Good grief, has it really been 4 weeks already since we left port? The last week, in particular, seems to have gone by in a blur. Or a daze. It is increasingly difficult to keep a grip on what day of the week it is when every day follows the same routine. Except that if tomorrow is Saturday there will be a hearty soup for lunch and, for the non-vegetarians, a large sausage.
Also, I will get fewer work-related emails from shore: Yesterday, I was busy organizing my next expedition, starting from Easter Island in mid-January. But that is an entire season away—please, can’t I just focus on finishing off THIS cruise first?
Today, I have very bravely NOT ventured outside. It looks much like a New England winter out there. For once, I am quite glad of our view of a blue shipping container that is set right up against the window of the cabin Louis and I share. On the trip north, we were envious of the majority (everyone except the NUI team) who had views of the water and ice as they pass by. But today, for once, I would rather not know what the weather is doing. Suffice to say that the ship’s log says the winds are blowing at 19 meters per second (38 mph) and the visibility is down to about 1 kilometer, or half a mile. The only upside to the strong winds is that they are from the south so the air temperature is a balmy -4°C (25°F), but that does not include wind-chill.
All day long, I have been working on hydrothermal plume data from the deep vent site while Mike and the rest of the NUI team have been busy tracking down and fixing every last problem from yesterday. By 4:00 p.m. today, they had completed a more-thorough-than-ever set of tests on NUI while I pulled together all the results from all the different instruments that we had deployed at and around the vent site to convince myself (and hopefully everybody else) that, if we get back there with any time to spare, we really were on the right track to locating the vents.
I have now handed the results of my analyses and interpretations of all our data over for vetting and double-checking, but at first glance I believe we have two concentric bulls-eyes of information that should allow us to predict the location of the vents on the seafloor to within 200 meters (660 feet). Not bad, considering we had a target area of about 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers (6 miles by 6 miles) when we arrived three weeks ago!
But now is the time to put that aside. It has been a wonderfully productive way for me to distract myself all day today while also being perched in the corner of the NUI lab with my laptop so I can watch every step the engineering team has made in their fault diagnosis and remediation this morning and that they will make through their pre-dive check of the vehicle this afternoon.
The weather is still lousy right now and is supposed to turn lousy again tomorrow afternoon. Tonight, the winds are forecast to drop, but when they pick up again tomorrow they will be from the north, which means there may be a short window of calm the first half of tomorrow when we can get NUI in the water, dive to the seafloor, get our work done and then head back up before the wind starts blowing the ice starts pushing us too fast again.
Wish us luck!