We left Manzanillo this morning and have nearly 12-hours of “steaming” under our belt, which means we’re now about 200 miles from land. We are heading in a straight line south from Manzanillo, Mexico. The weather is feeling more tropical, clearer, and warmer than in Manzanillo. The gannets (sea birds) are gliding back and fourth above the bow of the ship, like they did last time at this location. People are working on getting their “sea-legs.” Although we are currently under calm seas, some of the science party are not feeling great as we have slow and long rolls, which take some getting used to for those prone to sea sickness (like myself). Personally, my medication is doing a great job (knock on wood), and I’m not feeling sea-sick at all.
Back at the dock yesterday morning, our container arrived, which was a mile stone and great accomplishment, given the challenges of shipping abroad. Our container looked rather puny compared to the massive number of containers in Manzanillo’s port. The Mexican crane operator was very skilled and placed our container on the ship, inches from walls of the deck. The Atlantis crew was incredibly fast and efficient unloading the container, and within minutes the empty container was loaded back off the ship.
We did major unpacking and setting up of the lab yesterday and today. The pressure of the first submersible is starting to mount. We need to have the vent-submersible incubation device (Vent-SID) set up and ready to deploy by Wednesday evening. This will require almost around the clock work from at least four scientists, myself included. Craig Taylor and Ed Hobart (WHOI scientist and engineer, respectively) are in charge of setting up the electronics and sensors on the “SID.” Stefan Sievert and I are in charge of getting the sampling collection side of the SID ready. We also get excellent help from Diana Vasquez-Cardenas, who has previously studied chemosynthesis in coastal sediments for her PhD. Sean O’Neill, my supertech, is working out computer glitches of the computer he will use to run our “Nox-box,” which measures nitrate samples as part of the Vent-SID incubations. I was just working on the Vent-SID out on deck, plugging in large deep-sea batteries (like a car battery but twice the size) in the evening sun, and quickly worked up a vigorous sweat without much effort.
As today was our first day at sea, it was full of customary orientation and safety drills. We did a muster station and abandon ship drills, wearing our life jackets, and carrying our survival suit bags. People who have not been at sea before got to try on their survival suits, which makes them look like giant red gumbies.
We had our first science meeting, during which Chief Scientist Stefan Sievert gave an overview presentation of the major objectives of the cruise, which are to deploy the Vent-SID to determine rates of chemosynthetic activity on the sea-floor, which has not been done previously.
All the scientists were fitted for oxygen masks in the Alvin (the masks have never been used in real-life in Alvin, thank goodness!). These usually do not form a seal around the face of bearded men, so some of us, including myself, have freshly shaven beards.