Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Day 19 - Santorini

Tuesday May 30, 2006
As the sun peaks over the horizon, it signals the beginning of a new day (Music builds). An island rises out of the water (Cue light). It is our destination: Santorini (Music hits its cresendo). Sorry, I've been reading a lot of Clive Cussler lately, and his "Setting the Scene" is getting really corny.
Today we pick up more scientists from Greece, and begin our search around the Caldera. Instead of looking for lost ship wrecks and downed Russian helicopters, we're after the ever alusive rock, or core sample.
The ring of islands that surround the boat make it very difficult to imagine the massive size of how big the volcano was. It's almost 8 nautical miles across, and if someone came in one of the many cruise ships docked here, you probably would just call it a chain of islands. Looking around at the top of each peak, you can see many homes built on the very edge of the cliff, over looking the water. The only thing that came to my mind is, "Man that must be a beautiful view, an expensive view, but beautiful". And if you look around you'll notice that many of the sides of the Caldera have had small rock and landslides. That expensive house could easily turn into a house boat; at least for the first minute it hits the water, before sinking.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Day 18 - Santorini

Monday May 29, 2006
On our way to Santorini we finish all the work needed for the productions to start. We have a tech rehearsal on the 31st, a dress on June 1st, and the shows go on between June 2nd and the 8th. To access the shows, they are live at at 9:oo am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am, and 12:oo pm. They last about half an hour long, and if you'd like you can view it now, and see whichever view were streaming now. The reason I say "Whichever" is because we're sending three feeds, and the fine people at the University of Rhode Island are choosing which feed to send out. Maybe, you'll see me run by. But, don't expect anything exciting unless we're underwater....That's cool!
Another web site that follows the ship around, is the Endeavor's website:
And since Mary Nichols has been kind enough to put a link from her website to mine, I thought it would be nice to put her's on mine:
Another website you might find interesting is Mike Durbin's. Mike (Or Dr. Mike, as we call him) is our Satellite Engineer. This gentleman is a Texan, who has accomplished quite a bit during his time on this planet. Between his Security Clearance at the goverment, to his Extra License (Ham Radio), his ranch, etc. Anyway, you can read about him at
Random picture from our trip.

Day 17 - Leaving Istanbul

Sunday May 28, 2006
Today we leave for Santorini; a caldera which was formed by an ancient, ginormous volcano where after it blew it's top, the walls caved in and filled with water. Now, the top of the volcano (which can still be seen today) are covered in pretty expensive houses.
Before we leave Istanbul, Mark, Mary and I walk around the town. It's mostly shut down, as it's early and a Sunday. The really interesting part of Istanbul is that it is an ever changing city. You'll notice in the first picture several houses built up against a tall old wall. This wall surrounds Topakai Palace, in amongst all of the mosques. The second picture is of a tower surrounded by homes. When walking around you'll see a three story building. The top floor is crumbling, the second floor is refurbished apartments and the bottom floor is an older (than the apartments) store of some goods. You can actually see the history of the building just by looking at the exterior.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day 16 - Istanbul

Saturday May 27, 2006
Today we explored Istanbul. Mark DeRosche, one of the members of IFE, has been coming to Istanbul since 1988. He knows Istanbul pretty well. Mark led us around the Mosques and Bazaars, and explain historical facts about different segments of the town.
The Endeavor is parked on the West Bank of Istanbul. The Spice and Grand Bazaar, and the St. Sophia and Blue Mosques are on the East Bank of Istanbul. To cross the river, one must cross a bridge. What's interesting about this bridge, is there are about 50 fisherman leaning over the railing catching fish. The fisherman have these 15 foot long, deep water poles and lines. They look like they're fishing for marlins or sharks. When they reel in, they come out with these 4 inch smelt-type fish. One wonders why the big heavy-duty poles. If you look in a tackle shop along the shore, you'll notice they don't sell light-duty poles. Kinda like taking an elephant gun on a fox hunt. First picture is of fisherman on the bridge.
After the bridge, we went to the Spice Bazaar. Now, my image of a bazaar is of a street lined with wagons/carts filled with spices, clothes, trinkets and plain junk. This is more like a mall with similar sized shops filled with spices, etc. And of course everyone is selling the cheapest stuff in the whole Bazaar: Spices from every corner of the Globe, flying carpets, and Turkish Viagra (We weren't sure what that last one meant, but it was a candy, and we didn't accept the free sample). Second picture is of the wall of purses.
The next stop was at the Blue Mosque. It's a beautiful mosque (in the middle of three others and an old palace), that's behind a garden with a fountain. In and around the garden are these guys that walk around selling tea. This is the third picture, which was just interesting to see these guys running around trying to push tea, in their costumes. The second to last picture is of the Mosque.
After the Blue Mosque, we went to a rug shop that Mark's been buying rugs from for the last 5 years. The man who sells the rugs are from a nomadic tribe that the women of the tribe take 8 months to make these Turkish rugs, Kilims, and Cicims. He adds 10% to the price the women want for these rugs, and the rest go to the women and their families. Going into this place is more like an experience than just a shopping venture. He started by introducing himself and his tribe, and describing what each of the rugs represent to the family or the women themselves. But first, he brings out Turkish Tea, which after drinking (and for all of those people who don't know, I don't drink tea) I'll be up for the rest of the trip. My hands are shaking as I'm typing this.

Day 15 - Transit to Istanbul/Cheroseneses

Friday May 25, 2006
The last of my day off included a trip to Cheroseneses. Cheroseneses (Which is spelled incorrectly, I'm sure, is pronounced "Care-Oh-Sen-Nieces") is a village that has been around for several thousand years. But no one has ever excavated it, because most of the Archeologists couldn't get to it, until AFTER the Cold War ended. So, in 1992 Dr. Joe Carter left the United States and was the first one in the city, and what he found was startling. He found thousand year old tombstones that still had the original paint on them, sitting in a warehouse somewhere, wasting away. He started a fund for a museum and is working to turn the city into a worldly recognized historically place (Top picture).
Today, on the other hand, we're on our way to Istanbul, Turkey. Where we will be picking up water, diesel fuel, groceries and more people. Istanbul is the only city in the world that is on two different continents: Europe and Asia. To get out of the Black Sea, towards the Mediterranean, you have to pass through the Bosphorous Straight. This is a bottle neck. If you get there when the boat traffic is moving the direction you want, you're fine. If not, you have to wait somewhere between 12 minutes and 12 hours for the direction of the shipping lanes to change. When we got there the ships were going the wrong way. Oh, my Goodness.
The Captain got on the radio and talked with the "Straight Pilot" (The guy that gives directions to ships as they pass through tricky waters, typically when coming in and out of a harbour. Those guys are Harbour Pilots. I don't know what this pilot would be called, so I gave him a name). The pilot showed up 20 minutes later. It seems that since we're a little ship, he could get us in there. Otherwise we'd have to wait in the parking lot outside the Straight (Middle picture. All of the bumps on the water are all of the shipping containers waiting to get through the Straight). It's supposed to take 3 hours to get to Istanbul. It took 2. When we asked the question of how it took so little time, the captain shrugged, and said, "That's the first time the Pilot has come on board and said, 'Full steam ahead'. So we did." I like that guy!
When we were in Yalta, to get through Customs, the officials came on board, looked at our paperwork and passports, ran out passports through their computer, made us go to our rooms so they could match our faces with the pictures on our passports. It typically took two hours. Everyone that had been on the ship earlier, when they came through Istanbul, said it would be quick. They come on board, check our paperwork and passports, and give us Landing Cards, which are what we're supposed to show the officials when we leave and come back to the dock. Well, the customs guys forgot the sheets. They took forever to come back with our Landing Cards. It took three hours. Oh, well. (Bottom picture is of the sky line)

Day 14 - Yalta/Balaklava/Cheroseneses

Thursday May 25, 2006
Today we're leaving Yalta, tomorrow we'll be in Istanbul. Yalta was a fun town. It's considered the Party Town of the Black Sea. When you get off the dock, and leave through Customs, there are beer stands every 50 feet. The beer is cheaper than a Coke. It's 80 cents a beer. Not a 12 oz. beer, a 20 oz. beer. And it's nothing I've heard of, except for Stella Artois. The beginning of the pier is Lenin Square (Yes, I know it's in the shape of a circle, but that's what they named it), and there is a statue of Lenin next to a McDonald's. I had to take a picture.
Traveling Back in Time - Doodle-do, Doodle-do, Doodle-do
After we got out of the sub pen, we walked to the top of a large hill at the mouth of the harbour. This is a Genoese Castle. There isn't much left of it, but once you climb this really LARGE hill, you look out on the view of the cliffs hitting the water, and they call it the Lost Paradise (Second picture). Let me tell you: It's aptly named. The funny part about this is that our guide was wearing these platform-style sandals. She climbed right up those slippery rocks, like they were nothing. She must be a true Ukrainian.
We finished out our jaunt to Balaklava by stopping at a local fish restaurant. When we sat down there were bowls of bread and plates filled with pickled kelp, squidy-thingys, muscles with garlic and pickled carrots. All were good. Then the soup came.
I learned along time ago to stir your soup, and see what comes up. Well, as you'll see from the third picture. There was a fish head in my soup. Well that made Mary scream. She stopped eating after that. The soup was good, but I kept wondering what would happen if I swallowed a fisheye. The main course was a pile (and I mean a BIG pile) of fish (WHOLE fish) that had been boiled. Now I consider myself a pretty adventurous guy. But I could only eat a couple of pieces before I had to put my knife and fork down.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day 13 - Day Off in Yalta/Balaklava/Cheroseneses

Wednesday May 24, 2006
Today is a day of freedom: Away from the cramped ship, away from the other shipmates, and away from water. So what do I do? I get on a cramped bus, with 15 other people (My shipmates) and go see historic ports! Since we're in transit, I'll be splitting up the events of the day. First we stopped in Balaklava. Balaklava is another sea port that is very well protected by the way the mountains form around the entrance.
The field in front of this port is where the saying, "Mine is not to question why, mine is to do and die." That's right, the British Light Brigade's final charge on calvary into the middle of a valley, where the Russians had cannons and guns, while the British had sabres and horses. That was the last calvary charge in modern military history. Looking at it now, you look left and see a tall mountain, you look left and see a tall mountain, and you have to wonder: Didn't anybody say, "Hey Steve, maybe we should rethink this"?
Our next stop, which was actually the port, had an old submarine pen during the Cold War. What's interesting is the entire town was coordined off by the military. No one was able to get into the town of Balaklava between 1955 - 1992, unless you were military or working for the military. They will tell you there were 300 people who were contractors at this sub, but they won't tell you how many military personel were on site.
When it was in operation there was a mesh cloth that covered the enterance and exit, and if you walked by you probably thought that it was just the side of the hill. The top picture is of the entrance, the bottom picture is of the exit. There was enough room to keep 9 small sized subs inside the pen. There was a room for a dry-dock, weaponry, warheads, and fuel. There is still a section they consider top secret and won't open it up to the public. They are turning part of the pen into a museum. We weren't allowed to take pictures, unless you paid more. Of course they didn't tell you that until you got into the museum (the beginning) and they said, "Did you pay? No? No pictures!"

Day 12 - The Black Sea Expedition

Tuesday May 23, 2006
I've done many things in my life, travelled, married a beautiful woman who gave me a beautiful child, worked world events, etc. Now, I can add to my list of things accomplished: ROV pilot! That's right, I got to drive Hercules. Of course we were just burning time, it was flat ground, and they had auto-everything on. Auto-everything means all I was controlling was left, right, forward, backwards. As long as I didn't hit anything, there was no way in Heck I was going to damage the $1,000,000 underwater robot.
We have officially finished our Black Sea Expedition, and now we have a day and a half to hang out in Yalta, Ukraine. We were supposed to get into port at 11:00 am, but got stuck out in the harbor, waiting for the Harbor Master to come out. Because we waited forever to et into port, I took lots of pictures. At 1:30 pm the ship was parked, and the custom agents were able to get on board. At 3:30 pm, the staring gun went off, and the ship turned into a ghost ship. As most people ran for the local bar, which is right next to the entrance of the port, Mary Nichols, Dave Wright and I went to the Nautilos to remove the microwave receiver.
The Nautilos was the ship following us with all of the other scientists and journalists that couldn't fit on the Endeavor. When we finished we learned how the Ukrainians and Russians say goodbye: Shots of Vodka. We toasted the adventure, we toasted the bond we had created, and we toasted because our taxi was late. We did a lot of toasting.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 11 - The Black Sea Expedition

Monday May 22, 2006
Today is our last day in the Black Sea. We're searching the very last of the targets we've found. I talked to one of the scientists, he figures we've checked 95% of the targets Echo found. Which is phenomenal, compared to most research missions, where they don't get to more than 50%. Tomorrow is a port stop in Yalta, Ukraine. We're there through the 24th, when we leave for Istanbul, to pick up the ENG crew coming to film Dr. Ballard for the Santorini leg of this expedition.
This part of the expedition was looking for wrecks. There was lots of science used to search the large body of water that is the Black Sea. But the next leg, in Santorini, is all geologically driven. Like at Lost City, we'll be collecting rocks and water samples. Santorini is an old volcano that a side of it fell in. The side that fell in was next to the Aegean Sea, where the water rushed in and created a lake. The pictures of this area should be fantastic.

Day 10 - The Black Sea Expedition

Sunday May 21, 2006

Echo is resting, after two full days of being dragged around the Black Sea searching for whatever is below us. Hercules and Argus are searching around the areas that Echo showed something interesting. Now, so far, we’ve found modern stuff (when I say modern, I mean less than 100 years old). Of course this is still interesting, at least to me, but the scientists and archeologists on board ship were really looking forward to really old stuff, like a couple thousand years old. Well, it had to happen at some point.

One of the bumps Echo showed, Hercules and Argus discovered a mound of Amphorae (being the plural of Amphora). And judging by the style, the archeologists on board figure they are from the Byzantine era, around a thousand years ago. Considering how long people have been sailing around this vicinity, they are excited that they found one, but had hoped to find something much older. If you are new to ancient wreck discoveries, here’s a quick tip on what to look for: ancient trash.

When a wooden ship sinks, if the conditions are correct, there will be little critters and worms that will devour the wood overtime. If there are any cargo inside the ship (which most did), and as long as they aren’t organic, will still remain after thousands of years. Typically you will find Amphorae, which are tall, thin, pottery used to contain and carry such wares as wine, oil, etc. So, if you’re ever searching the bottom of the ocean, and happen to find a pile of pottery, in the shape of a boat, you’ve probably found the remains of an ancient wreck. Or, unless you’re in a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey you might be able to buy an Amphora. The Ukrainian scientist, Dr. Voronov, was in Istanbul during a port stop, walked into a restaurant and noticed the ASHTRAY looked REALLY familiar, and bought. What a world we live in.

Day 9 - The Black Sea Expedition

Saturday May 20, 2006

Another day of side scanning. Lot’s of new bumps and ridges have formed some as big as 120 meters by 30 meters, some as small as 10 meters by 2 meters. That last one is probably another refrigerator (Now before you start sending me e-mails about “Where can I buy a 30 foot by 6 foot refrigerator”, let me remind you that side scanning isn’t perfect, and I bet you could find a refrigerator that size at BJ’s or Cosco).

Dr. Bob Ballard is one heck of a guy. His main goal during his expeditions are obviously to explore the sea, find species of marine life never found before, and discover wrecked ships (You, know, like the Titanic). But the other side that most people don’t think about is the technology to bring all these things to people, more specifically children. When Ballard started working with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute any video he recorded wouldn’t get distributed until months later, and then only to few theaters and universities around the nation.

Today, technology has given us the opportunity to stream live at
Daily, Ballard films a short video of what we’re doing today and in less than an hour it’s delivered to the web, where thousands of Boy and Girl Scouts, Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and other children’s learning groups across America are discovering the wonder of what’s under the sea. Ballard’s big quote is (and I’m paraphrasing here), “While we look outside of our world, let’s understand our planet first. All of the lands have been conquered, let’s conquer our oceans.”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day 8 - The Black Sea Expedition

Friday May 19, 2006

Well, the tally is: One helicopter, one plane, and three ships. Not too shabby. Now we’ve checked out all of the sites found that had an interesting return on the side scans that were done in the weeks previous. The only option is to re-scan areas that weren’t done, and find more. That means removing Hercules and Argus from the end of the winch and hooking up Echo. Echo is the name of the vehicle used to side scan. That means the whole vehicle is filled with one big sonar device. Echo is lowered about 10 meters off the bottom of the ocean floor and dragged behind the ship in a pattern called, “Mowing the Lawn”. In other words, they drive over an area one way, take a quick left 180 degrees, and drive over the same area but a little farther to one side of the area just scanned. This way they can feel pretty confident that the area that’s been scanned has been well covered.

Since the vehicles with cameras on it are on deck (Echo doesn’t have a camera) then the video position isn’t needed. Instead I get to take a tour of the engine room (Please check back later, as I have to wait until we’re in port to be able to take pictures, and I’ll post them). On the Ronald H Brown, you’ll remember that it was an electric ship. The engine room with took up the lower two decks of the ship, were filled with 6 big Caterpillar Diesel engines that created enough electricity to power a small city. The electricity was used to drive the three Z-drives under the ship. The Endeavor is different.

The Chief Engineer, Billy, was nice enough to take me on a tour. He described the entire ship as an engine room: The main engine that drives the propeller is below-aft, the electric engines are below-forward, the front bow thruster is below the electric engines, the back-up generator is behind the wheelhouse, the hydraulics and water filtration system are behind the berthing area, above the main engine, etc.

The Endeavor carries 56,500 gallons of diesel fuel, which, at full power, could last 30 days. For water, there is a reverse osmosis system that actually pulls in seawater and converts it to drinkable water. There is also a evaporation system, as seawater is used to cool the engines, whatever steam comes off of them is condensed and collected. The main engine that drives the boat is the size of Lincoln Town Car: It’s HUGE! The pistons inside are about the size of a dinner plate, and there are 16 of them. The engine displacement is 675 cubic inches per cylinder, which means it has a total of 10,800 cubic inches of pure power.

On the Ronald H Brown, you might remember that there were Z-drives that were electric and pushed the ship around. What made this special was that each drive could rotate 360 degrees. The ship could actually move laterally, or rotate around a center axis, if the captain so chose to. The Endeavor has a variable-pitch propeller which means the propeller blades are always facing the aft end of the ship, but the blades can rotate along a horizontal access. Now, if you don’t understand that, don’t be concerned. Just ask me about it the next time you see me, it’s kind of a visual thing.

Day 7 - The Black Sea Expedition

Thursday May 18, 2006

Another exciting day, out on the Endeavor: After searching around, we came across a KA-25, which is a Russian anti-submarine helicopter. What’s really cool about it (at least to me, since I don’t know a lot about anti-submarine helicopter, it may be common place) is the fact it has a sonar contraption that could be lowered into the water to give the pilot a better view of what was below.

On board we have two Ukrainian scientists, Slavic Gerasimov and Dr. Voronov, and ANYTIME we find something they come running to look at the screens. Well, the KA-25 is a fairly recent piece of machinery (1960s to 1970s). Dr. Voronov called the Russian consolute, who got on the phone with the Moscow and did some research into missing/destroyed KA-25. In the end, Dr. Voronov talked with the wife of the pilot. It seems in 1979 this specific KA-25 was on a training mission and has been missing ever since. It went down with 7 Russian soldiers and missing ever since. Dr. Ballard has decided to not release the video to ANYONE, other than the Russian government, so that the proper identification can be made, which will include a memorial and proper service for the soldiers lost at sea. Very sad.

Life on board ship is interesting as always. This is my second expedition, as some may know. But, not my second time on a ship. So, seasickness: Not a problem. A little queasy the first day, just getting my “sea-legs”, and have been fine ever since. This is a much smaller boat then the Ronald H Brown, that we had last year. One can definitely feel EVERY wave. But, so far, no issue.

As described before, my watch (at the moment) is 4-8. The berths we have (first picture) are, how shall I put this? Economical. Yeah, that’s a good way to say they’re small. How does that saying go? Can’t swing a dead cat. You have to open the door to put your shirt on, because you have no room to stretch out your arm. Alright, I made the last one up, but it’s true. On the Brown we had two berths that shared a bathroom, without leaving the room. That was nice. Our bathroom is across the hall and shared with more than two berths.

The second picture is of the dining area. A rule we have is: “Meal-time is not social time”. In other words, the galley is for eating, when you’re done: leave. This is a small ship, as soon as you’ve finished your meal, you better get up because some else is waiting to sit and eat. A change from working on Lost City last year, we obviously steamed out from Woods Hole and sat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for three weeks. This time we’re hitting port at least every ten days. This means we get to have fresh food brought on board regularly, which is nice. We’ve been eating seared tuna steaks, roast duck, SOS, Liverwurst sandwiches, turkey dinners, shrimp scampi, to name just a few. The range in different foods is interesting. But the cook is really good, he actually caters to the needs of most of the crew, as there are so few of us. On the Brown, it was buffet style.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Day 6 - The Black Sea Expedition

Wednesday May 17, 2006
Today was a very exciting day. We had just picked up the vehicles, off the bottom of the ocean. As we were steaming to the next location, to look for stuff. Dr. Ballard noticed something: The ship has a device called a Knudsen. It is a depthfinder that shows a graph of what the current depth is under the ship and what the depth was for the last 30 minutes. Dr. Ballard happened to look up and noticed a bump. He yelled, "It's a ship! Turn the ship around! It's a ship!" The ship obliged, as they should he's the one paying the bill. We turned the ship around. We dropped Hercules and Argus and found the Imperatritsa Ekaterina II. Built in 1888, and torpedoed in 1908. All because Dr. Ballard HAPPENED to look up. Pretty cool.
The control van (all pictures shown above) is the van we control the vehicles from. The bottom picture just shows the orientation of the van, on the second level, with the satellite dish on top. The top picture is the left half of the van. It contains 5 racks that have all the equipment that control Hercules and Argus, the 10 computers, a router, RTS Adam system (Intercom) and a couple tape machines. This is where I sit.
As some people have asked in the past, and the hardest question to answer; "Brian, what do you do?" Well, like working the Olympics, it's the same here: A lot. Before we left, my father and I checked all of the equipment in the van to make sure it was working (more specifically the video equipment. We don't touch Rack 1. That's where the equipment for talking with and controlling Hercules and Argus. We don't want to touch Rack 1). While my father and I were in Italy, during the Olympics, Tom Perley and Jeff Holt wired up cables between the image van and control van, after the vans had been set up on the Endeavor.
When I got here I checked that the equipment had survived the transit across the Atlantic Ocean, fixed any issues that arose, and got ready for being "On Watch". The ship's crew are on schedule of 12-4, 4-8, 8-12. We follow the same schedule. It was difficult to get used to, but after awhile seemed to make sense. I'm on the 4-8 watch. Which means I get up at 3am, go to the control van at 3:45 am and take over the video position for the person who had the 12-4 watch. I work until 7:45 am and have breakfast. If it's been a hard day the day before, I'll take a nap. If there's a lot of work to do, I'll keep working. Lunch is at 11:30am. I go back to work at 3:45 pm. and finish at 7:45 pm. If there's nothing to work on immediately, I go to bed, and repeat. It's a 16 hour day, if there's lot's of work to do. It's MUCH longer, if there's stuff to do after my night watch, that's a REALLY long day.
During the time the vehicles are in the water my main job is to control the HD cameras on Hercules and Argus; to a point. We control iris (darker or brighter), focus (fuzzy or clear), and zoom (skinny or fat) of each of the HD cameras. There's one rule with this responsibility: Don't zoom the camera without instruction from the pilots! If you zoom the camera and they aren't ready for this change, they will assume that the vehicle is racing forward, typically something it's looking at, like a wall or something bad. That is our main job, while the vehicles are down under water. The other jobs include: changing tapes being recorded (as each of the HD cameras are being recorded), make any changes to the intercom or video monitors through out the ship, and the end all: fix it when it breaks.
The second picture shows the position that the pilots and navigator sit. They have the same three big monitors that the image van has, and the same small monitors the image van has. This is where all the controls and joy sticks are for the vehicles.

Day 5 - The Black Sea Expedition

Tuesday May 16th, 2006

Today has been more exciting than yesterday. First, we picked up Dr. Bob Ballard and Mike Durbin (our Satellite guy). Now that Dr. Ballard is on board we’re going to be exploring more exciting locations. We’ve found a barge and a patrol boat, which seems to have been used as target practice with torpedoes during the 1940’s. We’ve also found most of a single person airplane. Very exciting stuff!

We have three “Vans” that we use: A satellite van, image van, and control van. As you may remember, a “Van” is what a shipping container is called. Because the Endeavor is a small ship, there isn’t a lot of room, so a couple of the vans’ contents have been removed and set up inside the ship. The satellite van’s contents were moved to the inside of the ship (bottom picture). Amazingly enough, it only takes up the last rack and a half on the right hand side, considering all it does.

Typically a satellite dish sits on the non-moving ground pointed at one satellite. Our satellite is on a ship. The ship’s on the sea. AND, the sea is NEVER calm. There are several gyros that control the dish’s direction as it senses a change in the ship’s movement. There are two times when we can lose our signal with the satellite: 1. If the ship tips more than 20 degrees in less than 7 seconds (which would be REALLY bad for the people on board) the gyros can’t correct fast enough for the dish to keep track of the satellite. 2. If the ship makes 8 left turns in a row (or makes two complete circles) the wire inside the satellite can only be twisted so much. When this occurs it turns 720 degrees, until it becomes untwisted. The satellite passes video and audio that we are transmitting to Seattle, Mystic Aquarium, and URI. It passes internet and phones. It is our link to the States from anywhere we can get a satellite connection.

The other picture shows the image van. This is the van where the scientists sit and watch different monitors. The large monitors usually show the two HD cameras (one on Hercules and one on Argus). The third large monitor usually shows a multi-screen display. It shows all of the cameras on Hercules and Argus, on one screen. The smaller screens are setup to show the computer screens of the 10 computers in the control van (next Blog). These are the computers that help the pilots control the vehicles as well as view information the vehicles are collecting (ie sonar, water temp, pressure, salinity, etc)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 4 - The Black Sea

Monday May 15, 2006

Today we’re off and running. We’ve started running around to each site that showed an interesting bump on the radar. Unfortunately most of the results from these in depth searches have shown interesting results: We found several piles of wire lost overboard by some ship, a shoe and a refrigerator.

Since nothing to mention has popped up in our monitors. I thought I would describe how this whole operation works, as some readers are new, some probably wouldn't mind a refresher, and finally it's still pretty cool what IFE does.

There are two vehicles: Hercules and Argus. Hercules (the top picture) is the vehicle with the manipulator. It has two arms that can reach out and pick up rocks and objects off the bottom of the sea floor and either move it close to the cameras or put it in one of the many compartments it has to bring up to the surface for the scientists to view.

One of the arms is controlled by a simple computer interface, like on a video game. It has a button that says "up" and you push it, and it raises it's arm. But, of course this is terribly combersome, as each button pressed is a step in that direction. So, if the object is far away, you have to press "up", "up", "up", "up", "up" etc.

The other arm has a very nice interface. It has what is called an interactive feedback joystick. If the pilot pushes against something (rock, a piece of wood, etc) the pilot actually feels the joystick push back with the same resistance the object is putting on the manipulating arm. So, if the pilot tries to pick something up, and it's too heavy, then the joystick will try and pull the pilot's arm down. It's very cool.

Hercules has 6 cameras: One on all four sides, a bubble cam (which can pivot 360 degrees) and a High definition camera. All of these cameras are used for different purposes, mostly to give the view of what is around Hercules to the pilot. That way he knows if he's about to drive into anything.

There is a 30 meter kevlar tether that connects the back end of Hercules to the back end of the other ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) Argus (second picture). Argus is the street lamp/fly-on-the-wall vehicle. Argus hovers about 10 meters above Hercules. It has four huge bright lights underneath it, so it can flood the area with more light to allow the Hercules' pilot to see more of the area around it. It also has 4 cameras on-board: 3 little cameras are there to show the area around Argus, and one HD camera can view Hercules and show where it is and what it's doing. This is a beautiful shot.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Day 3 - The Black Sea Expedition

Sunday May 14, 2006

We were picked up by Sergei who was happy to announce to us he had replaced the fuel pump on his car, and “Everything OK”. After checking in with customs (or rather we walked into the customs building, and a gentleman in a uniform waved us through) we finally boarded the ship.

Welcome to the R/V Endeavor! It’s a research vessel owned and operated by the University of Rhode Island. It’s 120’ long (unlike the Ronald H. Brown at 290’) and has bunks for 28 people (unlike 75). I’m sharing a berth with Bruce, the 2nd Mate (Pecking order on board a ship: Captain, Chief Mate, 2nd Mate, etc). The berth is small, but it’s OK, as it’s really just a place to store our personal stuff and sleep. Because, basically, that’s all there is room for!

On the Ronald H Brown, when we went to Lost City in 2005, we had 5 containers, called vans (as some of you might remember). There was a storage van, Tool van, Satellite van, and the Image and Control van sat next to each other. On this expedition, it’s a smaller ship, we took 1 van: The Control van. This is the van that contains all the video equipment, the computers that talk to the ROVs and where the pilot sits. If you remember the Image van was the van right next to the Control van, that housed the scientists working on the expedition. All the Image van is comprised of is a set of three plasma screens and a desk filled with intercom panels and smaller LCD screens. The plasmas and desk were removed from the Image van back at URI, and mounted in one of the labs. Black curtains were hung up to separate the rest of the ship from “Image van”, mostly to provide a nice dark environment for the scientists to watch the video coming from the ROVs.

The Tool van is merely a place to keep all the tools and parts they might need to work on the ROVs to fix or modify them. The contents of the Tool van were removed and placed inside the wet lab. The Satellite van is a van filled with four racks of equipment and has a separate platform with a satellite dish on it. The four racks were minimized to 2 and placed in the same lab as the “Image van”. The platform with the satellite dish is now sitting on top of the Control van. The storage van and it’s contents were left back at URI. If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s a little cramped.

Unlike on the Ronald H Brown, where we cabled up the ship on the transit from Woods Hole to the Lost City, Tom Perley and Jeff Holt cabled up the ship before it left in March. After it left URI, it went to France and picked up a completely different science team that has absolutely nothing to do with our expedition. This group had their own expedition and then hopped off the ship in April, where a skeleton crew from IFE came on board to get ready for side-scan work.

Over the last several weeks the crew has been dragging a piece of equipment, called Echo, behind them. All Echo does is send out radar signals and collect data from what the radar has found. In this case they were pointing Echo at the bottom of the Black Sea. The data is transferred to a computer that interpolates the information gathered a makes drawings of what’s on the sea floor, like a map. Most of the time the map looks flat and therefore uninteresting. Now and again a bump will show up on the map. This bump could be a rock, a mound of sand that forms a small underwater hill, or a Russian destroyer that was damaged in World War II (the scientists and Ukrainians are very excited to look at that!). The big find would be finding the Armenia. This was a ship that was torpedoed by the Germans in WWII, and 7000 people lost their lives, as this massive ship sunk in 10 minutes. Most of the people on board were wounded Russian soldiers, being transferred to a hospital.

So, now we have the pilots for Hercules and Argus on board, and we’ll go back to each location and take a look at what some of the bumps are. While we’re looking around, we’ll have a boat that has been dubbed the “Hotel Boat”. This will be a cruise ship that will follow us around filled with crew for us (again only 28 bunks) and Ukrainian officials. This is the first time an expedition like this has occurred where an ROV has gone to search the Black Sea. Obviously this has peaked the interest of many Ukrainians, especially the military. I believe I heard the last day we’ll be visited by the Ukrainian First Lady. That should be interesting.

Unlike during the Lost City Expedition, where we used the 5 day transfer time to get acclimated with the ship and the Control Van and wire the ship for production, I got on the ship at 10 am, we left the dock at 6 pm, and were in the water at 8 pm. Having not seen the Control Van since January (4 months ago) and not being there when the ship was wired, the learning curve was very high. But, off we go!

Day 2 - The Black Sea Expedition

Saturday May 13, 2006

(that’s better)

a 5 ½ hour layover, and then a 3 hour flight to Simferopol in the Ukraine, we were happy to be done traveling. Unfortunately, we still had another 2 hour ride from Simferopol to Yalta. Sergei, the driver, picked us up at the airport, and we were on our way. It would’ve been a 1 ½ hour ride, except Sergei had to take apart his car’s carburetor on the side of the road. It seems it wasn’t working right, and when we told Jim Newman (one of the Chief Engineers with IFE) he chuckled and said, “He still hasn’t gotten that fixed?”

Originally we were supposed to meet the ship in Sebastopol, but because the customs agents weren’t terribly easy to deal with, they moved us to Yalta. Since Yalta wasn’t expecting the ship, it couldn’t arrive until a free berth became available. That was Sunday, this was Saturday. We checked in at the Yalta Hotel, a 16 story block style building with all the creature comforts of home: 9 restaurants, their own beach, a tank to swim with dolphins, a Cabaret floor, a dance floor, and breakfast. All this for the price of 198 Hryvna (Pronounced Griev-nah), which comes out to $40. The bed was uncomfortable and the hot water took quite some time to come on in the shower, but the view from the balcony was breath-taking. We were located about a mile up a hill over looking the harbor.

The Black Sea Expedition

As we didn't have Internet hook-up until Yesterday, and yesterday was a LONG day, I didn't get a chance to get anything on the Blog until now. But, dear Readers, I've been keeping a log.......

So, here we go,

Friday May 12, 2006

I new the adventure had begun as soon as we checked in at the airport. I had been given the task of bringing two High Definition Tape decks with me (Pictured above). They each weighed 125 lbs between case and tape deck. When the woman from the check-in counter asked if we could remove at least 30 lbs from each case, I knew we were in trouble. Fortunately, the courier the Institute for Exploration has been using is a ten minute drive from the airport. We made our flight, but empty handed. I was traveling with Todd Gregory (one of the Hercules pilots and designer) and John Howland (a code writer for the software that made every piece of equipment on Hercules and Argus talk to each other).

After our 7 hour flight to Frankfurt, (wait a minute)