Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Expedition 327: Juan De Fuca Hydrogeology

Greetings landlubbers, from the decks of the JOIDES Resolution, where we're sitting 150 miles west of Victoria, BC, above the Juan De Fuca Ridge. The title of this post is the official IODP name for this expedition. Google it to find out more.

It's been a long while since my last post. In that time, we've left behind the beautiful mountains, lakes and forests of the Great Northwest, and to College Station, TX, with it's blistering heat, expansive skies, awesome lightening storms, and polite, friendly citizenry.

The move was very, very difficult (especially for my lovely wife Molly, who ought to get a special crown jewel in Heaven for what she went through while I was iceberg-spotting down under), but we've now got us a nice house, some great neighbors (I was serious about the friendly people here), and now I'm back out at sea, not so far this time from my old stomping grounds.

Above, you'll see a nice image (taken by someone else - I don't have my camera this time) of the crew dropping a re-entry cone into the ocean through the moonpool. The moonpool (I usually see it written as one word like that) is a hole that extends clear through the ship, through which the drill string can extend from the tower down to the sea floor. The re-entry cone is like a big funnel-shaped target about the size of a large jacuzzi. As you can see, it's strung through the drill pipe like a bead on a string. They drop it through the moonpool, and it free-falls all the way down to the sea floor, where it nestles into the hole. They can then pull up the drill string, refit it with a different bit, perhaps, or some other equipment, and be assured that they'll be able to find the hole again when they go back down.

They also sometimes leave these on holes they might want to come back to on some future expedition. In this case, I believe we plan to leave this site for now, go to another for a couple of weeks, and then come back here to put down a CORK.

What is a "CORK", you ask? CORK stands for "Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kit", which I swear is just jibberish that some clever oceanographer came up with so that they could call it a "CORK". What it actually is, is a very, very expensive (one million dollars each, I'm told) piece of hardware that fits down into the drill hole, and is equipped with all kinds of monitoring and measuring devices that continuously transmit data back to the surface. It's battery powered, and the batteries last for about 2 years, so they have to come back every once in a while to change them.

While all this interesting - but painfully slow - science is going on, I mostly sit down in the developer's office (lovingly called "The Dungeon") and work on software projects. For me, that's where the excitement is! So far on this cruise, I've made many much-needed improvements to "SampleMaster" and the "MegaUploadaTron", and started a brand-new project to streamline the Moisture and Density process called "MADMax" (The Moisture and Density process is called "MAD", and of course my new application will "MAXimize" the efficiency and accuracy of the process, so the name makes sense, while at the same time fitting in with our other goofy names).

We've yet to encounter any bad weather. In fact, every day I've been out here the ocean looks exactly the same - like a big lake, but without any visible shore anywhere. There's hardly any wildlife to see. My favorite nighttime activity is to sit out on the decks and try to spot the little white birds that fly about the ship sometimes (always in threes for some reason...). Once I saw a whale spout way out on the horizon, but other than that, nothing. Ok, some people reported seeing a sunfish near the ship, but I missed that.

Well, that's it for this post. Time for me to get back to MADMax.