Day 1: Out to sea

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14:15 PDT
21:15 GMT
47 45.44 N, 127 43.98 W

The Atlantis departed yesterday morning. We were in transit for the next 24 hours or so. This was the worst time for sea sickness, as the exit out to sea is somewhat rough in these parts. By this morning, we had arrived at our first site and deployed our first elevator. The elevators are modular platforms consisting of a grate around 4×4′ with a 10 foot mast that supports an array of floats. Once its in the water though, the base hangs from the floats as it sinks to the bottom, where it sits until the Jason ROV disengages a weight, allowing the buoyant elevator to return to the surface. The first one carried down an acoustic beacon. Once the ship establishes this as a reference point, the Jason ROV will navigate of it it, triangulating between that beacon and two others on the Atlantis (one at the bow and one at the stern).

Once we were in motion, I was feeling tenuous. I wasn’t sink, but I was aware of a subtle unease that I had no interest in seeing develop into full on nausea. I stayed away from computer screens and books, and instead went down to the forward bunks where there were two exercise bikes. Staying busy and in motion seemed wise. Afterwards, I had a hot shower and then lunch. Then, I joined several others in the lounge to watch a DVD.

This may seem like the cruise is more leisure than it is. The truth is, sea sickness is a horrendous experience, and the first days at sea are when one is at greatest risk, and its much, much harder to stop it once it sets in than it is to prevent it.

By the evening, the vague unease had persisted, but it had not progressed, and so I offered to help a colleague, Sam, assemble parts prior to our arrival on site. For lack of a better comparison, they were a set of doorknobs. Once at depth, attaching things, particularly hoses and fittings, can only be accomplished with well planned dockings that click into place eagerly and then have no desire to move. Unless you want to move them, in which case, they need to be designed to want nothing more than to release at such a time. The challenges can be enormous. Today, the first dive operation will begin with the deployment of a special cap remover. A cap placed a few years ago became welded onto the mounting it sat on because the two were of dissimilar metals, and corroded together so as to become one part. If you’re thinking that you wouldn’t have thought to worry about this, don’t feel bad. Apparently, a team of engineers and scientists didn’t prepare for it either. Whether they didn’t expect it to seal so strongly or they didn’t expect it to seal at all I don’t know, but they were unable to remove it last year, and had to design a special bracket to attach onto the cap, then turn a screw to apply thousands of pounds of force to get it off.

My colleagues door knobs were all custom, and they’d just arrived from Texas. He assembled one and gave it a try. He frowned. When it moved into the closed position, it wasn’t stable. The parts moved to smoothly over one another, posing a risk that the lock might spring from open to close if bumped. We discussed solutions, and ended up notching a several of them so that they closed with a satisfying ‘click’. I worked on filing them for an hour or so, until Sam came to tell me that the Jason operators had a mill that we could use. It was a quarter to 11, and we went out on deck to a small cargo container containing their mobile machine shop. Sam modified the pieces by 7 hundreths of an inch each and when reassembled, they clicked into place even better than they did when notched. Satisfied, I went below deck to my bunk for some much needed rest.

-ARG

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