Sunday night, the Ronald Brown went through the Panama Canal. Just about everyone aboard was disappointed that we were not able to make a daylight transit as there is much more to see when the sun was out. Nevertheless, despite starting our trip through the canal an hour or two after sunset, it was still the event to witness on the ship. We lowly scientists were crowding the upper weather decks and taking in the process of crossing mountains in a boat while the ship's crew and the Panama Canal's staff were busy making it happen.
The day started with our arrival to the canal waiting area in the early afternoon. Before you can pass through the canal, there is paperwork to be done, instructions to receive, and, mainly, a lot of waiting to be done. Thus, we spent most of our day holding station in the harbor until we were finally informed that we were next in line to pass right around dusk.
Entering the Panama Canal behind the USS Roberts
The first lock fills
Looking down into the first lock from the second
We made the trip through the lock right behind the USS Roberts. The locks are somewhere around 1000 feet long and both their ship and ours fit with room to spare. The locks themselves, despite the fact that they contain a very large volume, fill very rapidly via gravity fed culverts from Lake Gatun. Each lock takes only a few minutes to fill before you're on to the next one. Passing through the entire canal takes several hours and includes a trip through the inland Lake Gatun. We passed through the canal and finally docked in Rodman, across the channel from Panama City, at 6:00am under the shadow of the Bridge of the Americas. The Bridge of the Americas connects North America and South America.
The Bridge of the Americas and the USS Roberts
Last night we were treated to a very lovely sunset over the ocean. Additionally, opposite the sunset we saw a spectacular display of anti-crepuscular rays. Anti-Crepuscular rays appear to converge on the anti-solar point of the sun. That is the point in the sky directly opposite the sun. Anti-Crepuscular Rays, like crepuscular rays, require clouds to cast shadows in order to generate the effect.
You can read about this and other atmospheric optical phenomena at http://www.atoptics.co.uk/.
Greetings to everyone from the western Caribbean! Currently, the closest land is 4000m beneath my feet.
Today I thought that I would share a little bit more information about life here on the Ronald Brown by telling you about what I've dubbed Science Village, in the spirit of the Olympic Village, or the Ronald Brown's hidden community.
Good morning everyone! Last night we left American territorial waters and entered Cuban waters. At the time of writing this, the Ronald Brown is just north of the far western tip of Cuba. Last night I was treated to a spectacular light show courtesy of thunderstorms over the Cuban mainland. The horizon would be dark before it would explode with light and you could see lightening arc from cloud to cloud across the horizon. Today, we have wonderful weather and the sea hasn't been this calm since we left Charleston.
This morning I thought I would give everyone reading a brief glimpse of my life on the Ronald Brown. The picture you see below is my work area in the main lab. The main lab, as you can see, is long and narrow. It sits on the starboard side of the ship on the main deck and it's almost half the ship's width. I'm working at a table on the far end of the lab on the bow end. The picture below is looking aftward. I'm doing most of my work on the two laptops that you see in the foreground. Both laptop are dual boot systems and I usually keep one running Windows XP and the other running Linux. You'll notice that everything in secured to the tabletop with bungee cords and velcro to prevent the from flying off the table if the sea turns rough. You'll also notice that everything you see in the picture is built to a utilitarian standard with little to no regard for comfort or aesthetics. The Ronald Brown was built to work, not play and everything has to withstand being in an environment that's constantly moving up and down and back and forth.
I plan on putting together additional segments of life and work areas aboard the Ronald Brown, but if anyone has a request of something they'd like to see sooner, make the request in a comment and I'll put something together.
As I mentioned previously, the Ron Brown conducted a sea trial the Saturday before departure to test the ship's equipment in order to make sure everything was in ready-to-sail condition. As we were leaving the Cooper River on the north side of Charleston heading out towards the ocean, I noticed something interesting. Over the city you could see a band of dark haze trapped in a thin layer relatively close to the ground. As you can see in the picture below, it's a layer of pollution that's trapped under the remains of the nocturnal inversion that sits on top of the growing boundary layer. You can click on the image to see a larger version. I've edited the image with Photoshop in order to increase the contrast a bit and make the feature more obvious on a computer screen.
We did a test balloon sounding launch today just before lunchtime to test the sounding equipment and familiarize some potential balloon launchers with the processes. Balloon soundings, for the unfamiliar, measure temperature, humidity, and winds with respect to height for a given location. The whole process is fairly straight forward. You prep the sonde, fill the balloon, attach the sonde to the balloon, and the hardest part, release the balloon in such a manner that it doesn't go flying into some part of the ship. If it's windy and the ship is moving fast, like it was today, this can be difficult. However, we had an incident free launch and we got good data back, a plot of which you can see below. By the way, if any one knows how to make a skew-T log-P plot in Excel please let me know how.
Data from the first VOCALS sounding.
I just discovered that the Ronald H. Brown is now showing its proper location on the NOAA Ship Tracker website. So now you readers at home should be able to track the movements of the ship during the VOCALS cruise.
I just noticed that the NOAA Ship Tracker webpage isn't showing the Ronald Brown's current position or meteorological data. I don't know what's wrong, but the ship's Science Liaison Officer is supposed to be informed so the cause can be investigated. So, for an update, the ship is at 31° 20.460'N 80° 33.225'W as of 19:37 EDT (23:37 UTC). That puts the ship off the Georgia coast not too far north of the border with Florida.
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