Axial Seamount Cruise 2013


Carola Buchner
Sep. 24 2013
Transferring the pilot required to guide Falkor out of Victoria Harbor.
Transferring the pilot required to guide Falkor out of Victoria Harbor.Carola Buchner

We left Victoria Harbor yesterday around 9 a.m. with the help of a pilot. The first 8 hours of the transit were very pleasant as we traveled through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, though there was a beating coming. We had the beautiful coastlines of Canada and the US on either side of us, and were visited by both orcas and a humpback whale. Yes, even microbiologists and chemists get excited about those charismatic megafauna.

During the transit, we got a tour of the ROPOS data logging and camera systems, and spent time doing our final gear securing and dive planning. We also had a pretty intense fire drill, complete with fake smoke and some of our science and ROPOS team getting “trapped” on the fantail. It was a very informative exercise for all, and the crew took some time to show us some secret escape routes around the ship, which we of course appreciated. You never want to face a real fire at sea, but we feel very prepared to deal with one in the unlikely event that we have to.

The tour of ROPOS systems during our transit.
The tour of ROPOS systems during our transit.Carola Buchner

We’re ready for science now too. During our ROV test dive on Sunday in Victoria Harbor our equipment worked well. The Large Volume Water Sampler filtered about 75 liters of water in just 10 minutes. This was the first time it had been used on an ROV, so that was encouraging to see. Lisa Ziegler was happy, which means I was happy too.

Seemingly Strange Choice

A realistic fire drill.
A realistic fire drill.Carola Buchner

I gave a general science talk to the crew yesterday afternoon so they could learn more about why we are out here. Then we hit the open ocean and my day was done. I get seasick and while medication helps, it always takes me awhile to get my sea legs, so I retired to my room and spent the next 12 hours horizontal.

Many people ask me why I chose such a strange career, given that I can get motion sick even in a car! I always tell them that sometimes a career chooses you. I’ve wanted to be an oceanographer since I was a very young child, peering into the tanks of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I grew up in the landlocked Midwest dreaming of doing science in the open seas, and I have learned to deal with a few days of nausea here and there, all in the name of science.

The calm before high seas.
The calm before high seas.Carola Buchner

We’ve been facing a good 15 to 20-foot swell since last night, which makes for quite a ride. We lost one iPad to a flight across the room, but hopefully that will be the last of the damage as we figure out how Falkor rides.

We are now about 18 hours away from Axial Seamount, and the weather forecast calls for improving seas by late Wednesday or early Thursday. We then have another storm system lurking to the north that could hit us this weekend, so we are eager to get on site and get some science done.

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