recycled. All aerosol cans are saved for later disposal.  All pop cans are recycled, along with paper.  There are also storage areas for chemicals such as cleaners and lube oils, oily rags, used filters and fluorescent tubes but also for chemicals that the science party may bring for their projects.  We save all wood, dunnage, pallets etc. as well.  So there you have it case you were wondering.
The bales of trash look awfully close to the bales of marijuana you always see the bad guys throwing overboard when being chased by a Coast Guard helicopter.  Who knows maybe they just didn’t want to get caught throwing out the garbage.  The penalty is probably worse.

Taki Tahi Marlin

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The rain was coming down in sheets this morning.  When I was called out of my rack early, they said “bring rain gear”.  The problem with rain gear in this climate is that wearing rain gear is like cooking in a little greenhouse and you’ll get wet.  If you don’t wear rain gear, you’ll get wet.  Wet now or wet later.  I went with a Grundens rain coat, shorts and Xtra-Tuffs.  My Grundens coat is the heavy duty kind that is comfortable in colder climates.  Many onboard have the thin type that are much more comfortable in this hot weather.  Thinking the rain would blow through quickly no one was too worried.  The end result was my boots filled up twice in the three hours we worked on deck today.  We deployed a science mooring. 

Once we trip the release and send the anchor toward the bottom the ship is repositioned and prepares to do a survey once the anchor lands on the bottom.  The water is so deep here, it takes the anchor forty minutes to reach the seafloor.  Once on the bottom, the ship will run a pattern around the area and can pinpoint the anchor’s position which they will use to help in their modeling.  Once the survey is complete, we steam to a new location to work on something else.

At 1100 the call came down from the bridge that we would be steaming 5-6 knots for 1.5 hours and to deploy the fishing gear.  I spent a couple hours last night organizing and rigging the gear so when these short windows are available we can have lines out in a matter of minutes.  Today we put out seven handlines across the transom.  I was helped by Alofa, one of our observers and another AB named Paul.  We got the lines in and most everyone went back inside since it was still raining.
 
“Tiki Tahi, Tiki Tahi, Tiki Tahi”……Alofa was doing a traditional chant from his home island in Tokelau which is a small island chain a couple hundred miles from Samoa.  I asked him what it meant and he said it means “one for each”, meaning one fish for each line.  Not long after it was lunch time and I was the only one left watching all the lines.  I decided to skip lunch to watch the lines.  I wondered what a circus it would be if all my lines caught a little skipjack tuna and I was the only one here to pull fish. 

  About then my longest line went tight.  I tried to pull it in a little bit, but it was to taught.  I ran to the far side of the deck and called the bridge on the squak box and told them I had a good fish on and to slow down.  I ran back go the other 6 lines and pulled them in as fast as I could.  About half way through, Nick, our new intern marine tech appeared and asked if he could be of assistance.  I put him to work clearing the port side while I tried to get some line from the fish.  The ship hadn’t slowed at all and I looked up to the bridge and saw the 3rd mate and gave him some hand signals to slow down.  He finally did and I was able to start getting some line in steadily.  Then India, our second cook arrived, and helped me pull on the line.  I yelled for Nick to run to the staging bay and get the gaff.  He runs across the deck into the staging bay then stops and yells back “what’s a gaff”.  He finally figured it out and got the gaff and he helped pull on the fish with us.  We were nearing the leader when we saw the first deep color.  The fish never jumped or broke the surface so I was sure it was a good tuna or possibly a really nice wahoo.  A little more line and we could tell it was a blue marlin.  I decided to release it and let him grow.  AB Paul came back to help and we tried to use the gaff to catch the hook for the release.  Our stern is 8-12′ off the water depending on the size of the swells and the fish was getting active on the leader.  We ended up taping a knife to the gaff and cutting the leader. Word had spread quickly and the galley must have cleared because all of the scientists and a few crew arrived to see it and ask if we were going to eat it.  We finally were able to cut the leader and the Marlin swam away.  We were able to cut the leader close to the fish and the hook was in the bill. As he turned, I saw my lure slip off the end of the leader and sink away.

  I had purchased just the head of the lure in Hawaii in 2004 on a trip with my good buddy Marlin Mike and my cousin Sam.  The lure head is called a “jet” head.  I was stopped at the Kona airport and my bag searched because the lure head looked like a bullet on the xray machine.  The TSA security guy wasn’t going to let me keep my lure heads, but there was one big brudda Hawaiian security guy who looked at it and told the dick security guy it was fishing gear and “let em keep it”.  In 2007 I took the same lure on a boat trip up the Pacific Coast of Baja and we caught an 80 and 60 pound wahoo on the same lure.  Today we caught a blue marlin and the lure has been lost to the deep.  I’m gonna miss it. I’m going to build another one when I get home.

In the heat of the action only one picture turned out.  The total fight was just over a half an hour.

Blinding me with science part 2

Part 2

Here is the reader board that shows the cable tension depth and speed.
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The CTD is controlled on the bridge by an AB at the winch station.  Here are the controls and the view.
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We’ve also been doing a lot of mooring recoveries and deployments.  I’m always involved in those so its hard to get and photos.  Here are the anchors used for these moorings.  They are used train wheels and weigh approx. 3300 lbs.  The yellow floats seen in the background are used in the system as well and house a glass ball inside that is good to 6000 meters.  We did have a couple come up that had imploded and the glass that remained was like silica sand from the intense pressure.
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We’ve also had some very nice days and some rainy days.  The water here is very clean and super blue.
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We have a pair of Samoan observers onboard.  This one has been a fisherman his whole life.  This is the first time he ever used a rod and reel.  I gave him a few pointers and he fished for hours playing with the new toy.  We have been seeing lots of skipjack tunas, small bait and had a marlin swim through the lights.  We’ve been sitting on station allot so fishing had been tough.
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On Sunday our stewards department had an evening BBQ for the crew and science party.  Its a nice break.  Someone set up a kiddie pool and a few people jumped in.  (If I jumped in there would be no more water left)
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A few games of cornhole were played, where yours truly was crowned champ.  We didn’t bother taking down the hammocks that were swinging in the way.  They just made if more difficult.

And finally……our own Seattle Seahawks defeated the SF  Forty Whiners to make it into to superbowl against the Denver Broncos.  It will be a tough game against Payton Manning and the Denver passing game.  I wish we had a sat TV out here!
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In the future I will need to make these posts a bit shorter so they will work with our ships internet. Hope everyone is well. TT

Blinding me with science.

Part 1:

(Due to really poor internet service, I’ve had to break this post in two)

We have been super busy on this cruise launching and recovering science instruments and moorings.  Here is some of what we’ve been doing.

This torpedo looking thing is called the VMP.  We launch over the side by hanging it from the crane and then someone will trip the release and away it goes.  It drifts down close to the bottom and then drops its weights and then floats back up to the surface.  Round trip in 5000 meters of water is approx. 3.5 hours.  It studies all kinds of stuff but it is mostly being used to measure currents.
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Here it is being hoisted out of its cradle and over the side.  We will be launching and recovering the VMP about 100 times this trip.
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Here it is when it pops back up to the surface.  It has a radio signal that we can home in on as well as a strobe light and flag to make it more visible
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Another piece of equipment is the CTD.  These are pretty common on most research vessels.

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The CTD is mostly used to take water samples at various depths.  Each of the grey bottles can be opened on command and the samples are returned to the surface to the lab.  In this case they have added several instruments that measure current, density, etc and are not using the water samples the normal way.
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Here they are capturing the water that was taken from 3000 meters below.  The water isn’t being used by the science party on this trip so one of the AB’s have been cooking the water to make pure sea salt.  The CTD is usually deployed straight down and up.  On this trip they are doing Towyos which are basically moving it up and down while trolling 1/2 knot forward.  They have  been ranging mostly between 4800 and 4100 meters deep.  Towyos can last 24 hours or longer.

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One week down

It’s been a crazy week in Samoa.  The humidity was like a blast furnace the instant the airplane door opened.  The airline lost half of my luggage.  The half they lost, was the half with all of my work gear, rain gear, work boots, etc.  We had about a 45 minute drive along the Samoan coast to the main city of Apia and to the harbor where our ship was docked.
  I reported onboard as the last crew was getting off and found my room and got all squared away.  It was late afternoon by the time I was done and after all of the travel, I was ready to have dinner and hit my rack.  The next day I was scheduled to have security watch from 1600-2400 so I was able to email around and try to locate my missing baggage.  It rained most of the day so I stayed onboard and settled in.
  The next day I was scheduled to work on deck, so I raided the gear locker and found a pair of fire boots that fit.  Pretty sexy look, me in shorts with yellow and black fire boots running around.  Thankfully it rained so hard no one thought to bring out their cameras.  We were getting biblical type rain from Typhoon Ian that was passing further to our South.  The harbor is not very well protected and some rollers get in and rock us around pretty good.  We were in port for four days taking on science gear, stores,  and personnel.  The consulate arranged some public outreach and a couple of large groups of Samoan kids came onboard for tours and lunch.  I was pretty sure my bag would not make the trip but at the last moment it was delivered.  My feet were singing for joy when I put on “my” boots.  The fire boots gave me massive blisters.  The last day and night was pretty stormy.  Overnight we parted a heavy dock line.  The next day we parted two more and spent all day mending lines and installing chafe protection before we finally departed for sea.
  We are approx. 200nm North of Samoa working on a wave study led by the Applied Physics Lab (APL) group called the Wavechasers.  They are studying the large waves that occur under the ocean surface.  Very little is known about these waves but they can reach over 1,000 feet tall.  They have the power to cause submarines to ground and can also break on land.  Our work is recovery and deployment of several science mooring bouys that record these waves.  The moorings we recovered over the last couple days were in 5000 meter deep water and were stationary at 3000 meters below the surface (subsurface bouys).  I can’t seem to learn how to copy and paste on my phone, but if you have a little time, search “wavechasers- APL” and you can find a ton of interesting information and follow our cruise through the eyes of the science group.
  I didn’t manage to get many pictures since it was either raining very hard or we were engaged in operations.  Now that we are offshore the weather has been very nice and I even got a bit sunburned.  I will try to get some better photos for my next update.

Stay thirsty my friends!
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The far side of the world….. the long way

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At least that is what it feels like now that I’m boots down in Apia Samoa.  I flew out of Seattle on Saturday to Vancouver B.C. to Auckland New Zealand to Apia Samoa.  Our in flight video screen showed the plane passing directly over Samoa on the way to Aucklund.  Would have saved z ton of trouble to make a quick stop in Samoa.  Oh well.  At least one of my two bags arrived and we don’t depart for a few days.  Maybe it will arrive in time (fingers crossed).

While in Seattle I ran into my captain in the airport and his flight was going from Seattle to SF Bay to Auckland New Zealand and then on to Samoa.  Unfortunately his flight to SF was delayed and he missed his connection to Aucklund.

Its in the high 80s today and very humid.  I’m officially melting.

Since I was last on the ship, the WiFi has been changed and it mag be more difficult to show photos.  As things settle in I’ll find out what works and get the photos flowing….hopefully.

Todd
(Writing this from my phone…hopefully it works!)
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