Something Tells Me

Maren pours a glass of port in offering to the ocean for a favorable last CTD tow-yo. But if one pours port out to starboard at sea, should one also pour Madeira out to port? (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Maren (with Janna behind) pours a glass of port in offering to the ocean for a favorable last CTD tow-yo. But if one pours port out to starboard at sea, should one also pour Madeira out to port? (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

We were due back at the deep vent site at between 2 and 3:00 a.m. today (Monday, October 3), but the thick ice meant that my phone didn’t ring until after 4:00 a.m.—a real luxury. I got up to meet with Maren and Janna from the CTD team, who were busy checking the ice drift direction.

Our ideal survey direction for this tow-yo was supposed to be from east to west, focusing on the north side of the mountain where we are increasingly convinced the best plume signals are originating. So of course, both the wind and ice-drift aligned themselves in a north-south orientation.

Although we may have just started the second half of the cruise, the deteriorating weather, increasing ice cover, and shrinking cruise timeline are all beginning to cast an ominous shadow over how much we can accomplish. Indeed, Antje warned us last night that this might be our last chance for the wide-scale look that a tow-yo gives us. Essentially, if we didn’t crack on and find the vent source now, we might not have another opportunity.

Challenge accepted. Maren, like me, had a full-time sailor for a grandfather who filled her full of tales of the sea, and she remembered hearing about the tradition of pouring an offering to the sea in hope of good winds and fair seas. So she and Janna fetched a bottle of port from their cabin and poured out a glass onto the ice before the cast began.

Either that, or the bag of good-luck Gummi-bears I contributed to the watch worked like a dream. We selected a line heading from south to north, passing as close as we could to the west side of the mountain and were rewarded with hydrothermal plume signals that got progressively stronger as the morning progressed before peaking just as we passed by the northern limit of the volcano.

As our operations continued north into deep water, the plume signal decreased, then vanished altogether just as we had predicted. Apparently, we know what we are doing.

And—more importantly—we know what the hydrothermal plume is doing.

Our plume exploration using the CTD is probably finished for the rest of the cruise. It’s time to put that aside and turn to the OFOS camera system to see if we can get in close, find the vent site, and image it.

While we wait to begin that, Antje has pointed out that our mountain is yet to be named. So I suggested two options: If the OFOS camera tows we are about to begin are successful, we should name the site in honor of today’s German holiday celebrating reunification; if not, then, because both the OFOS watch leader, Autun, and I both come from the U.K., we should name it Mt. Brexit—a massive British disappointment!