Long week

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The Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos in the Superbowl last week and won their first Championship! There was a huge parade in Seattle for the team on the following Wednesday and over 700,000 fans showed up in 20 degree weather to cheer for the team. My daughter was one of those who got the “Green and Blue Flu”. I wish I was home to see that!

Onboard the ship, we’ve had some excitement. It all started with the night science watch (who radio the AB running the winch, what depth and what speed to lower or raise the CTD) not paying close attention and dropping the CTD on the bottom and then piling 250 meters of cable on top of it before realizing they were on bottom. When there is over 5,000 meters of cable out, the weight of the cable alone will pull nearly 5,000 pounds of tension and the winch operator will never know they’ve struck the bottom. It is up to the science watch to keep an sharp eye and the real time readings to inform the winch operator to slow down or stop before grounding. There are two little sensors that hang down below the frame of the CTD that were instantly bent beyond repair the second they hit bottom. The cable also needed to be cut short by around 200 meters because once it piles in a wad, when they pull it tight again it gets all hackled up (commonly referred to as “assholes”) and they need to re-terminate the end of the cable. The cable has a core that carries data and that data connection is very sensitive and that takes some time for the techs to get right along with the cable re-termination.

So they got it all together and re-launched the CTD after losing about a half of a day and some expensive sensors that needed to be replaced. They got back down near the bottom and then the tension readout on the winch used for CTD casts freaked out and went from a normal of around 5,000 pounds to around 25,000 to 50,000 pounds. It just kept jumping around and the techs needed to bring the CTD back onboard to work on the sensors and try to get everything back in order. The terminations all had to be redone again. Then they would launch and things would be normal for awhile then issues would begin all over again. Finally they started looking elsewhere and found the junction box on the winch itself was full of water and causing the issues.

The techs switched winches and all seemed normal again for awhile and then the mystery issues started all over again. Turns out the second winch also had water in the wiring junction box. The engineers and marine techs were busy beavers for several days troubleshooting, fixing, rewiring, etc. trying to get everything back to normal.

While all of this was going on, the VMP operations continued. If you go back a could of posts you will see that the VMP is the thing that looks like a torpedo that we hang over the side and release and it goes to a preset depth and then floats back up to the surface. During one of the launches, the tech entering the depth was mistakenly given a pressure reading instead of the depth reading. The wrong number was entered into the VMP unknowingly. When the VMP was supposed to resurface and the prescribed time, it didn’t. This instrument costs about $250,000 Dollars (U.S.). It was late by about and hour and a half. There were some nervous science people pacing around. Finally it was spotted and didn’t seem to be riding just right in the water. We got it onboard and found some large manganese nodules jammed into the tip of the VMP basically damaging all of the sensors. The incorrect depth info entered into the VMP caused it to hit bottom hard, but where it happened to strike bottom is full of manganese. So that was another F-Up.

The mooring operations fared much better and we recovered and deployed several moorings over the week. It was in the mid 90’s most the week and we were dying on deck but everything went according to plan.

The Techs and engineers got the winches and CTD buttoned back up and returned into operation. I had relived the winch operator so he could eat dinner (chow relief) and was given a depth of 4500 meters. As I approached 4470 I slowed down to come to a gradual stop. As is common, the science lab called and gave a new depth, this time 4550 meters. I continued on and just as I got to 4500 meters, they called stop, stop , stop then go up, go up, go up! We landed on bottom again, this time for 7 seconds and did not pile any cable on top but it did trash the two little sensors that hang from the bottom of the frame again. Those were the last of spares so any CTD casts after that don’t include the data provided by those sensors. I’m not even sure exactly what they do for sure. Whatever it was, they don’t do it anymore.

Today is Sunday and we were told last night to plan for a Sunday routine (half day of work). At 0600 I was called out to do a mooring retrieval (that was not scheduled). There were four mooring recoveries set for Monday. It turns out that a large yellow sensor on the CTD has quit functioning and there are no spares onboard. Today the rain was fierce and my boots filled up again. The mooring we recovered today has one of those sensors inline. So we recovered the mooring, so the science party could take that sensor, download the data, replace the batteries and mount it to the CTD and be back in business. The mooring has been out for a year and a half and when it came up the whole thing was knitted into a sweater. Several hundreds of meters of line, sensors, shackles, floats, and releases were tangled together. We would winch up to a connection, stopper line it off, try to remove any un-needed parts or pieces and continue. It took about three times the normal length of time to recover. Everyone was drenched from either the rain, or if wearing raingear, the sweat from being in their personal greenhouse. I chose no raingear today and the rain felt good compared to the heat earlier this week. I did start to get cold towards the end.

I again tried to download a bunch of photos, but our tiny bandwidth won’t allow the photos to upload. Here are some of the photos of the weather. We start pulling out the remaining moorings tomorrow as we start to wind down the trip in the next nine days.

Until next time, Todd

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