When I was growing up, my older brother Tim used to enjoy explaining how any adverse conditions that you lived through could be ascribed to being character building. I therefore present to you the team aboard RVFalkor: with our characters further developed.
The day started very well – into the dry lab at 05h30 to confirm that the 30 minute notice had been sent to the Bridge that all was on track for an 06h00 launch. Then we lost the rope that has the pull pin on it: a very simple implmenet but essential for rigging and deploying the vehicle. Was that really something that happened today? It seems such a long, long time ago.
Anyway, we found the pull pin (Chris T thinks Andy may have slept with it under his pillow, it is so precious) and off we went. Or not. We had Nereus out hanging under the A-frame when the message came that we had to stop: Nereus’ descent weight had broken loose and headed off to the seafloor without Nereus attached: a bit too keen to see the vent sites! We brought Nereus back on deck and 15 minutes later we were ready to go. Or not.
A more significant issue this time: we had Nereus swung back out under the A-frame but this time we had inadvertently caught the umbilical tether that connects Nereus back to the ship within the A-frame mechanism. In the control room all we knew was that all the light from the cameras instantly went out. Out on deck, what Casey and the gang knew was that our umbilical had been squished like a Panini in a George Foreman Grill (or a sandwich in a Breville Sandwich Toaster for those reading in Europe!). Either way, it was flat in the way that a cylindrical shaped thing should never be.
I feared the worst and another day without a dive. To give the Nereusteam time to take stock, we started with a missed CTD from the day before which landed right over the Von Damm vent-site, generated huge signals on Ko-ichi’s Eh sensor, and was a delight to Max’s eyes as we tripped all 24 bottles in the plume so that he could filter samples for his planned lipid analyses back ashore. Progress, of at least one sort. In the meantime Casey advised that repairs (or, rather, replacement) of the squished umbilical cable were already well underway and we should be ready to go again by 11am. I couldn’t quite believe it but sure enough, by 11am the ship was moving back on station and by around 11:30 we were launching Nereus for the 3rd time since sun-up. Wow. This time all went well and we slowly descended to the seabed.
We arrived on bottom at around 1pm and the rest of the day went rather like a dream. Nereus landed in just the right place, drove forward through the water column until it landed right on the top of the hill at the Von Damm vent-site and from there we collected vent-fluids, shrimp, microbial samples and tried out our new cameras, donated by James Cameron from his Deep Sea Challenger vehicle. All seemed to go really rather well so tonight I have a bunch of happy science colleagues with plenty of samples to play with.
Tomorrow we get to do it all again, at Von Damm, whiel our friend Ken Takai from JAMSTEC is also going to be broadcasting live from the Shinkai at the Piccard vent-site which lies 20 miles north of where we are working at 2500m further down!!!