January 8 2016, 1:30 PM, Fremantle: we have set sail for our adventure! We are surrounded by storms. Thunders and lightnings are all around us, as a reminder that we are not going towards pleasant waters.. But the excitement is strong and smiles are on every single face!
These last 2.5 days have seen about 30 scientists plus 30 people from the ship crew, voyage manager, marine technicians all working as super busy bees, loading and securing every single peace of gear aboard; assembling instruments together and testing that they were working properly, etc. We will collect biological, chemical and physical data! We will follow eddies (vortexes in the ocean that mix waters around), currents, look at ocean properties (such as temperature, salinity, chlorophyll) to determine interesting locations for scientific objectives. We will chase submarine volcanoes and constantly mapping the seafloor. I will talk about the different instruments and projects on this voyage in the following posts, so stay tuned!
On my side, one of the tasks that I've been doing during these days of preparation was to work side by side with Rick Rupan from the University of Washington in Seattle (UW) (the guy in the photo, holding a float outside the rail of the back deck), to "welcome and take care of" the SOCCOM floats! We have 2 different types of floats on this voyage: Apex and Navis. Rick's team is THE one who assembles and tests the different sensors on the Apex at the Float Lab of UW!! One of the sensors, specifically the pH, has been projected and built by a collaboration between a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) lead by Ken Johnson (they received Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRICE funds for that!!!), Seabird Electronics and Honeywell. What do we need the pH sensor for? Check the blog in few days and you will find that out! ;-)
Those tall (taller than me for sure… I'm 5 feet 4". I'm the one taking a selfie in front of 4 floats), skinny, yellow, cylindric guys in the photos are some of the Apex floats. They have a weight of approximately 28 kg (~ 62 pounds), that means I can easily lift it and carry it around (on a stable floor.. with rough weather I'll have someone with me helping out). On these floats, there are instruments that measure different properties in the ocean (such as temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen, nitrate, chlorophyll) and a battery with a life expectation of 5-7 years (lots and lots of data!! yay!!). Because of those sensors, a float cost a lot (order of US$ 80,000!!! whoa!!).
The Navis type (we have 2 of them) is basically the same as Apex, but these floats are built by Seabird Electronics and have also the capability to go under sea ice! There is a large chance that we will have these floats under ice very soon.
How does a float behave? Well, once it is carefully put in water by us from the back of the ship, it will soon sink down to 1000 m, drifting with the currents for approximately 9 days, then descending down to 2000 m to start profiling and then going back to the surface while collecting measurements. Once it's at the surface, it will send the stored data back to land via satellite, using the antenna that it has at the top of its head.
Ok, I think it's enough for today.. otherwise I will reveal all the secrets in one go! ;-)
Last words: this will be a fantastic cruise, I have no doubt, and will be carefully documented by a group of artists that include photographers and videographers! I'm so proud of being part of such a project, that put together so many ocean rock-stars! And to add even more excitement: this will be the first long voyage for the RV Investigator.. how cool!!