Yesterday we embarked on a 25-day cruise to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It takes a good two days to get to our first marine debris site. Today we are mainly transiting to the northwest, but we don’t get to play shuffleboard to pass the time. At about 2am a HARP was deployed. (Guess I slept through that.) HARP stands for High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package. A string of listening instruments that is deployed near the ocean bottom, in water about 750 meters deep. The HARP is used to monitor marine mammal vocalizations as well as ambient sound. This was one of several add-on projects that the crew of this cruise agreed to do to help out other scientists’ work. We have one other HARP to deploy and will try to get some pictures of that one.
In addition to deploying the HARP, we’re doing conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) casts at several permanent stations along the way. The first one is going to be in about 5 minutes. We slow to a halt, the rosette of instruments and bottles is winched out over the side and dropped to about 500 meters, and then it’s brought back on board. While it’s coming back up, bottles are tripped at specific depths to collect samples, and those water samples are filtered back on board the ship. You can see a more detailed description and photos of the CTD process from a blog entry last spring.
Finally, today is all about getting ready. There have been two safety drills so far: a fire drill required us all to drop what we were doing and head to the muster areas identified on the little tag on each person’s door. Close on the fire drill’s heels was an abandon ship drill. That one’s a little more involved. You go to your cabin and grab a pair of long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, your life jacket, and your survival, or Gumby, suit. The survival suit is modeled below by our electronics technician.
Another way today’s all about getting ready is preparing for operations. Cargo nets were gathered up, laid out, and hosed off. The first photo shows Megan, Andrew, and Tony at work. You can see how ridiculously calm the seas are. In the second, Russell’s hosing, while Marie waits to get past.
We need to be sure that we don’t bring in species from the main Hawaiian Islands that could disrupt a fragile and comparatively pristine ecosystem. So we filled a BIG bucket with a bleach solution and soaked all our equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuits, Buoyancy control devices/BCDs) for a while. Then the cargo nets went in to soak for an hour or so. This type of cleaning requires lots of bleach; fortunately, we brought lots of bleach.
No algae hitching a ride with us! In addition, some folks were gathering their personal items, staging items in the small boats, and making sure the engines are ready to go. With great weather like we’re having, we may be in the water as soon as Friday.