The Ronald Brown is alive and moving. The Tech. Rep. is off the boat and we are headed away from the Panama City waterfront. We're going to steam directly towards the WHOI buoy at the fastest speed we can talk the captain into running. We're looking to make 12 knots or better. Once we see what our performance is like - fuel efficiency, the effect of winds and currents, and whatnot - we'll be able to figure out or maximum speed and compute ETAs for our various objectives and we'll be able to figure out how much science we can conduct with the time we have.
We spent most of today holding station off of Panama City. We moved in closer this evening and anchored in anticipation of the arrival of the Tech. Rep. who is supposed to help us with our mechanical issues. He was actually supposed to arrive already. If he is on board he's either part ninja and I didn't notice his arrival or he could have just not walked through the main lab. My being oblivious to my surrounding may also be a factor. I really hope he isn't part ninja. If he is the whole crew may be only moments away from death.
Anyway, while we still have ship issues, we at least had a lovely sunset this evening. As the sun set, it illuminated the high cirrus clouds bright pink and orange. If you're reading this and taking MEA 213, now would be a good time to have a discussion about different cloud types and Rayleigh scattering.
My cabin for the VOCALS cruise is in the forward berthing area below the main deck of the Ronald Brown. My cabin isn't very far from the bow thruster at the front of the ship. The bow thruster is basically just another drive motor and it can push the bow of the ship left and right. It's typically used for precision maneuvering when docking and leaving a pier and it's used to aid in holding station. To hold station means to keep the boat in one place and not to let it drift around with currents, winds, and tides. Like I said, my cabin isn't very far from the bow thruster and we were holding station off Panama City last night. That means that every few minutes throughout the night I could hear the bow thruster turn on so it could nudge the boat back into it's place.
So, now the obvious question I'm sure my readers have is, "What's the big deal? It must be loud or sound like something interesting." If that is your question dear reader, your mind is leading you to the correct place.
I can't say the bow thruster is loud. The sound insulation down is the berthing areas is decent and it's not going to wake you up from a deep sleep. However, if you are already awake, it will catch your attention. The reason it will catch your attention is mainly because of what it sounds like. When the bow thruster turns on it sounds like someone dumping thousands of gallons of water from one container into another right in the next room. It's one of those unique sounds that you only encounter somewhere like a ship at sea. When you're on a ship and sea and you hear anything that sounds like rapidly running water, the intelligent part of your brain lags just a fraction of a second in overriding the more primitive part of your brain that thinks the boat may be sinking and that you should probably act on that information. As a result, it took me a little while to go to sleep last night because I more or less had to force myself mentally into a less alert or wary state. Of course, being sleepy helped that process along.
Usually in the afternoon, there are several members of both the science party and the crew that enjoy fishing off the back of the ship in their free time. Usually, they don't catch anything, but yesterday was an exception. One of the crew members, Ricardo, caught a very nice dolphin (fish, not Flipper). Ricardo was quite excited and the Chief Steward, Richard, cleaned and filleted the the fish then fried it up for lunch today. It was a nice turn of events on an otherwise unfortunate day.
Ricardo with his dolphin
The dolphin awaiting the knife of the Chief Steward
Well, the Ronald Brown is heading back to Panama. The engineering staff still doesn't have a handle on the cause of the problem with the Z-axis drive controllers so we're headed back to port where we're going to meet a Tech. Rep. that is being flown down. Who says things aren't interesting on the high seas?
Despite the mechanical problems which aren't fixed yet and have the captain looking quite apologetic, science continues. We started launching balloons at 12:00 UTC and the data from the first launch is plotted.
Ronald H Brown Balloon Sounding - 20081015 - 12:00 UTC
6.2915 N, 80.7075 W
Boy did I ever wake up to chaos this morning. At around 3:30 last night the starboard Z-axis drive starting spinning of it's own free will and can only be controlled manually. For those of you playing at home, the ship is propelled by two Z-axis drives at the rear of the ship which are basically propeller pods that are able to spin 360 degrees. Right now we're only moving at two knots while the engineers troubleshoot and try to correct the problem so that we get computer controlled steering back.
To add to the problem, one of the condensation drain pumps that drains condensation water from one of the air conditioners quit last night and partially flooded the forward berthing area. So I think everyone can guess what the other half of the engineering staff is doing.
We're still moving south, but very slowly and our schedule is very tight. Hopefully we'll be underway at full speed soon. and our chief scientist doesn't have to worry about not having enough time to do what he needs to do.
This post is just a reminder that you can track the movements of the RV Ronald H. Brown and other NOAA ships via: http://shiptracker.noaa.gov.
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