Hydrothermal Exploration of the Mid-Cayman Rise

Becalmed in Vent-Infested Waters

Chris German
Jun. 20 2013
All dressed up and no place to go: Nereus with a basket full of sampling gear, ready for the dive that didn’t (yet) happen.
All dressed up and no place to go: Nereus with a basket full of sampling gear, ready for the dive that didn’t (yet) happen.Chris German

Today was a taxing day.  Late on Wednesday it became apparent that our test of the winch that we use to lower the depressor vehicle (the one that acts to protect Nereus’ single optical-fiber tether from the waves and energy in the upper ocean) had not gone well.

After 2 hours in the water and a further 30 minute debrief with Casey and the Nereus engineers it became apparent that we were not going to be arriving at the Von Damm site as early as I had at first hoped AND that we would not be arriving on site with a fully working system.

After sleeping on things, the situation didn’t get any better.  At our 8am meeting on the Bridge today it was quickly agreed that we shouldn’t attempt a dive with Nereus at all but, instead, devote the day to trouble-shooting problems.  So, time to check off some boxes of other unfinished work in the Von Damm area – this to include: recovering the navigation beacon we set down on the seafloor west of the Von Damm site, conducting 8-10 hours of swath mapping down to the southern end of the ridge and back and then, in early evening, returning to Von Damm to conduct a CTD cast.  The best laid plans of mice and men?  More like Eddie Izzard’s Jam Trousers ☹

Mostly harmless: Who knew such an innocuous piece of equipment could cause our undoing? We must have walked past this winch several times daily on Leg 1 without giving it a 2nd thought. But it took sterling work by Andy and Nathan to mind-meld this beast into behaving nicely – or at least nicely enough so we can dive.
Mostly harmless: Who knew such an innocuous piece of equipment could cause our undoing? We must have walked past this winch several times daily on Leg 1 without giving it a 2nd thought. But it took sterling work by Andy and Nathan to mind-meld this beast into behaving nicely – or at least nicely enough so we can dive.Chris German

The beacon was located and released almost as soon as we got on site around 10am but then our problems took a new turn: there was a problem with the winch that we use to deploy our small boat Atreyu.  Nothing too bad, but enough that we had to launch the smaller boat to get the beacon back (poor Jill was all set to go out with the boat and take photographs if Atreu had been available) and then we spent the next 4 hours getting things fixed again aboard ship before we could move off again and start mapping.

Indeed, by the time we got to where we had planned to pick up our mapping survey it was already 3pm and by that time our Winch Wranglers, Andy and Nathan (Andy wanted to be called a Winch Whisperer but we could hear him from a ways off at times) were ready to test, cajole, stroke, brow-beat and otherwise do whatever it took to make our winch work.  At 3pm they started their tests and some painstaking fine-tuning with the sun beating down the whole while.  By 5pm they were still there and 6pm too.  But at our end-of-day meeting, just before dinner, Casey was able to relate that they were definitely winning.  The tests needed to continue until 8pm but we should then be all set for a 6am launch tomorrow.  Hooray!!!!

Howdy, Neighbour! Here’s the RV Yokosuka passing by for the first time, just East of the Von Damm vent-site just ahead of sunset tonight. We’re likely going to see plenty more of each other in the next week or so. More on that tomorrow…
Howdy, Neighbour! Here’s the RV Yokosuka passing by for the first time, just East of the Von Damm vent-site just ahead of sunset tonight. We’re likely going to see plenty more of each other in the next week or so. More on that tomorrow…Chris German

At 7pm, we had even further uplifiting news: RV Yokosuka swung by to conduct their own mapping survey of the Von Damm site ready for HOV Shinkai6500 dives in a few days time, when we relocate to the Piccard site.  Tonight was mostly a social call as they turned and headed back the 20 miles or so to the Piccard site where they will dive tomorrow.  Meantime, we finally did get to start some of our mapping survey around 8:30pm tonight and now all is set to be back at the Von Damm site ready for our first ROV Nereus dive of this cruise, starting at 06h00  eastern tomorrow.

Here’s hoping for a great dive and, also – naturally – that you’ll join us.


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