Sunday, April 15, 2012

At last!

Well, the cruise MGL1206 finally ended. We arrived in Honolulu this morning, a day earlier than originally planned. The weather got so much better once we left the survey area, and we were able to sail at 12 knots for most of the transit. Thanks to the hard work of the ship crew, science techs, and watch standers, our scientific mission was accomplished in full. I'd like to emphasize I'm always very much impressed by the professionalism of the Langseth crew and science techs. The fact that they are great may not be surprising, because, to survive in the middle of the oceans, you should be able to not only expect the unexpected but also solve it quickly with what's available on a ship. Still, seeing those talented people gathered in one place and spending a few weeks with them is a real privilege for someone like me.

I sometime wondered what the role of a chief scientist would be. I certainly had to make a scientifically important decision, e.g., whether we should turn back to fill a gap in data or keep shooting, but that happened only twice. Planned data acquisition was streamlined so nicely by the science techs, and I just had to keep myself out of their ways. Watch standers were all great and hard-working, and they rarely needed my instruction. One thing I did for sure is keep being worried. A cruise like this can give you more than enough to worry, such as instrument failure, bad weather, strong currents, sickness, injury, and encounters with marine mammals. Actually, all of those bad things happened during the cruise, but fortunately none of them was too grave to prevent us finishing our plan (phew).

To me, this is not the end of a 23-day cruise. In my mind, the whole thing started in July 2010, so I guess I've been under certain tension for nearly two years. Now with everything we wanted in our hands, we can finally decipher the mystery of Shatsky Rise. We'll be busy for at least another year!

I'd like to thank everyone for everything. I hope someday I'll come back to this wonderful ship and work with these special kind of people again, with a new exciting idea to explore.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

One more day

As we approach Hawaii from this seemingly long transit, I find myself becoming more and more excited to walk on land again. There is no doubt that I have had a great time on the sea, during both the calm days and the rough ones, but all good things must eventually come to an end…unless you live in Hawaii. Apparently the fun never stops and people don’t age. Well, at least that’s what my watch partner Heidi says. I’ve been convinced to extend my planned stay of approximately 10 hours to another 4 days. Instead of getting off the boat and basically going straight to the airport and back to Texas, I’m going to stay for a week. That way I’ll be able to relax for a few days in Oahu and have a mini-vacation before I go back to the real world and defend my thesis in early May.

We’ve had so much down time on this transit to Hawaii that I’ve accomplished a lot of work. Besides working on my thesis defense presentation, I have read Wally Broecker’s How to Build a Habitable Planet and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, and now I’m working on Robert Warren’s All the King’s Men. Every day at 3PM, Heidi and I compete against one another in paper football, and Tanya is the referee. Time usually flies by extremely fast most days because we are keeping ourselves pretty busy. I usually also download and read some new geology-related journal articles to keep focused on some science. Each day inevitably ends with some stargazing. The only light pollution comes from the ship but the nights are still extremely dark and clear. I’ve seen lots of satellites orbiting the planet and several shooting stars. I kind of wish I had a telescope, but the nights are still extremely breathtaking.

On a different note, a significant portion of papers that I’ve read related to marine geology or marine geophysics has invariably utilized a ship such as the R/V Langseth to obtain those pertinent data. At the end of these papers there is usually an acknowledgements section thanking everyone who took part in the cruise. I had an idea of the hard work that is necessary to make a research cruise successful, but it is another thing actually experiencing it firsthand. Each cruise is given an allotted amount of time to complete its objectives, so it is almost impossible to waste any time. These ships are on a tight schedule and as soon as one cruise is over, another one is usually ready to start with little time in between. Therefore, it is imperative to work as quickly as possible while recovering the highest quality data possible. I have observed nothing but professionalism on this cruise and although I won’t be involved in the post-cruise data processing and subsequent publications, I am appreciative of the crew’s hard work and demeanor. It has definitely been a rewarding experience and it was so much fun meeting my 30 day family. If I’m lucky enough, I hope to go on another research cruise at some point before I finish my schooling.

Friday, April 13, 2012


MGL1206 is ending soon. Look at the transit map that we have been keeping plotting location points every 4 hours (see attached picture). That shows more than a real time position plot. It's all about good memories of everything during this cruise: nice people (Mike&Megan will say "peeps"), great job (five planned MCS lines plus bonus of extended Line_D2 and a test_line), teams (Team Awesome, Team American and Team Seasick), party (streamer party, gun party, XBT party, Language learning party, even "error" party, Bern likes party things), and happy to see some "old friends" again like Jun, Robert, Dave, Mike Tatro, Carlos, Jack, Hervin, etc., as well as to make new friends. When Ben, one of the crews, reminded me that I would miss the cruise whenever I am back on land. Yes, of course. Like 2010, Langseth has done a beautiful job once again this year, or I should use the word "always" instead of "once again". Because the people of Langseth know exactly what they are doing. Thanks for all the good things and who make those amazing happen.

Numbers, I nearly forget the theme of this blog. So please know some important numbers of this cuirse:

1,987,200,000 milliseconds at sea (professional geophysicists use this unit)
430,570,471,400 bytes for all SEGD data (IT guy reads things in bytes)
1,074,290,818,000 seismic samples we collected (processing knows that)

Big scaring numbers, that cannot feel happy, but they could sound much smaller if you change into bigger units.You know that trick. However, even if we have an indentical number and unit, they still would feel different, depending on what you are talking about. For example, it sounds OK to spend 10 days transit from Shatsky Rise to Honolulu. How about taking 10 days to fly from Honolulu to New York City? That must be problem with that flight. So TB data can be normal for MCS, whereas that much of songs would need a super-Ipod. I apply this philosophy to my life to make things feel better. When I realize my savings in bank less than 1K, I will immediately change the unit from bucks to cents (I still have thousands!). Sometimes even worse, say <$10. Even not enough for 1000 cents, that can't sound right. Think about this, exchange it into some African currency, and it might give you a million! Take advantage of how to use numbers. Rule of thumb is to be happy~~~!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Travel time

Here we are only four days away from Honolulu, after some 2 weeks and a half at sea. This is my fourth cruise and it will be the longest one so far. And the first leg of the Shatsky Rise cruise lasted for 60 days! But, exactly how long will this second leg take? That is, with all the date and time changes, what will the real duration of the cruise be? We sailed off at around 8 am on March 24th and will dock at approximately 8 am on April 15th, which gives 22 days. We had one day change in which we went back in time and repeated April 8th, so it's 23 days. Finally, when we get to Honolulu we will have made four hour changes of +1 hour, which means that we need to subtract 4 hours from the real time duration. Then my final approximate guess is 22 days and 20 hours. Is this correct?

Last day I posted was April Fools' Day, today is Cruise Picture Day. At 1 pm this afternoon, we all gathered in the muster deck, just behind the bridge, and arranged the picnic tables so that the people in the front could sit and the people in the back could prove that they had been in the cruise too. This may sound corny, but this is probably the best souvenir I will be taking home. Unfortunately, for the moment I can only tell you the story because the pictures are not uploaded yet, but I'm sure we will get to see at least one of them in one of the following posts.

But this is a science cruise, so I guess I'm supposed to have some science content in my posts. In the previous one I told you about my thesis main topic: travel-time tomography which is used to model wide-angle seismic (WAS) data. In this second leg of the Shatsky Rise cruise only MCS data have been acquired, so maybe some of you don't know exactly what WAS data is about. In the first leg of the cruise though, there were a couple of WAS data profile and if you check the older posts you will find all you need to know on the acquisition of this kind of seismic data. But once collected, what do we do with these data? That is precisely the purpose of tomo2d and tomo3d. From WAS data we obtain the time interval of seismic waves traveling from source to receiver: the observed travel times. From these, we want to recover a velocity model for the Earth subsurface. Briefly, what the two TTT codes do is simulate the source-to-receiver rays, calculate synthetic travel times for them, then compare these with the observed ones, and finally translate these differences in travel time, or travel-time residuals, to changes in the velocity model. This process is repeated until the resulting velocity model produces synthetic travel times that fit our data to a desired level of accuracy.

As you will know, Team Awesome is also Team Multilingual, and we have had time to learn some French, Chinese, Spanish and of course English. As this likely to be my last post, I'm going to leave you with a multiple choice question to improve your Spanish. The question is based on an anecdote that I'm glad didn't happen to me (you can ask me about it), and I think it will be useful if you ever get a cold while staying in Spain, although English takes you almost anywhere these days: What is the Spanish translation for “I have a cold”? (a) “Estoy constipado”, (b) “Tengo frío”, (c) “Estoy resfriado”, (d) Both (a) and (c) are correct, and (e) “Tengo un frío”. I realize that 5 possible answers is probably too many, so here is a hint, the literal translation of “I have a cold” is a wrong answer.

Oh, I almost forgot! In my first post I said I would tell you about the “First and Second Last Names Paradox”, from now on FSLNP. The FSLNP arises from the fact that in Spain newborns are given a last name from their father and another one from their mother. The tradition is that the first last name of your father be your first last name and the first last name of your mother, your second last name. But nowadays you can have that the other way around too. A funny consequence of the FSLNP is that when we travel to the US, our first last name is assumed to be our middle name and our second last name is picked as our last name. That is basically what happened here on the Langseth, where I've become Adrià M. Catalán.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In transit to Honolulu

             We finished shooting five days ago. On the last day of shooting, Ted and I went to the stern on a super foggy day and listened to the guns. Nobody told me we would be able to see the vibrations that occur on the water milliseconds before the shot! It is really cool to see but when we tried to videotape it, it was too dark. I don’t understand why we decided to go to the stern and take pictures on the last day of shooting! We should have gone earlier.
Now we are in transit to Honolulu. The shooting is done and the lab has become uneventful. We are doing 30 minute logs, BIST tests, XBTs, and adjusting the sonar window every time the sea floor changes considerably. There is a lot of time to be pensive. I’ve been curious about the Bridge. We had a tour of it when we started the trip, but it was short and fast. Ted and I got to go up to the Bridge and get a more in depth description of all the equipment they use and we were able to ask the chief mate a million questions. We also got to know what it feels like to sit in the VIP seats on the R/V Marcus Langseth.
The most confusing aspect of this trip so far is the date and time! It seems like the easiest detail to understand and remember, but not on this ship. We have gone through at least 4 time zones, we had Easter Sunday twice, an 8 day week, and of course the UTC time never changes. You can imagine what it’s like to schedule our time to use the phone to call our families! At least we always know what the UTC time is and what Julian Day it is, but nobody at home uses Julian Days. Yesterday we crossed the dateline. It was fun to watch the computers get confused.
So the captain said we might get to the islands earlier than expected. Everybody seems to be looking forward to it. Personally, if I would have packed a little better for this trip it wouldn’t matter to me if we got in early. I am starting to run out of everything!
Since this is my last blog, I just want to say I enjoyed the last few weeks with the company of my new ship family. You all have taught me A LOT and opened my eyes to even more different kinds of lifestyles. A special thanks to Jun Korenaga and William Sager for allowing me to be part of this scientific adventure!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Share photos!

To the whole Shatsky science party: Please use the ship "DONATE" media folder to upload any pictures and/or video you have taken on the cruise, particularly those of your fellow crew.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


     My job on the ship is multibeam processing.  The ship's hull mounted echo sounder sends an unrelenting barrage of sonar beams as we travel through the sea, constantly mapping Neptune's hoary depths. The sonar beams are sent in a fan shape which lets us map, from our small boat, sections of the sea floor that can be from 15 to 25  kilometers in width. However, things such as rough seas, or perhaps occasional interference from other machines, causes bad pings to show up, which have to be edited out by hand. Actually, this is where most of the time is spent. Oh the capricious dance of ping editing. The life of a ping editor is a lonely one, filled with hardship and danger. But, as they say, someone's got to stand the heat and stay in the kitchen. For a brief moment, I was able to convince Yan Ming to help me with this task. Together, we were a two-headed hydra coursing our way through new realms of science and discovery, hoofing it with great gusto and leaving our venom deep in the hindquarters of bad pings, wherever they may be. But sadly it is true that nothing gold can stay. Yan Ming quickly left to find more interesting things to do. Once again, I was a wolf bereft of a pack. But I endeavored to persevere! And as the nocturne hour gave way to day I finished editing all the pings and raised my fist in triumph and shook it at the heathen Sun.
     All rambling aside,  multibeam processing is something that I am quite proud to do. After a day's worth of data has been cleaned up, I use it to  make a map.  Existing maps of the area estimate the sea floor topography based on satellite read gravity measurements and have a resolution of only around 2 kilometers or so. The new maps that use multibeam data have a gridding resolution of 50 meters. Canyons and underwater mountains that once lay hidden now reveal themselves. Many of them have never been seen before. I get the first look at the map and can see the big picture of new discoveries. That's a pretty neat thing.


We are now heading to Hawaii. Happy and exciting. However, actually, the first week on board can be very trying. Because seasickness is really a miserable and unforgettable experience. The first two days I can’t eat anything except apples and instant noodles. I have never imagined that eating will become so difficult as it seems that there was always a voice saying “Oh, you will just throw them up one or two hours later, or even earlier”. And I just felt that every kind of food had the smell of milk and sourness, which make me feel sick. Moreover, the rocking feeling and the continuous noise cause my brain to become inertial, which make it harder for me to concentrate on reading books and doing my homework.

Whatever, the difficult part has gone. Thanks all these kind people on Langseth. I really appreciate them.  Let’s talking about something interesting. The first time I saw the “soundersuite” in the main lab, I found the seamounts is similar with some mountains in Chinese Landscape painting (a water-based art form with a strong emphasis on ink) in some extent.

Chinese Brush Painting

Do they look similar each other ? Oh, maybe I should say that the seamounts just look like the draft for a Chinese landscape painting.

Moreover, Joey showed me something more interesting after I told him something about China. It is called “chinglish”-Chinese English. I may sometimes speak“chinglish”. I hope you will like the followed pictures.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Langseth in Verse

So, I asked 8 if he would be able to contribute another blog entry and this is the response I got.

Answer: Cannot predict now.

I am taking that as a ‘No’. Here are some limericks instead.

There once was the Langseth, a ship

Over wave and trough did she skip.

Many instruments aboard

To always record

Depth, gravity, mag – every blip.

There once was the Langseth, a vessel

Where in their bunks scientists nestled.

‘Til called to their shifts

Their heads they must lift

For with errors and logs they must wrestle.

There once was the Langseth, a boat

On her airguns the crew they would dote.

Oft while in a turn

Guns were brought up astern

To ensure best acoustical note.

There once was the Langseth, a fine tub!

Where the galley crew made us good grub.

But when seas ran high

Up in knots stomachs tied

And to keep the food down, there’s the rub.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seismic shoot 110% complete. Success!

After completing the scheduled lines a day early we were able to extend shooting on the last line for an additional day in the direction of Hawaii. The weather has been very foggy the last 48 hours, and while the winds are relatively calm, the fog is very creepy. One wonders what could be just 50 yards from the ship, where water and sky disappear into an eerily shifting cloud of grey. It almost seems to breathe. Standing outside in the fog, one becomes completely soaked in a matter of minutes. There is reported to be a great deal of both small and large debris adrift in this area from the tsunami in Japan, so fantasies of ghosts and sea monsters aside, the low visibility dose pose a real hazard. We do have a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera on the ship, but it won't reveal objects at the same temperature as the surroundings, only ships with their engines on. Last night, my shift had the job of pulling in the streamer in driving rain. Thankfully the temperature was above 70. Despite getting wet, it was fun donning the lifevests and hard hats and "getting our hands dirty". Also got to practice my bellowing. "BIRD ON THE SURFACE!!!", "BIRD IN THE AIR!!", "10 METERS!!", "5 METERS!!!". These are calls made to the tech controlling the winch as the streamer is pulled in. The birds are devices that have wings or more technically, motorized fins, on a sonar range-finding device that can be used to dive or surface the streamer to an optimal depth. The birds must be wrestled over the stern rail to prevent the delicate fins from striking the ship (they are quite heavy ~40 lbs), then removed from the streamer, disassembled and packed away. This task was completed in just three hours for 6 km of streamer, and as soon as we had lifted the tail buoy out of the water, the crew was pushing the throttle wide open to begin the long transit to Hawaii. Paradise, here we come!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Shot error

A shift on the RV Langseth, at least for my group, consists of two halves with two separate groups of people. Because the science group is “on” for 8 hours and “off” for 16, we interact or at least get to see the whole of the ship’s crew, whose shifts consist of 12 hours on and 12 hours off (noon to midnight and midnight to noon...our shift is from 8AM - 4 PM). The first half of our shift is under the supervision of Michael and Megan (aka Mergon) and the second half is under Bern and David. As pictures show from previous blogs, there are several computer monitors and tv screens that must continuously be checked to ensure that the recovered seismic data are of the highest possible quality. Fortunately, I only need to spend the majority of my time monitoring a fraction of the total amount of screens in the seismic lab, around 10 or so. During the first half of my shift I work on crossword puzzles with Michael, read a novel, work on my thesis, talk with Megan about the previous night’s happenings, and of course doing everything previously mentioned while monitoring the computer screens. Every day at 10 AM, Michael brings everyone mid-morning snacks, which are always welcomed with a sense of relief. The second half of the shift is a continuation of the first, although I focus on reading because the crossword puzzles are usually completed by the mid-morning snack.
As the science portion of the cruise is concerned, we are trying to make up a little time that was lost over the last couple days due to unfortunate weather. We had been fighting large waves and strong head currents that resulted in the ship sailing at speeds about as fast as someone walking. The current weather is much better; however, adverse conditions are again expected in the near future.
On that note I will segue to the title of this blog, “Shot error”.
When we first began the seismic acquisition test phase of the cruise, whenever some sort of error occurred during this process, a muffled sound emanated from a nearby speaker. Without ever hearing this sound before, I was sure it was just an alarm with no apparent connotation. Sounding like a jumbled mess of consonants with a vowel or two, “Hmmm errerrr” was all I could make out of it. Laughing it off the first few times and mocking it with Heidi, it was to my surprise when Megan told me that it was actually saying something. As for any acquired taste, I had not yet become accustomed to that audible computerized cacophony. The noise perpetuated from the speaker was in fact saying “Shot error” or “Gun error”. If the instruments aren’t communicating between one another as they should be, “Gun error” will sound. However, if a situation occurs where the arrays of guns do not fire simultaneously, or a missfire occurs, or even if they just aren’t working properly, “Shot error” will sound. It is imperative to record these errors both on paper and through a digital computer file. This ensures that anyone in the future who wishes to further inspect certain “shot points” may do so and easily identify the type and time of any problems that occurred. After hearing this voice more times than I can remember, I can now easily distinguish between the two errors when the computer decides to announce its presence and I’m pretty sure I would be able to understand more. Unfortunately, I think its vocabulary is limited to those 3 words.
As I finished typing the previous sentence, the speaker spewed out “Gun error”…I guess it’s back to work.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How to get Langseth goods

Some watchstanders asked me how they can get Langseth T-shirts and sweaters. In my previous cruise, the captain opened a slop chest every Sunday afternoon, so I told them to wait for that. But during this cruise, we already had Sunday twice, and so far no slop chest... Actually, the current captain is different from the one for the previous cruise (Langseth has two captains in rotation), so he may have a different plan. I asked the captain about this this morning, and he told me, "Oh, come and see me any time while my stateroom is open; I'll open up the slop chest then."

Great! But watchstanders, please be nice. Don't visit the captain's room just by yourself; instead, form a group of interested people (at least two) to reduce the total number of bothering the captain. And one more note: the slop chest takes only cash.

In case the reader of this blog who is not on the ship is interested in purchasing cool-looking Langseth items, I'd suggest to visit Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which is located in Palisades, NY. They probably have a gift shop, though I'm not 100% certain.

Should Carina Retire?

Hi, world!

We are shooting seismic line 3 right now at the location of (36.2N, 157.6E), which is over the western flank of the second big massif (ORI) of Shatsky Rise. Weather is friendly enough after it has been upset for line 1&2. Approximately 24 hours later, MCS line 3 will be completed. That tells us that 3 of 5 lines in total will be done at that time. More than half way done, Gig'em! (this is an exciting word that aggies use for yelling something good according to our Texas A&M traditions). At the same time, I deeply wish everything go well all the way till we finish the rest of MCS data collecting and end this cruise successfully. Cross fingers~~!!

Although I guess the previous blogs have talked about enough amount of bad news, for example, broken glass screen, seasickness, bad sleep, bad appetite, unfriendly currents resistance, high wind, rough sea-surface, gun issues, and so on. I am sorry I have another one right here. That is, the internal disk of my workstation died when I was copying data from ship network. #@&*%$*~! That means I am losing the operation system Centos and data processing program ProMAX, i.e. my workstation brought from thousands of miles away is not going to work during the rest of the cruise. How should my processing job go? God must be kidding me. I didn't completely believe that until the ship IT guy confirmed that disk was physically dead. We can hear "click-click" sound when trying to boot up computer from that harddisk. Calm down, and things can't happen with no reason. Our Carina workstation for seismic processing has been used for quite a while as we can tell from that fact that it's a Pentium 4 machine, and lots of read and write occur since its 2007 when dealing with seismic data typically on the order of GB even TB. I think it's kind of time for its life. However, should it crash at this bad timing when I do need it to work during the middle of the cruise? No processing work from now on till cruise ends? Bad luck is the first word that comes to my mind. But wait! Or I'd better say destiny, fate, or I should have realized that in advance and I should have been better prepared. The last one sounds more practical. Fortunately, we do have a back-up plan on that, which is to use the ship server computer to process data. It has ProMAX installed and 16 CPUs and 24G RAM and multi-screens. Ooooh~! Gig'em again~! Big pressure relief. All I need to do is to bring my external hard drive and plug it in the server, and then go. Furthermore, now I am able to copying raw data and loading them in ProMAX at the same time, which is not gonna work on Carina due to its low computer configuration. But it will still take hours to have raw data set up and take days to complete processing work. Because, again, Langseth is collecting high resolution seismic data with 36 airguns and 468 channels. Huge dataset, I mean. Nevertheless, later on, hopefully during our transit back to Honolulu, we will see what seismic images we can have after processing and what geology stories can be revealed over Shatsky Rise.

Pictures are showing the multi-screens and its black rack of ship server.

A good day

It's a bit over three days since we started 'production', i.e., collecting seismic reflection data. It's been quite rough in the past three days, with 6 meters of waves and over 40 knots of winds. The ship was constantly rolling and pitching, and the sky was gray, which was a bit depressing. Sea currents were also against us. We were supposed to cruise at the speed of 4.5 knots (=8.3 km/h), but because of strong currents, we were only able to move at a crawling rate of 2 knots (=3.7 km/h). By the way, the ship itself can of course move at much faster speed (say 10 knots) even with this much of currents, but we're towing a 6-km-long streamer behind us, which records seismic data. In this case, we cannot move faster than 5 knots relative to water; otherwise the streamer would break off from the ship owing to extreme tension.

This slow speed is a big headache for our science, because our time at sea is limited. The Langseth need to get back to Honolulu by April 16th to prepare for the next cruise, and it takes 10 days to go from Shatsky Rise to Honolulu. This means that we need to start packing by April 7th (note: as we'll cross the International Date Line, we'll gain one day during our transit).

Fortunately, however, the weather seems to be improving. Maybe just for now, but I still feel great today. Also, we just changed our direction and turned into a new seismic line, and currents are now helping us; we're moving at 5.5 knots (yeah!).

I'd like to take this opportunity to explain a bit more about our seismic survey (see figure). Yellow lines show where we collected reflection data in the summer of 2010. Pink lines are where we plan to collect data this time. Thin red lines are our actual path, with yellow star denoting our current location. We travelled from Guam (far south) and started shooting at waypoint #1. We just turned waypoint #3 and are heading eastward, crossing Ori Massif, which is the second largest feature in Shatsky Rise.

The largest feature is, as you see in the figure, called Tamu Massif. This figure actually shows only the southern half of the entire Shatsky Rise, and there is another massif called Shirshov Massif to the northeast. Tamu, Ori, and Shirshov are all based on the names of institutions, the scientists from which contributed to the mapping of Shatsky Rise: Texas A&M University (TAMU), Ocean Research Institute (ORI) of University of Tokyo in Japan, and Shirshov Institute of Oceanography in Russia. By the way, Shatsky Rise itself is named after a Soviet geologist, Nikolay Shatsky.

The scientist from Texas A&M in this case is our Will Sager (who is unfortunately not here). When I was a masters student in Japan many years ago, I studied at ORI, and some scientists there collaborated with Will (though I never met him then). When I chose to investigate Shatsky Rise, I did so for purely scientific reasons, but it was interesting to find out that the degree of separation between Will and myself was just two. And it's exciting to shooting over the place named after my former institution!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Since this is my first post, I will begin by introducing myself. My name is Adrià (“ah-dree-Ah”), that written accent on top of the last A (à) meaning that stress falls on that last syllable. I hope this is helpful to those struggling a little bit with my first name. In the next post, I will discuss the Spanish issue with surnames, aka the First and Second Last Names Paradox. But I was introducing myself: (Hopefully) I'm on the last year (and a half) of my PhD degree, which focuses on travel time tomography (TTT). TTT is a method used to model wide-angle seismic data, which produces P-wave velocity models of the Earth subsurface usually reaching down to the upper mantle. Additionally, it may also be possible to define the geometry of strong geological discontinuities such as the top of the basement under a sedimentary layer, the interface between the two plates in a subduction or the Moho. Together with Jun, I've been developing a 3-D version of his code for TTT (tomo2d), and before I had also applied tomo2d to data acquired offshore Nicaragua to image the subduction zone. Jun invited me to this cruise to discuss the next steps in the development of the 3-D TTT code (tomo3d), and of course to help as a stand watcher. This is my fourth cruise, and although I don't particularly like ships, it wasn't exactly hard to make up my mind about this one when I learned that I would have the opportunity to visit Guam and Hawaii, and that I would be able to complete a trip around the world (Barcelona - London - Tokyo - Guam - Hawaii - San Francisco - Toronto - Vienna - Barcelona).

But enough of science for today. I'm told that April 1st is April Fools' Day. Although in Spanish-speaking countries the equivalent celebration is on December 28th ("Día de los Inocentes"), in the Spanish Balearic island of Menorca, April Fools' Day is also celebrated on April 1st and known as "Dia d'enganyar", Catalan for "Fooling Day". In order to honor such a special day as this, I added a false fact somewhere in this post. You can make your guess, and either tell me in person or on a comment to this post.

Despite the first days of uneasy feeling in the stomach and the occasional rush to the toilet (we all know why), so far the cruise has been fun. I am a proud member of the A-Team, most commonly known as Team Awesome, alongside Sam and Cécilia. As such, I've already been invited to a couple of parties by Bern and Dave from the science tech crew. The first one was a Streamer Party, nothing illegal, no online streaming to watch TV series on the Internet, just a bunch of guys deploying the 6-km-long cable used to acquire multichannel seismic data. The second one included the same bunch of guys, some more coming and going of cables, and a guest star which goes by the name of Maggie (the magnetic sensor). For some reason, it stopped working and we had to recover it, change its cable, and put it back in the water. Even if it's cold outside, it's good to go up on deck from time to time, to escape the laboratory (actually a little bit too cold as well) and its screens (how many?) for a while. A mysterious and remarkable inhabitant of the lab, is the 8 ball. The old tales say that it can foretell everything, so I asked whether I would be marrying my girlfriend anytime soon, and the answer was positive. Now, I'm planning to ask my girlfriend to marry me during our mini-holidays in Hawaii.

Finally, I'd like to send out there a request for shelter for the first night in Hawaii. I'm staying until the 20th but, knowing that on the first night we may sleep on the ship and that my girlfriend arrives the following day, I only booked a hotel for the other three nights. Any ideas on a place to crash or any advice will be much appreciated. I already have a list which includes beach (every day) and surfing lesson(s?), but I'm probably missing some sightseeing, for instance, an excursion to a crater.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

End of Week ONE

            It has been one full week living on this ship. The first few days were all about getting adjusted to our new work, sleep, and food schedule. However, for some of us it was mostly about getting used to the constant back and forth, side to side, up and down motion, the narrow hallways, steep steps, and the smell of diesel and exhaust. Yup, it’s called sea sickness and it’s got power! Ginger pills, Dramamine, ear patches, crackers and hydration provide minimal help when nothing can stay in your stomach. Time is the cure. Bern keeps telling us, “It takes a few days to get your sea legs.” Conveniently, it seems everybody has their sea legs just in time for the deployment of the streamer. It was a success and now the real science is being conducted and everybody is excited and alert.
The work is very interesting and can get dirty when we have to go outside. I love seeing 36 working computers in the main lab in which each of them serve an important purpose. Every day, we (watch standers) hope none of them flash RED alerts because that means we have a problem that we need to fix immediately. So far, we have learned how to report, log, and (to some extent) fix the minor problems. We let the pros teach us their expertise. However, today we brought in String 4 onboard so the crew could fix it, test it and deploy it again. It took a little over an hour. In my opinion, we haven’t had any serious problems yet (knock on wood) because the crew is efficient and they fix everything exceptionally fast.  
 Personally, I love living on a ship where I get fed three times a day by awesome cooks and I don’t even have to do the dishes. Sleeping is extremely easy because I feel it’s like being rocked like a baby in a cradle. Working in the lab can get boring, but that is good because it means everything is working the way it should! As for entertainment, the theater has a ridiculous amount of movies and tv shows, the sunsets are beautiful, and the middle of the pacific ocean is a great place to get some serious reading done.
            I have to mention that I really enjoy the company of our crew. Everyone seems friendly, considerate, positive, and very good at what they do. We will see how the next weeks progress because rumor has it that people get a little crazy or weird after being on a ship for an extended amount of time! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Streamer Deployment

“You’d better to go back and wear some warmer clothes. Because we are going to work outside. ” Patrick said to me when it’s our turn to be on duty. “Oh, here we go.  It has finally come.  We are just going to deploy the streamer. ” How exciting we are !
Sinking into the chairs and staring at these screens in the main lab, without doubt, will make you feel boring and tired. By contrast, working outside is more interesting. However, streamer deployment is not so easy as I have imagined. We have to pull it out and lay it on the deck, check it up, repair it, twist it back, and then pull it out again to deploy it into the ocean. At the same time, we need to install birds (streamer depth controller) on it in certain interval to control the depth. It is really a busy and tiring night. Sometimes, I almost can’t feel my arms because of the long-time lifting of the streamer. But we also have fun. I really appreciate Mergon’s kind smile and Mike’s pose when he smoke the cigar. That’s pretty cool! Moreover, we learn a lot from them. I even learned how to loose the screw with a drill (auger). Thanks a lot!
It was already daybreak when we finished deploying streamer 1. At the same time, people downstairs deployed the air guns and some other equipments. Everything goes well and maybe our new journey just start. Langseth has started to shoot seismic lines, which means our seismic survey started. We believe we will collect valuable data this time. Let's do it!

I am Yanming Huang, a Phd student of Oceanography from Texas A&M university. I just came to United States about two monthes ago. I will work on using magnetic and gravity data to interpret the geological nature of Shatsky Rise. It’s a pity that I missed last cruise which collected a lot of magnetic data. However, I am also interested in seismic data and I will enjoy this cruise.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Two large 'FRAGILE' signs on the suitcase

Oh so carefully I peeled away the layers of bubble wrap that bound the computer. The large iMac had traveled from College Station to Guam in a suitcase of venerable strength and hardness of equal proportion. Would it emerge from its protective cocoon more spectacular than before? No! Fate would not have it. And as the last of the wrapping came undone, Yan Ming let out a bone chilling cry so cold it sounded as if it were notes played on the keys of a piano made of frozen windex. The machine had been swaddled more carefully than baby Moses being sent down the Nile, but lo! the iMac held a large crack running down its glass screen.
But wait! Could the computer still work?! With great haste we plugged the power cable into the machine. The world held its breath. Yes!! All was not lost! The iMac did indeed turn on. Unbent, unbowed, unbroken, the computer's screen shined bright with the burning passion of a thousand suns! The iMac cried out - 'I am a beautiful animal! I am a destroyer of worlds!' - and at last, the world was quiet.

Life in the lab with Magic 8 Ball

[Ed. note: He says to just call him 8.]

Hey there! 8 here hanging out in the main lab on the Langseth. We’ve been in transit to the study site for a few days so there hasn’t been much excitement around here (yet). Well, unless you count the first day out when there were people... experiencing unpleasantness. All over the ship. Thankfully, that seems to be over now.

So, I pretty much just hang out in the lab all the time, ready to offer my insight whenever it’s needed to help the people make important decisions. It’s a key role, let me tell you. Mainly, we keep track of the navigation, seafloor mapping devices, sea conditions, wind conditions, and such. It’s been pretty smooth going thus far – I haven’t gone rolling around too much. Pretty soon we’ll be starting up the airguns and getting the hydrophone streamer deployed so then it will be a bit busier in here. I just hope it doesn’t get too crazy – don’t want to get knocked onto the floor. Oh- hold on. I’m being consulted.

Question: Should I go up to the mess for another cookie?

Is she serious? –sigh- Well, first of all, people hardly ever give me enough information to work with. How many cookies has this person already had? Is she supposed to be on a diet? What kind of cookies are we talking about? I’ll bet she just wants someone to confirm her desire for another cookie. I’m not so sure I should be encouraging that sort of thing, though. But then again, what’s it to me if she can’t fit into her pants anymore?

Answer: Signs point to yes.

I like that one. See, then it’s the fault of the “signs,” not me, if this person gets fat. Ha ha! Covering my butt (if I had one)!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, upcoming excitement when we start shooting. I have to be ready in case the people need to ask me about airgun pressures or streamer channel testing – stuff like that. Wait a sec – I’m being consulted again.

Question: Should we go deploy a XBT now?

Well, we do need to do that at some point today. Oh, and for the uninitiated, he means an expendable bathythermograph (measures ocean temperature). The hydrosweep bathymetry mapping system uses the XBT data to know what the speed of the acoustic source is through the water at different depths. Still, do it now or wait a while?

Answer: Reply hazy, try again.

I like to mess with them sometimes, heheh. Ok, ok, he’s asking again. All right, fine.

Answer: Yes, definitely.

So, you see what my day is like here. Highly important consultations, non-stop. And we haven’t even gotten to the study site yet. Speaking of consultations-

Question: Will there be cheeseburgers at dinner tonight?

I happen to know that we just had them for lunch yesterday. Plus, there’s a menu board that tells you what we are going to have. Jeez, people, think before asking me silly questions like that.

Answer: My sources say no.

Ok, I’d better sign off since I keep getting interrupted. One last question: Will I return to write (challenging job without hands, by the way) another entry later in the cruise?

Answer: Better not tell you now.

(Ha ha! Gotcha!)

(Ok, just kidding.)

Answer: Most likely.

Well, maybe. We’ll see. I might be too busy. Anyway, that’s all for now.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nearly on site

Ship travel is the way of the tortoise. Slow and steady. Each day we are a couple degrees latitude closer to our destination - the enormous Shatsky Rise. I notice the days lengthening as we move North. Our responsibilities have been minimal until now, but tomorrow evening we begin deploying the streamer, and things should become very busy. I enjoy refining the resolution of the Knudsen, a crude seismic-like sounding device that can image a few tens of meters of sediment at the seafloor. However, the ship also provides a good environment to be productive in writing up my own research. The deep blue of the endless expanse of water is mesmerizing. I sometimes join the wildlife watchers in searching the expanse for signs of life, wondering what lurks beneath the metallic blue sheen. 

Shatsky Rise and large igneous provinces

One more day, and we'll be deploying seismic gears, i.e., to be ready for a seismic survey over Shatsky Rise. In case you've just started to follow this blog lately, I'd like to explain (briefly) why we're taking so much pain to get to this place called Shatsky Rise. First of all, there are some unusual regions called "Large igneous provinces" on this planet, which are highlighted by red in the map shown here. These provinces have very thick crust, meaning that they are products of intensive volcanic activities in the past. The western Pacific is particularly loaded with quite a few massive oceanic plateaus such as Ontong Java Plateau, Shatsky Rise, and Hess Rise, all of which are classified as large igneous provinces. One of the biggest problems in earth sciences right now is why and how these provinces are formed. Shatsky Rise, for example, is as big as the state of California, and geologically speaking, it was formed nearly instantly. The scale of volcanism is thus much more substantial than our familiar volcanoes. The formation of these oceanic plateaus represents extreme events in Earth's history, but nobody is sure why we have such things to begin with. Of course, we have hypotheses and speculations, and people are debating endlessly who is right, but here's a fact: we just don't have good enough data to test any hypothesis with confidence.

So, this is why we're sailing to Shatsky Rise and get some deeply-penetrating seismic data, which will help us distinguish between various ideas. But wait a minute. Why did we choose to study Shatsky, instead of other plateaus? We have several good reasons, and one of them is that we already know that the rise was formed at a ridge-ridge-ridge triple junction (situations about other plateaus are much more ambiguous). If you don't know about this geological jargon, don't worry. In this context, it just means that this special geological setting allows us to interpret seismic data in a very simple way. Getting clear-cut data is vital, especially when people have been debating for so many years.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The team "awesome"

Sam, Cécilia and Adria

It’s eleven o’clock and it’s the team "awesome" which is at the controls. What is this unbelievable team? The team "awesome" is an international group composed of Sam, the Chinese, Adria, the Spanish and me, Cécilia, the French. Our shift is from 4PM to 12AM. As we are still traveling to Shatsky Rise (right now, we are approximately at 26° 154°E), we aren’t really busy and we have to find fun activities to stay awake. And so far, we have always been inspired. For example, last night we played cards and the loser had to execute a punishment like find a camera on the ship in a limited time and make a sign to others in the science lab, keep one’s balance during one minute… not easy on the ship (believe me), or keep in mind 15 words without any connection. Now when you say « chocolate» to Sam he will reply instinctively « computer »!

My name is Cécilia Cadio. I received a PhD from Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris. Since August 2011, I am postdoc at Yale and I work with Jun Korenaga. My current research focuses on the thermal structure of the oceanic lithosphere and on its interaction with the underlying geodynamical processes from gravity and bathymetry data. Although my research is not related to the study of the Shatsky Rise, I’m really happy to take part to this research cruise and to learn new things about seismics. Moreover, I come from Brittany, a land of sailors… and the best region in the world. So I could not resist to the call of the sea!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A message from the South Atlantic

Hello readers, this is Will and I am almost exactly half a world away from Langseth. You may have seen in other blogs that I am one of the PIs on the Shatsky seismic project, was there for the previous cruise of Langeth in 2010, and was supposed to be there this time. Unfortunately, ship scheduling did not permit it because I ended up with two cruises scheduled for the same time. I am currently on the R/V Melville in the south Atlantic Ocean where we have just wrapped up our work investigating the Walvis Ridge seamounts. I am at 35°S and 1°W, almost exactly at the spot half-way around the world from Shatsky Rise. Although we have just finished our work, it will take Melville about 4 days to get back to land because we are in the middle of the ocean. By that time, Langseth should be shooting seismic lines.

I had hoped to be onboard Langseth for this cruise, which is an extra cruise for our project because the last one had much bad luck and could not finish our seismic lines, even with 60 days at sea. For a while, it looked like I might have 24 hours to get from Cape Town to Yokohama (the original starting place for the Langseth cruise), but ship schedules shifted and the two cruises overlapped. There are many considerations in setting up ship schedules and PI schedules is only one of them. After 49 days at sea on the Melville, I’m not sure how useful I would be to my colleagues on Langseth because I have been working all that time without a break and I am very tired and my brain is about fried. When you are a PI on a cruise, you typically work 12 hours a day. Ship operations may not take your complete attention, so I am often working on writing a paper or a chapter for my textbook, but you need to be there and watching all the time so that if something goes wrong or a decision has to be made, you are on top of it. So for the last 45 days, I get up in the morning and have coffee, go workout, spend 12 hours or more in the lab, go to bed, and repeat. My biggest source of entertainment is to read a paperback novel for a little while before I fall asleep. Oceanographic cruises are very demanding, but there is no other way to get the data that we seek so far from land.

Getting time on the Langseth is huge for a marine geophysicist. We spend years writing grant proposals in hopes that we will be one of the lucky ones to get a cruise (which we hope to be able to go on). The Langseth is our “telescope” for seeing deep into the Earth to help unravel its secrets. Previous cruises to Shatsky Rise had only small-source, single channel seismic profiling equipment, so they could only see through the sediments to the top of the igneous rock (we often call it “basement”). With Langseth’s large airgun array and multichannel streamer, we have a system that can bounce sound waves off horizons that are many kilometers deep – and this can tell us about the structure of the Shatsky Rise volcanoes, which helps us to figure out how they formed. I will be following Jun and my students and hoping that the cruise will be successful. I know that they are in good hands with the Langseth seismic techs who are really good at what they do.

(posted on behalf of Will Sager)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hello, Mariana

Good morning, world. Right now, we are approximately located at 20°N 150°E. This is the first blog that I have ever written so we will see how it goes. My name is Teddy Them and I am finishing my MS in Oceanography at Texas A&M University. After several weeks of contemplation, on the first day of this cruise I decided to accept an offer from Virginia Tech to begin a PhD this August. My current research at Texas A&M involves reconstructing past climate conditions by analyzing the geochemical properties and abundances of fossil foraminifera recovered from Florida Straits sediment cores. While at Virginia Tech, I will study the geochemistry, stratigraphy, and sedimentology of organic-rich shales deposited during the Early Jurassic in what is now British Columbia. Although my research is not related to the current cruise mission, I am interested in seismics and was given the opportunity by Will Sager (Co-PI) to be a watchstander on MGL1206.

Right now, my duties include logging coordinates and ocean conditions every 30 minutes and monitoring some of the equipment by constantly checking the monitors for anything abnormal. As you can see from the picture, this is enough to keep us all busy. I share my duties with Tanya (postdoc at the University of Wyoming) and Heidi (undergraduate at the University of Hawaii), who will also blog later this week. Because we are still traveling to Shatsky Rise, stress levels are low. However, I’m sure when we start the science portion of the cruise everything will change. Luckily, our shift is from 8AM to 4 PM, which gives us time to see every sunrise and sunset, something I am trying to advantage of each morning and evening.

Yesterday, we crossed the Mariana Trench, which I hope was a momentous occasion for all of us; it definitely was for me. This trench formed (and continues to form) because the Pacific Plate is slowly colliding with and subducting beneath the Mariana Plate, a process which has been occurring for millions of years. The result of this geologic process is an area home to the deepest part of the ocean, a section of the Mariana Trench called Challenger Deep. To celebrate crossing the trench, we tried to get as many of the crew as possible to sign a metal plate (see picture). For this occasion, I was given the opportunity to throw the commemorative plate off the ship and into the deep hadal zone some 8500 meters, or 5.3 miles, below us! Sam recorded the video as I tossed the plate off the ship and I’m sure I will enjoy that for a very long time. The seafloor is continuously being imaged by utilizing multibeam bathymetry data (you can see Mariana Trench in the middle of the picture).

I guess that's all I have to say for now. I look forward to updating everyone next week after we begin science operations.

Shatsky, see you in five days!

Since we started our voyage (#MGL1206) on R/V Marcus G. Langseth from Guam in the morning of Mar 24, 2012, it will take us about five days transit to the research site: Shatsky Rise. This is Sam writing this blog, a PhD student from Texas A&M university. Exciting to visit Shatsky again this year. Yes, I say "again" because I sailed on Langseth for 60 days in 2010, shooting seismic over Shatsky Rise. Actually, this cruise is a second leg of the 2010 cruise to finish up the multi-channel seismic data collection. I have been working with Dr Will Sager since fall 2009, in a study of the structure of Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau for my PhD degree. As you can tell from the above, I am kind of familiar with Shatsky Rise, R/V Marcus G. Langseth and seismic research cruise. One thing I can tell you is that Shatsky Rise is interesting enough to study due to various scientific rationale. As one of the largest oceanic plateau around the world, Shatsky Rise is important to exploring processes of basaltic volcanism and the formation and evolution of oceanic plateaus. However, it's poorly understood because it's submarine and in remote location from land, which makes it difficult to sample and study. But science is going on and that's why we are trying hard to acquire geophysical data in order to reveal the mysterious facts inside Shatsky Rise.

I will process the multi-channel seismic (MCS) data during this cruise with the help of ProMAX, which is a popular seismic processing program in industry. I still can remember my first time to use ProMAX to process marine seismic data is when I was on Langseth in 2010. Comparing to conventinal land seismic data processing which I used to work on before I came to US, marine seismic is relatively simpler. But we still need to be very careful to make sure things working well. Anyway, I have already got the experience on how to process MCS data from 2010 cruise, what I am going to do for this cruise is to basically apply the same flows and repeat the work once again.

Here is a picture showing the processing workstation I set up in the main lab on Langseth ship, and we named it Carina. It's sitting there quietly right now and waiting for the MCS data coming in after 5-day transit to the site.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Langseth sailed off

In the morning of March 23rd, I was able to meet successfully the rest of the science party and then headed to the U.S. Navy Base, where Langseth was located, and at 8 a.m. of March 24th, we finally sailed off to Shatsky Rise. It's really exciting to be back to Langseth, seeing all of these highly capable people.

Here I'd like to introduce our science party (shown above, without myself). From left to right, Yanming, Sam, Patrick, Heidi, Adria, Joey, Tanya, Teddy, and Cecilia. This is quite a diverse group. Yanming, Sam, Joey, and Teddy are from Texas A&M, Patrick, Cecilia, and myself from Yale, Adria from University of Barcelona, Tanya from University of Wyoming, and Heidi from University of Hawaii. This cruise is a collaboration between Yale (Jun Korenaga) and Texas A&M (Will Sager), but Will couldn't make it to the cruise because he's on a different cruise right now. I was initially planning to bring more Yale people, but some of them couldn't come, so Will and I looked for other places for watchstanders. I asked them to take turns and post a blog, so you'll read a lot more about them shortly.

By the way, when I got to my stateroom, I had a nice surprise from the previous chief scientist. There was a note on the desk with two bags of coffee beans, which reads "Jun, hope you have a productive and successful cruise! - Nathan Miller (chief sci. on MGL1205)." What a nice thing to do! Thank you so much, Nathan.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Leg 2 will start soon

OK, it's time to restart the blog. Leg 2 of Shatsky cruise will start on March 24th, 2012. This time R/V Marcus G. Langseth departs from Guam and arrives at Honolulu, Hawaii. I flew in Guam last night (very late, after 1AM). By the way, for those who are new to this blog, I'm Jun Korenaga, professor of geophysics at Yale, and the chief scientist of the upcoming cruise MGL1206.

I had never been to Guam, so this is my first time of being here. Actually, the original Shatsky cruise (Leg 1) was supposed to start from Guam, but because of several happenings which I'd like to forget and actually don't remember well any more, it was changed to depart from Honolulu (and end in Honolulu as well if you remember).

I found Guam kind of attractive. Not really crowded like Oahu, and quite calm. Maybe just because it's not a tourist season yet. Guam's economy is supported by tourism, which is composed mainly of visitors from Japan, and Japanese spring break won't start until next week. By the way, the photo above was taken from my hotel room. A cape-like feature in the middle is called Two Lovers Point. Sounds like a romantic place to visit, but I have a bunch of things to do before the cruise...

Until very recently, I thought Guam was part of the US. Well, it's a US territory, but I didn't realize that shipping to Guam from the mainland US was regarded as international. I was planning to ship a special kind of magnetometer to be used in this cruise, and asked the shipping department with a two-week notice. The magnetometer turned out to be a bit too expensive (as an international shipment), and a lot of paperwork was needed to 'export' it to Guam. To my greatest dismay, the shipping department couldn't ship it in time (darn!). What a hell, but this cruise is primarily a seismic cruise, so I can live with that.

Another, perhaps more critical problem is that my cell phone doesn't work in Guam, which I just found out last night. Doesn't AT&T have a coverage here? My plan is to meet the rest of the science party tomorrow morning and then leave for the naval base (where Langseth is located) together. I hope I'll see everybody then, so there will be no need to use a cell phone!