Thursday, April 25
Hi everyone at MCS. We boarded the ship on Wed., 4/26, two days before we were scheduled to leave port. After Dr. Cowen, the chief scientist gave us a brief tour we got started unpacking all the scientific materials and supplies. These items needed to be categorized and labeled and stored under the large lab tables where the experiments are conducted. This experience is similar to the logistics it takes to pack and unpack for our school camping trips only there is much more Stuff. It took most of the day to do this as well as set up the experiment stations. I was just following directions and not pretending to understand all there is to know about each science station. I was taking in so much new information along with getting my bearings on the ship. I imagine it was similar to your first day in the elementary programlots of things to remember and new things to learnexciting and taxing at the same time. Day by day you get to understand more. The ship has numerous labs, a computer room, a lounge, library mess hall (good foodand I'm keeping it down, too... calm seas so far anyway). Plus the sleeping quarters and numerous other storage rooms, a laundry plus more. On Thursday I had an opportunity to visit The Birch Aquarium and Museum at Scripps in La Jolla, which is one of the country's most renowned oceanographic research institutes (along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute). One last task on the evening before departure was to tie down all containers, etc. on board in the science labs. Instruments were duct taped or screwed down, containers were tied down tightly with ropes and cords. (I was introduced to a number of sailor knots including a bowlin, half hitch and a chucker which do not come loose unless you want them to). I did not master all of these but I keep on practicing and will show you some knots upon my return. We leave port tomorrow ( Fri.) at 9:30 am.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Friday, April 26
The ship left port today. There was a lot of excitement on board as the ropes were undone at dockside. The Coast Guard accompanied the ship out of the harbor to open sea. A number of us stood near the bow of the ship (glossary at the end) as we left the dock in San Diego. We had some important safety meetings today after we were on our way. First a video making us all aware of the various safety procedures, i.e. fire, life raft use, man overboard, or woman for that matter, and abandon ship procedures. This was followed by a safety meeting conducted by members of the crew including the captain, the 1st mate, the chief engineer, head Alvin pilot and the communications and computer techs. We learned about what to do or who to see if you are injured or ill, what areas are off limits on the ship, more specifics of what to do in emergencies like someone overboard, fire anywhere on the ship, who to see to get specific questions answered, how the various forms of communications work and how costly it is. (at prime time phone calls off the ship are $2.98 per minute and non-prime time is $2.08 per minute. E-mails are expensive because they are sent via satelliteno Roadrunner out here.) The captain and crew are very personable and extremely knowledgeable and skilled at what they do. Everyone I talk to is so willing to help or answer questions. After lunch today we had our first safety drill. It was something like our fire drills except we had to bring our life jackets (equipped with a whistle and tiny but bright flashlight) and survival kits (which were the size of a duffel bag containing an insulated rubber suit which is put on like coverallsthey call it a "Gumby" because that's what you look like when you are wearing it. Anyway the suit improves your chances of survival in the water by 200 to 300%... Most people who are lost overboard do not drowned but die of hypothermia (low body temperature). The final part of the drill was to gather outside on the ship's deck for roll call. People who sleep on the top bunk went to the port side of the ship and people like myself who were assigned a bottom bunk mustered on the starboard side of the ship. Can anyone identify which side of the ship port and starboard are?glossary at the end. Lastly, it is not all work and no playthe captain has organized a ping bong tournament and is taking on all challengers. He apparently is in possession of the esteemed R/V Atlantis ping bong trophy at this time.
Today's factoid: There are a total of 43 people Atlantis for this cruise.
portthe left side of the ship as you face the front
starboardthe right side of the ship as you face the front
bowthe front of the ship
sternthe rear of the ship.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Monday, April 29,2002
We are in our last day of transit. We just made the turn around the tip of the Baja Peninsula and our ETA (estimated time of arrival) is around 6:00 am on Tuesday morning. The average cruising speed of Atlantis is 12 knots, maximum speed is 15 knots (How many students can tell me how fast that is in statute mph?) (see glossary below). Things are a bit slow on board now because we have most things ready but starting tomorrow people will be working around the clock. I had my Alvin briefing today. It is conducted by the pilot who discussed the responsibilities of the passengers; mostly safety issues including fire procedures, loss of power, how to release the sphere from the rest of the sub so it can rise to the surface independently(this has never happened by the way),emergency breathing masks(there is enough oxygen to last 3 days if needed), emergency food (a carbohydrate block and some water) plus a supply of high tech down body suits /sleeping bags in case we lose power.
The sub has 4 cameras which are running all the time, the passengers can zoom and focus the one on their side of the sub. The pilot sits in the middle and the most experienced scientist sits on the port side while the other (me) sits on the starboard side. The sub has numerous high powered lights which are needed once we are past the twilight zone and it gets dark due to the lack of sunlight penetration. This is also when it starts to get colder and we will start putting on more layers of clothes. We are encouraged to drink normal amounts of water to prevents headaches. This leads me to the next point which involves using the nonexistent bathroom. There are small bottles on board to urinate into. When you gotta go... you gotta go. The other bodily function will have to wait. The pilot also mentioned that when you are looking out your viewing window you might see water collecting on the inside. Do not be alarmed; it's only condensation! The sphere walls can get damp at these depths. In future reports I will talk about more specifics regarding the actual experiments and what is placed in the outside baskets of the Alvin
Lastly, I have a challenge for The Montessori students. Think of an experiment you would like to do involving our Alvin dives or anything else for that matter that we could carry out. One group of students wanted to find out what would happen to an egg that went to the ocean floor. Brainstorm something like that but different. I will look into whether your idea will work for us or not. Put on your thinking caps and get back to me ASAP. Also please think of questions you might have for me. I can get answers from anybody on boardincluding the captain, chief engineer, Alvin pilots, cook, etc... plus any of the scientists including Dr. Cowen.
*Expedition Facts: Atlantis was built in 1997. It is owned by the Office of Naval Research
and managed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
knota unit of speed one nautical mile per hour. Approx. 1.5 statute miles per hour.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Wednesday, May 1, 2002
Wow! What an unforgettable day! I must admit I was a bit anxious and very excited as I tried to eat breakfast and get down to the sub for our 8:00 launch. The morning in the Gulf of California was sunny and the seas were calm. I left a pillow case with all the items I was taking on boardextra clothes, a camera, a notebook and pen. There was lots of fanfare as Dr. Cowen and I climbed the stairs to board Alvin. Off came our shoes and we climbed in. The hatch is only a couple feet wide. We climbed down the ladder and found our positions. The crew lowered us into the ocean and released the hook. Alvin was now under the control of our pilot, Blee Williams, a nine year veteran as an Alvin pilot with 270 dives under his belt. Any initial anxiety completely disappeared once we got going. First of all, the sphere is 7 feet in diameter and is even smaller because of the instrumentation, but I was quite comfortable sitting on the starboard side by my 5 inch diameter viewing window. The passengers sit of the floor which is cushioned with a one inch mat which continues up the curvature of the sphere's wall. I leaned against the wall and got in a position so I could look out of the window.
We descended at between 20 and 30 meters per minute. The sunlight penetrated the water for the first 100 meters and then it became gradually darker and cooler. Before long it was dark as night and cool enough to put on a couple more layers of clothes. There wasn't much to see on the way down except lots of small white particles which is referred to as "marine snow."
Part of my responsibilities was to document my observations. I could write it in my note book or use the small hand held tape recorder to record a verbal account of what I saw. I recorded the GMT time, the x/y coordinate's and the depth. I also was available to assist the pilot as needed; flipping various switches and reporting observations that might indicate that we were near a vent, i.e. tube worms, chimneys, etc. After one hour we had reached a depth of 1716.3 meters. About 10 minutes later we were near the bottom which was at 2007 meters. At this point the lights went on and illuminated the surrounding area. We saw numerous things as we headed for our destination where some of the testing was to occur. Shrimp-like creatures were walking on the ocean floor at 2000 meters, along with giant spiny crabs ranging in size from the size of a silver dollar to the size of your computer monitor, shelled animals like clams with spiny prickles surrounding the opening, plus bio-iridescent creatures that looked like jellyfish, completely transparent with a variety of colors seemingly blinking like a Christmas ornament. These creatures would just float by with the current right next to my window. You could see right through them.
When we got to our site coordinates we saw a 6 meter chimney with venting occurring around it. Nearby there was a cluster of tube worms... maybe 20 or 25. This was incredible to see! MCS students.. The models we made at school that we stuck into our "black smoker " model were pretty accurate. We stayed around this area for a while and the pilot used Alvin's arm to trigger some canisters which test the water. With the precision of a surgeon, he picked up a thermal probe and deftly placed it near a vent. The temperatures here ranged from 34 degrees Centigrade and higher. This is quite warm considering the vent water is mixing with the cold 3 degrees Centigrade ambient water. This information is all very important to the scientists. This all happened in the morning. We took a break and ate our traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. P/B and J tastes really good at 2007 meters, plus the view was extraordinary. We passed on the beverage....
Throughout the afternoon we saw more of these amazing sights. It was about 2:30 when we got a call on the sub from KGMB TV. Jade Moon had planned an interview with me while on the ocean floor. It was hard to hear at times. I was responding by holding a hand held radio mike. It was great. I hope the message was clear.... Time passed and it was time to drop our weights. Blee, our pilot asked me to sit in the pilots seat and instructed me on how to drop the four 208 pound weights. As I flipped each switch the weights dropped like bombs into the sediment creating quite a disturbance. We were rising to the surface at approx. 30 meters per minute.
O.K. students at a depth of 2000 meters, how many minutes did it take to reach the surface?. During our ascent we had some free time, we had some great conversation as we listened to Mick Jagger's new CD. Actually, music was in the background during the entire dive. As we got closer to the surface we began to take off sweatshirts and long sleeved shirts, down to our t-shirts and jeans. We broke through the surface and bobbed around for a while hundreds of meters from Atlantis. The crew came out with a Alvin raft and swimmers hooked a tow line to Alvin and the ship reeled us in. Then the winch pulled us up to the loading deck and the hatch popped open to the sunlight. We stretched and climbed out to see quite a group waiting to greet us. The final experience of the dive was the unexpected initiation for first time Alvin divers... Lets just say it was ice cold and it took a while to shampoo the Redi-Whip from my hair, not to mention my shoes which had been filled with ice cubes and placed in the 70 degree below freezer in the main lab. Cool!
GMTGreenwich Mean Time or Greenwich Meridian Timetime sailors use around the word.
x / y coordinatesnavigational coordinates used by the Alvin and Atlantis pilots to find specific
I have a few answers for students questions:
No Alvin would not melt because the surrounding water near the vents cools the hydrothermal vent water. Plus we make it a point not to sit the sub right down on top of onegood question
No unfortunately, we did not see a giant squid. One of the crew did catch some smaller ones while fishing a few nights ago. I believe calamari is on an upcoming menu.
Yes I will bring back video highlights of the exploration. I will answer more questions on another report.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Thursday, May 2, 2002
A few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Gary Chiljean for a short interview. Captain Chiljean is a very experienced captain. He received his license in 1986 after being a relief captain for two years. He was appointed captain of the Atlantis 2 and later was assigned to the present Atlantis. His major responsibilities are first and foremost, to keep the ship and everyone on it safe, and secondly, to accomplish the scientific mission at hand. He added that keeping the moral high is important and when you have a great crew like he has on this ship it makes the job easier. Weekly cookouts and ongoing ping pong matches help achieve that end. When asked about the most rewarding aspect of his job he said every cruise is rewarding as long as it is successful. You also feel accomplishment when Alvin gets an overhaul and it gets back in operation and certified by the Navy. When there is a problem and you fix it, it feels good. "The ship is only a piece of steel; its the people who make it run." One of the most difficult things about being a captain is being away from home for so long. You miss holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, but you do get two 2 month vacations each year, so that's good. He said he may have only 2 or 3 years left before he spends all of his time at his home in Bridgewater, MA.
One of the highlights of his career was to be on board as chief mate when Bob Ballard investigated the Titanic. Alvin made 12 dives during that 1986 exploration. Another event that is upcoming is the 25th anniversary of the first hydrotherrmal vent discovery in the Galapagos Islands. Check out the Dive and Discover website for update during the cruise right after the one I am on right now (May).
Training to be a ship's captain involves 4 years of college. Captain Chiljean attended a Maritime college and graduated in 1969. Maritime College is where you go to become an officer in the Merchant Marine. It is regulated by the Coast Guard. The students take classes on things like navigation, seamanship and stability. As you get more experienced you take exams with the Coast Guard and become a 3rd Mate. You then work your way to 2nd Mate and then Chief Mate and finally Captain. The captain mentioned an interesting event coming up in the near future. An IMAX film has just been completed highlighting Alvin. It will be in theaters all over the world premiering in February of 2003. Millions of people will see it and it will be great exposure for Alvin.
In conclusion, I asked Captain Chiljean for his prediction on the ping pong tournament outcome. His response was "You mean who will play me in the finals?" No one doubts the accuracy of this statement because we have heard of his abilities around the ping pong table or better yethave seen him in action. (Tournament outcomes will be in a report at the end of the cruise.) Not alot of ping pong is happening now though; we re all too busy working..."doing science" as everyone says.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Friday, May 3, 2002
Today I have some answers to student questions:
1. Do you have to equalize the pressure on your ears like to do on an airplane when you go down in Alvin?
No, the sphere is sealed so incredibly tight no outside pressure can penetrate. The same situation exists on an airplane though it is not as air tight. We were warned that we might have that sensation after we arose to the surface when the pilot opened the hatch but we didn't feel any difference.
2. Nick had a question about if the water is saltier on the ocean floor than it is on the surface?
Yes it is but it is very subtle. Dr. Cowen explained to me that cold, salty water is more dense so it tends to sink. It's a subtle deference but measurable. I will bring back some graphing plots of temperature, salinity and density to show the difference.
Great questions! Thanks for all the experiment ideas. I presented the ideas to Dr. Cowen and we came up with a combination of some of them that we can do. The experiment would involve using 2 identical water bottles. One filled with air and one filled with water and we will test the difference in compressibility.
Title: The Difference in Compressibility between Water and Air
2 identical water or juice bottles with caps sealed ( 12 or 16 oz. would be fine)
1 Alvin submersible
1 experienced pilot and 2 ready and willing passengers
a 2000 meter deep column of ocean water (the Pacific or Atlantic or any other ocean you have lying around would be acceptable)
1. Fill one of the bottles with water and replace the cap tightly.
2. Cap the bottle containing air tightly.
3. Place the 2 bottles in the outside basket of Alvin before the dive.
4. Focus one of the Alvin cameras on the 2 bottles.
5. Passengers can make observations about what happens to the bottle in real time.
6. Others can make observations upon Alvin's return as well as see the digital video.
Hypothesis? Results? Conclusion?
O.K. Montessori students. Give this some thought and record your hypothesis. We will have results for you next week sometime.
*Teachers: you may want to give the students a little background about the ability to compress water and the ability to compress air. Discussing the Styrofoam cup experiment would help explain this also.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Monday, May 6, 2002
A Typical Day After my Alvin dive I got into a routine where I go to bed around 4 am after the last CTD casting/water sampling. I get up just before noon, get cleaned up and go the mess hall for lunch... and by the way the food is great! For example last night being Sunday, we had a cookout on the stern of the ship, grilled steaks and shrimp kabobs along with all the fixins, plus chocolate cake. The night before for dinner we had blackened Mahi and roast duck with orange sauce, along with vegetables, wild rice and the ever present salad bar.
After lunch I get started on a project. I either write this report, or transpose my Alvin comments from my dive to a transcript format for the scientific feedback documentation. My other big project is to edit highlights from the daily Alvin tapes. Each day there are abot 10 hours of footage taken from two Alvin cameras. I am using a program called iMovie on my iMac, so I select video clips which are then duplicated to a VHS video tape. This is very time consuming but also interesting.
At different times scientists and crew might take a short break and play their opponent in the ping pong tournament or play just for fun. I humbly say that I lost only once before my tournament play where I was defeated by Wayne, the boson on board. I guess I won't be facing the captain after all...oh well, back to science.
Just before dinner Alvin usually returns from the dive. Most of us available take in the retrieval as the huge crane pulls up the sub. If there are first time Alvin divers aboard they get the traditional "bucket of ice water" over the head treatment. After dinner there might be a short science team meeting or sometimes the crew will visit the video lounge where one could choose from over 6,000 DVD titles. These are purchased from the Alvin T-shirt sale profits. You can get your own shirt at shop.whoi.edu.
Then around 7 pm we gear up to to our "over the side" water samplings and CTDs. Again, this involves hoisting the large frame with the waterbottles over the hull and with the winch dropping it to the 2000 meter level, and then hoisting it back up. Upon its return we drain the water and then filter it. Kim, a UH student has been showing me what to do regarding the scientific procedure etc... The whole process takes about 4 hours and then another casting is done.
Before you know it is is 4 am and if I still have some energy I accept Mercer's challenge and whup him good in a friendly game of ping pong.
Fact of the Day: Today is Alvin dive #3781. We have 2 more dives remaining on this exploration.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Thursday, May 9, 2002
Hi everybody. Sorry for the previous lapse in reports. We had some computer difficulties which are now resolved.
First of all, I want to give you the results of the experiment we conducted comparing water and air compressibility. Was your hypothesis correct?
Remember we took two identical water bottles and filled one with red colored water and the other with air. We labeled them and taped them together and sent them down 2000 meters to the ocean floor strapped down on Alvin's outside basket. When the two bottles returned to the surface, the bottle with the colored water looked the same, but the bottle with the air collapsed near the neck of the bottle creating a hole which allowed water to flow inside. This prevented the remainig part of the bottle to collapse (water pressure inside and outside the bottle).
So... What is our conclusion? Does water or air compress more?. The water compressed very little. At least not enough to collapse the bottle. The air compressed enough to collapse the bottle.
We conducted another experiment with the styrofoam cups. Remember the ones you decorated to be sent down with Alvin? Well, I was talking with a couple of the pilots at the cookout we had one night and we were all thinking of what kind of experiment we could do to show the massive amount of water pressure at 2000 meters under water. We decide to take two Styrofoam cups (the captain gave me 6 on which he personally illustrated Alvin including his signature and I wrote Montessori Community School in bold letters). I encased the two cups in a heavy duty plastic cylinder which they use to take core samples. Anyway, I drilled 6 holes in it and capped both ends and we attached it to the Alvin basket. As Alvin submerged the next day, the pilot turned the light on and zoomed the camera to the cups in the cylinder.
As a result, we now have a video of our two MCS cups shrinking as they descended. The shrinking started at 15 meters and kept shrinking to about 250 meters before it slowed down to where it was unnoticeable. The captain told me that if the video comes out good; he wants a copy. I made one for him and for myself to bring back to MCS. I will show it to everyone upon my return.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Friday, May 10, 2002
Well, the cruise is winding down. We are now in transit to Manzanillo, Mexico. Between now and then we need to pack up and organize all the science equipment and materials. To prepare them for either storage on theship or shipping back to Honolulu.
I did find time to conduct a short interview with the ship's chef. I followed him around the kitchen this morning at around 11:00 as he was preparing lunch for the crew. His name is Carlos Wood and he has been a chef with Woods Hole since 1987. He was on Atlantis II and now the Atlantis getting creative with menus and keeping everybody happy and well fed. He said his greatest challenge is trying to figure out what people want to eat and getting the numbers right, how much portions to make and working leftover into future menus to minimize waste.
There is an incredible amount to planning to do but he said he's been doing this sort of thing for 30 years. First he has to write a menu for 8 to 12 weeks at a time. (Boy, we have a hard time planning for our 3 day school campouts for 15 students!) Math comes in real handy in the process. X number of hamburger days and X number of steak days, salmon days etc. Figure out portions per person per day. Then run this out for 2, 4, or 7 months.
Stocking up on the food items is mind boggling when you are planning menus to feed 40 people three meals a day for months at a time. Our cruise is short, only 15 days. Some are for months at a time. I asked Carlos how many dozen eggs does he takes on a cruise and he said he plans for 4 dozen a day for the first few ddays and then about 2 dozen a day for the remaining 10 days. Well, you do the math; that's a lot of eggs.
The job is very rewarding. He has the freedom to create, to do what he knows works, get paid to do it and go to interesting places in the world, plus he lives just down the hall from his restaurant. The hardest part is being away from home for months and months at a time. It's a big trade off.
Carlos has other duties on board as well. Just the other day he was one of the swimmers who helped with the Alvin retrieval. He gets some exercise and he loves to swim.
I asked Carlos if he has a specialty, he said he loves cooking everything."It's a daily puzzle. You get the parts in front of you and you put it together." We I can attest, the eggplant parmesan puzzle he put together last night was superb. Not to mention the the killer apple crisp. Carlo said he is looking forward to arriving in port in Mexico where he will get some more supplies including 400 pounds of ripe mangoes. He said that will last about a week. Everybody goes crazy for mangoes!
Lastly I had to comment on how everybody in the Galley, Carlos, Larry (assistant), and Linda (helper), all seem to be having such a good time.
Music is ever present and usually they are singing along. Carlo matches the music to the meal. I just know there is a disc jockey hidden inside this amazing chef of the Atlantis.
Aloha from AtlantisMr. Mueller.
Saturday, May 11, 2002
Hi everybody at MCS and beyond. This is my last report. We arrived in Manzanillo this morning at 9:00. The second I stepped out on the deck this morning, the smell of land was in the air. It was great to see mountains and other boats and houses of many different colors on the hilltops. After we were moored on dockside the customs people came aboard and we all filled out forms because we are in a foreign country. The captain issued the custom agent our passports and we filled out the necessary forms. We still have a FEW TASKS TO COMPLETE ON BOARD BEFORE WE CAN LEAVE THE SHIP. EVERYONE IS EAGER TO STEP OUT ONTO THE STABLE EARTH AGAIN. A group of us will go out and explore the city today and see the sights. This has been an incredible experience for me and I am very thankful for the opportunity. I have lots to share when I return. I have digital images plus video highlights along with the cruise highlight on CD. I can't wait to see all of you again and share my experince.
As part of my last report I asked Blee Williams, the Alvin pilot for my dive, to write about the kind of training and educational background needed to become a pilot for the submersible. The following is his report:
You are never really out of school, if you're lucky. If your job is challenging, and changes from time to time, you will need some schooling to help you meet the challenges and deal with the changes. Adults often call school "training," just so no one thinks we are still kids. Alvin Pilots are constantly meeting new challenges and dealing with changes. If we all share a common characteristic, it is that in school welearned how to learn.
Our challenges come in many forms, but the ones easiest to see are brought to us by the scientists. Every new science party wants to use different tools. The tools they bring work well enough on land, but we have to make them work on the bottom of the ocean. We figure out a way to make the scientists' tools fit on the sub, and a way to operate them. Using your hands to push a stick into the mud is a lot easier than using a 6 foot long Titanium manipulator with it's remote control.
The changes we see most often are part of Alvin's "personality." Alvin isn't like your family's car. It wasn't made by a company for our use. We didn't pick it out of a bunch of subs, we built it. And we take it apart and put it back together to adapt it to different scientific missions. Alvin is always changing. So Alvin Pilots are always getting "training" (there's that word...) on what is different. Think you would like the challenges? Want to be part of the team that deals with the changes? Do you want to be an Alvin Pilot?
We have had Alvin Pilots who wanted to be Alvin Pilots since they were in third grade. The time is now to start working on the skills you need to be a good, safe pilot.
First off, you must read well, so when a new tool arrives, you can read the book about it and know how to use it. You have to learn to listen well, so when the scientists explain what information they hope to gather with that tool, you understand. Each Alvin Pilot has a particular part of the submarine that they are expert in. Some of us work on the manipulators, some of us work on the batteries, and some of us work on the computers. If you want a technical job, get a technical education. There are lots of options: the military, vocational school, or college to name a few. Then you will be able to join our team. We all share our knowledge and make the submarine safe to dive in. And fun too.
Blee Williams, Alvin Pilot
Aloha and Farewell from AtlantisMr. Mueller