Friday, June 16, 2006

Day 35 - Lindsay's Birthday

Thursday June 15, 2006

I'm in the middle of the Sea of Crete. Away from family and friends. My biggest supporter, best friend and the best wife is celebrating her birthday today. Let's sing:

Happy Birthday, to you
Happy Birthday, to you

Happy Birthday, Dear Lindsay

Happy Birthday, to you

I love you, very much!

By the way, when I awoke this morning the engine was screaming, then would stop. The engine would scream and then it would stop. And then BOOM! I've never heard a 16 cylinder engine backfire. It's loud!

Day 32 through 34 - Back to Echo

Monday - Wednesday June 12 - 14, 2006

We've checked all of our targets, and we're back to Echo. It is about as boring as watching paint dry on growing grass. It's boring. So, I'll cop-out (because I can), and tell a quick tale.

One of the neat things that happens while we're out here is have some fun with science. Usually people bring styrofoam coffee cups, draw on them, and then shrink them by placing them on the ROVs and once they've gone down to deep depths all the air pockets are broken inside the cups, and they get really small.

My sister, Diane, is the leader of a Girl Scout troop in Barrington, NH. She had her Girl Scouts draw on some cups and I brought them with me to shrink. On one of the dives, Argus and Hercules went to 2000 meters (over a mile) under the sea.


After:You can just barely see my travel coffee mug in the top photo.

Pretty cool stuff.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day 31 - Finally a camera person!

Sunday June 11, 2006

The reason you haven't seen any pictures of the launch or recovery yet, is because there isn't anyone on the boat that is typically up during the launch or recovery. Otherwise, the people that are up, are helping in the whole process. When we were on the Ronald H Brown, during the Lost City Expedition, there were at least 15 to 20 people that were part of the launch or recovery. I believe the other day we launched with 5 people, and two of the them were part of the CREW of the SHIP! Did I mention there aren't a whole lot of people on the ship?

Anyway, there just happened to be a time, when I was up, we were recovering Hercules and Argus, and there were other people who could take pictures. I'd like to thank Mike Durbin and Mary Nichols for contributing their photos. This blog is more about pictures of me, than anything else. But hey, my name is in the blog title.

In the first picture Mary and I are getting ready to hook tether lines to Argus. The second picture, I'm just being goofy (Gee, imagine that). The third gentleman is Mark DeRosche. He's in charge of all the launches and recoveries. He's also the one with the affinity for Turkish Rugs. The winch lifts Argus and the two tethers are hooked on to stabilize Argus while he's being lifted over the deck. Once he's secured, we bring in Hercules.

As you might remember there is a kevlar tether that ties Argus and Hercules together. The tether also holds all of the fiber optics and power to control and power Hercules. There is a rope that is strung along the tether. I mentioned this last year, and this techniquestill intrigues me. Mark loosely braids a thinner rope around the main rope and the kevlar tether. Once Argus is on deck they undue the braided rope, and pull Hercules towards the ship with a knuckle crane. Once they get Hercules close enough to the knuckle crane they pick up Hercules and place him on the deck. It's hard to visualize. But, when you see it. It's amazing!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day 30 - The Sea of Crete

Saturday June 10, 2006

We've dropped the Big Guy and his Little Friend (That's Hercules and Argus, MAN am I tired). Let's see 8 days. 8 days and I'll be home. Won't that be nice. Yep, 192 Hours. That's a mere 11,520 Minutes. It's been 30 days, I'm really ready to come home. Has it only been a minute since I started this blog? Oh, boy.

I would have to say that the accomidations may be small on the Endeavor, but it's a good ship. The food is good, they just refilled their freezers in Istanbul (two weeks ago), I'm sure I've gained weight with all of the Chicken Parm, steak and pizza dinners, let alone the omelets for breakfast. And then there is the 9:44 am muffins that Mike (the steward) bakes every morning. Did I mention that the vent from the kitchen dumps into the Control Van, and I'm on duty at 9:44 am? (*burp) Excuse me! The food comes from a freezer, but it's not brown. None of the lettuce has gone bad (of course it's all iceberg lettuce), the fruit has gone off, but they still have canned stuffs.

I've read 5 books since getting on board ship. Watched 10 movies. We've had random Halo and Halo 2 tournaments between 6 of the pilots and myself on the big 50" screens on the two ship's decks (I'm glad I brought my X-Box!). I've watched 30 sunsets from aboard ship. Here's one of my favorites:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day 29 - Back to Santorini (Cont'd)

Oh, yeah. That's not Photoshoped.

Day 29 - Back to Santorini

Friday June 9, 2006
The shows are done. We pick up more people today, and leave for the Sea of Crete tomorrow. So, after two weeks of 20 hour days we get shore leave. Mary Nichols, Mike Durbin, Mark DeRosche, Wallis Barton (ship's second engineer), Armando Gundin (Mate) and I rented ATVs and motor scooters and drove around the island. What's nice about Santorini is unlike Bermuda where if you rent a scooter, you're always being pressed off the road by automobiles and buses. In Santorini on a Friday there are no cruise ships, and the whole town is dead. There was no one on the road. We rode in a row, kinda like the Hell's Angels of Santorini. Our difference was no drugs, beatings, drinking, etc. We were more like Heck's Angels of Santorini.

After running around the island for a couple of hours we went to the Red Beach. I don't think I'll need to explain why they named it that.

The water was REALLY cold, but I had to jump in at least for a little bit.
After the beach we found a taverna (restaurant) and ate Gyros and had Greek coffee. Greek coffee is like Turkish coffee. If you've never had either, let me fill you in on the experience: Caffeine. I think they caffeinate the caffeine. And the consistency of their coffee is like what what's scraped out of the bilge of the Endeavor. And, what's worse is there is a layer of stuff on the bottom of the cup that stays there. I'd be happy to attach the picture, but 3 pictures seems to be the limit of the blog. So.....

Day 28 - Last Day of Shows

Thursday June 8, 2006
Now, don't get me wrong, the productions for Immersion Presents are the main reason I'm here. BUT, it is a big release of stress for me now that I have one less thing to worry about. The days of getting up at 6:45 am (GMT+3) working the 4 hour watch, having breakfast, working to get ready for the production team at 2:00 pm, overseeing the shows between 5 pm and 8:30 pm, and then working another 4 hour watch, and MAYBE getting to bed at 1 am, are over. If they aren't, it's not because of Immersion Presents, at least.
The shows went very well. Last year the shows went roughly, as my father and I were getting used to what the Immersion Presents production team was looking for from us. This year, I was ready: The production team showed up, I gave them my bundled cables that connected them to the Control Van, we faxed (this was the third time those cables were faxed as Mary Nichols and I had checked them twice before hand. Like I said, I wanted this year to go as perfect as possible), and we didn't have an issue the whole time. At least not on my end of the production.
Now that the shows are over, we leave Santorini and head for the Sea of Crete. There, we'll trawl around looking at the targets that Echo found, just like we did a couple of weeks ago in the Black Sea. I would imagine we'll have better look finding Amphorae this time!

Day 27 - Over Columbo

Wednesday June 7, 2006
Despite the fact we're not using our bow thruster to help position the ship, the crew of the R/V Endeavor has done an excellent job with the variable pitch prop. Dr. Ballard even said, "Don't use Herculean effort to fix the bow thruster." Knowing Dr. Ballard for the short time I have, I'd say the pun WAS intended!
Now that Hercules and Argus are both in the water we're getting some amazing footage of the vents and smokers. We're taking quite a few samples off the top of some of the vents. Of course the running joke is, "Do you think if we break off a sample from the wrong vent, that'll start an eruption?" We're being very careful.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day 26 - Back to Santorini

Tuesday June 6, 2006
Happy Birthday Todd Gregory and Brennen Phillips!
After spending all that time working on the microwave system in Dr. Ballard's hotel, it's time to take it out. It seems there's an issue in the receiver. When they plug it in, it tends to take half the hotel's power down. Oops. We tried the power cable that was fixed, and it works in the transmitter. Therefore, something is funky with the receiver. Out it comes. Any time anyone gets to shore, since we're not docking daily, a bunch of people volunteer to help me. Isn't that generous of them?
After finding the people who aren't on watch until after the second shuttle boat brings us back, Jim Newman picks Todd Gregory and Eric Martin. Todd (it's his birthday) and Eric (who's been out for 53 days opposed to Todd and my 26) are sleeping, but when they are offered to go ashore, they are bright eyed and bushy-tailed. It's amazing how much sleep you don't need when there is a chance to have solid ground underneath you! After the 15 minutes it takes to dismantle the microwave receiver, the rest of the day is for sightseeing. Eric and Todd's first choice is: "To the bar!" Todd had a great birthday!

Day 25 - Boy's and Girl's Club

Monday June 5, 2006
As part of Dr. Ballard's drive to interest the youth of today into underwater exploration, we have 5 kids from all over the United States that have been flown to Greece to see what it's like to be on a research vessel and meet Dr. Ballard. Yesterday, they came on board and got to introduce themselves and answer questions about their experience in Greece and what they'd seen with Dr. Ballard. They communication was broadcast to students and Boy's and Girl's Clubs all over our nation. It was pretty impressive the reach Dr. Ballard strives for and successfully meets. All the kids here are between 13 to 15, and have spent a lot of time studying about what Dr. Ballard has accomplished and why he's here, in the caldera.

Day 24 - The Donkey Ride/The Endeavor

Sunday June 4, 2006
So many people have asked about the Donkey ride, and since I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to update the blog I can answer it now. The ride took 17 minutes (opposed to the 4 minute tram ride). They tied the three donkeys together and one gentleman led all three of us down. It seems the reason they use donkeys instead of horses, is because (And this is from a local) donkeys are more sure-footed. I don't know if I believe that considering Mary Nichols' donkey kept slipping it's hind hooves. Next answer to a question: donkeys smell. Let's end the conversation with that.
Now, as you'll notice the picture above this text shows the fan tail of the Endeavor. You can clearly see Hercules, and in the background you can make out the shape of Argus. If you look at the picture to the left of the text, you'll notice Hercules but no Argus. While out on the Endeavor we've run into a snag. It has a lot of politics envolved around it, so I'm not going to get into the rumors, but the facts are: We've lost the use of the bow thruster. And it doesn't seem that there will be a chance to get it fixed, before the end of the expedition.
As you may remember the bow thruster is used to help control the movement of the ship. More specifically it allows the crew of the Endeavor to keep the ship almost standing still, in one spot, no matter what the wind or current is doing. This poses a big problem. If the ship isn't able to keep position there are certain things we can do: More importantly if Hercules is in a spot next to a cliff, and the ship starts heading towards the cliff (by wind or current), without the bow thruster the ship may not be able to make a quick enough reaction to clear Hercules of the danger. So, we've been running with Argus in the water. Which means we can't get close to features (like vents or smokers) to get pretty pictures, and we can't take samples. That's not a great thing for the scientists. Yes, they are getting visual confirmations of places they'd like to go next time they can, with Hercules. The scientists are getting a better idea of the layout of the sea floor around Santorini, but there hands are tied, because of the limitation.
Now, this poses another problem. Right now, Argus is floating down about 500 meters. Argus isn't completely out of the ship's control. But, if Argus goes deep enough, it takes a long time for the ship's movement to affect where Argus ends up. Dr. Ballard's example was this: Think of Argus as a penny, hanging from a string, off the Empire State's Building. Now, try and land that penny down a grate on the street level. Difficult, but it can be done with the right tools. Our next stop after Santorini is the Sea of Crete. That part of the expedition takes us to an area that is 1500 meters deep. Oh, boy.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Day 23 - Microwave Issues

Saturday June 3, 2006

There was a microwave system setup to show the scientists on the Nautilos, in the Black Sea. This allowed them to watch the footage we were filming. Well, we're not in the Black Sea. We're in Greece. Dr. Ballard would like to show people, who have flown to the island, what the ROVs are sending back for footage. Using the microwave system would be perfect, right? Well......

The dock on the main island, Thira, is fairly small and can't accept a ship as large as the Endeavor. So, there have been boats set up for daily shuttles to take people to the ship and from the ship. Remember: Small ship (Big ship for the Dock, small ship for the number of people). So, to get me off the ship, to set up the microwave system is difficult because if I don't have the right tools, I can't do it. And I have a short opportunity to get this right. If somethings wrong, it's not like I can go to Home Depot or Radio Shack to get it right. And, I can't get back off the ship until much, much later.

So, I load up my pockets with screwdrivers, wire ties, electrical tape and my Leatherman. Mary Nichols and I get off the ship for 5 hours to set this up, and have a little R and R. When we get to the island, it's beautiful. There are houses built ON the ridge and IN the side of the ridge everywhere.

When you get off the shuttle boat, you are still 1000 feet below the city of Thira. Thira is a tourist town. The caldera makes for a very nice harbor, since it's surrounded by islands. To get to the top of the cliff you have three options: walk, take a tram, or take a donkey. We took a tram.

If you follow the path of the tram you'll notice that the retaining wall is notched to let the tram cars pass. But, if you look really closely, you'll notice that notch looks like it was bashed away. Hopefully without using the Tram!

After getting to the top we were led to the Hotel Atlantis, which is where Dr. Ballard is staying. Mary and I got into his room and set up the microwave receiver. When we flipped the "On" switch, nothing happened. That's not good. Checked the cables, checked the power. Tried again. Nothing. That's REALLY not good. There was a business card in the traveling case for a technician that we were told we could call night or day to help us. It's 3:30am in the US. Perfect!

What he didn't tell us was that it was his office number. And night and day meant: As long as I'm in my office, I'll answer it. Oh, crud. After searching around, checking fuses, and looking at the cables I found the main power cable had all of the wire inside of it pulled off the connector. Now, if we were on the ship, at my house, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, other than a touristy island, I could fix this with a soldering iron. I can't go back to the ship, who knows when I can get back here. After checking my pockets twice, I still didn't have one.

Mary and I went to four electronics stores and three hardware stores. Nothing. Double crud. So, it was time for me to make my salary, and really come in handy. After searching around, I stole a fork from the dinning room table at the Hotel Atlantis, bent all the tines down, except one. Using a Bic lighter got the tine hot enough, to melt the solder. The whole time I chanted: "I am McGuyer. I am McGuyver."

After lunch, we had to catch our shuttle boat. There was only one way Mary and I wanted to get down the cliffs: Donkey.

Day 22 - Outside the Caldera

Friday June 2, 2006
We're still here. Looking around. Haven't found much. It's been very rough seas outside of the caldera. We've had such weather, that our satellite dish keeps losing it's mind. Now remember, from earlier on, this dish automaticly reacts to the motion of the ship. Of course it has it's limits. We discovered those limits, as we lost Internet, phones, our video stream, when it came back people were yelling, "Lost satellite", "Where did they go?".
Included a picture of Santorini from above. No, the little bump above center of the picture is NOT the ship. This picture from GoogleWorld was taken quite some time ago.

Day 21 - Outside the Caldera

Thursday June 1, 2006
Today is a stressful day. If I've done my job right and prepared for every possible, conceivable, inconceivable problem that might arise, I will still be running around fixing problems and changing things that were once decided upon, but changed in the grand scheme of things. It's no one's fault. No one can be blamed. It is the nature of the business. It is to be expected. You just have to accept it. It still stinks, though.
Things go well (relatively). We continue on searching around. Today, we've moved outside the caldera, to another active volcano: Columbo. There were quite a few number of vents that were spewing hot shimmering water out of them. Core sample, rock, rock, rock, core sample, suction hose, etc. Unfortunately, we're more on the search, instead of looking at what has already been found. At Lost City, we were looking at specific sites and doing testing on specific pieces of it. Here, we're looking at sand, sand, more sand, and everyonce in awhile we run into something cool. But, more times than not it's sand, sand, and more sand.

Day 20 - Diving in the Caldera

Wednesday May 31, 2006
Today we're diving on parts of the Caldera that they used Echo (The sonar) on and discovered vents and seeps (a crack in the ground that hot gas and water shoot out of). The new toy that has been placed on Hercules is a temperature probe. This titanium tipped thermometer, has a soft ball placed on the end of it, so the pilots can use one of Hercules' manipulator to grab it.
Santorini, which is now a chain of island, but if you looked at it from above, you can see the out circumference of the volcano. Underneath the water, the scientists are taking core samples, rock samples, and testing the temperature in the seeps and vents. During my evening shift, we tested a seep that was 65 degrees Celsius (155 degrees Fahrenheit), while the water is a balmy 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit). This is all very interesting, but it makes you think: If it's that hot under the sea bed, does that mean this thing is still active? Yes, it is (Although it hasn't erupted in 3000 years).