It has been a long haul but today was a very good day. Up just after 3am to make sure that all was well with the preparations for launch at 04h00 (the ship’s preferred hour for starting all AUV dives): I am probably thus a contender for the Golden Blanket award – the Nereusteam started their pre-dive sequences at 01h00.
All was well, except that the super hi-tech coffee machine in the mess had been on the fritz overnight and we could hardly call an engineer out for that as well as the Nereus launch a few hours later!!!
At 4:00am everyone was assembled ready to deploy the vehicle and at 04:08am we have Nereus hanging from the A-frame, suspended over the ocean as the Captain brought us skillfully to exactly the right spot and it was time to deploy. One and a half hours later Nereus arrived at the seafloor and began her survey. Another eight hours later and it was still there working progressively backwards and forwards over the Von Damm mound and recording magnetic properties of the underlying seabed which we will now be able to combine with detailed maps of the area, rocks we have recovered from across the mound and beyond, and with the chemical composition of the vent-fluids we have been analyzing and that we will be collecting more of on Leg 2. That project is the domain of Jill, Eoghan – from the original German pronunciation, Jurgen – Sean and Jeff-the-yet-to-be-observed. Allegedly, Jeff is off on his own yacht right now but he’ll be here for Leg 2. He had better be!
By around 3pm, Nereus had actually finished its planned mission ahead of schedule – I joked with the Captain Heiko and Chief Mate Phillip that Nereus must be developing German-like efficiency – and at 4:30 it was back on the surface at the end of its 50th deep-diving mission to the ocean floor. I suspect it is going to be making many more – there is a big big ocean out there that awaits.
This evening, I received an email from WHOI reminding me that tomorrow is a big day back in the US, too, when our President and Director, Susan Avery, will be meeting up with James Cameron in Washington DC for a number of events to coincide with the arrival of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER (the only Human Occupied Vehicle that, like our Nereus robot, can dive to the very deepest depths on Earth). James Cameron used this vehicle to dive to the bottom of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in March 2012 and then earlier this year, on the first anniversary, he announced that he was donating the vehicle to WHOI. Washington DC is the last stop on a public trans-continental roadtrip before the vehicle completes its journey to Woods Hole on Cape Cod so if you get the chance, go check it out NOW. You can find full details of what’s happening when in DC today here.
I’m afraid you won’t quite be able to find everything to do with the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER in Washington DC tomorrow, however, because I have a little secret. For the past 2-3 weeks, I have had Daniel Gomez-Ibanez from WHOI sitting next to me each day, working away on the Cameras from the sub which Mr.C and his team have helped prepare for us to make use of for our own investigations of the Mid Cayman Rise that start in just 10 days from now. I might have stopped blogging by then, but only because we’ll be broadcasting live from the seabed: details soon!