It’s Science Time!

First off, we’re fine. Folks have been pinging me off the wire about the Alaska earthquake. We were about 200 miles offshore when it hit, and it turns out that on a boat in deep water is exactly where you want to be in any earthquake. Even the biggest tsunami is just a little ripple at sea – it’s only when it gets to shallow water that things get ugly.

Even better, out on a boat in deep water is where we get to finally do some Science(tm)! Our chief scientist, Eric D’Asaro, is with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab, and he’s interested in how ocean currents flow and mix. The main point of this cruise is to go out and retrieve some floats and gliders that have been bobbing around the gulf for the past [x] months and deploy some new ones in their places. We’ve got Mike and Avery from APL heading up the back deck work with the able assistance of Sikuliaq’s crew, and Melanie and Alexis heading up the “wet” work, drawing samples from the CTDs we’re doing at the pickup spots for calibration. (A CTD is nominally a “conductivity-temperature-depth” probe you lower from a winch, but in practice here, their main value is the water samples they bring back from each depth you stop at.)

Between patching places where my code crashes, I’ve been trying to help out with the CTD work, rinsing sample bottles with deep undersea water, filling them, rinsing them and filling them again. About three times per bottle, four bottles per depth, 24 depths per CTD cast. Nobody tells you that it’s a good idea to use the bathroom before you start pouring all that water around.

We’ve managed to uneventfully retrieve one float and one glider so far. None of the drama that I’d seen other times, though it sounds like my experience on the NBP was not uncommon. It seems that everyone on board has their own story of having to chase down a rogue glider entering territorial waters, or sucking one through the main screws while trying to maneuver for a pickup.

The view from here

And the weather’s holding. Knock on a bulkhead, but our lyrical meteorologist suggests we will “continue to be lulled to sleep” by a “guardian high pressure system” that’s buffering us. West and to the south, in the Aleutians, there’s the veritable definition of snotty weather brewing, with fifty foot waves and 75 kt winds. We’re gonna stay away from that, just sayin’.

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