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!