Posted by: adorsk | April 16, 2008

Season Opener

I’m back on the Oceanus. On Sunday we returned from our first cruise of the season. Cruising season for the Oceanus seems to open right around the same time as baseball season. And like Baseball players, it can take a ship a few days (or weeks) to warm-up.

Back to Work

I certainly wasn’t hitting any homers during my first few days back. The first cruise after a long lay-up is usually tough. It takes time to adjust to being back on the ship, and there are often a ton of things that need to be fixed. I was racing around trying to terminate wires, fixing computer bugs, and getting the ship’s computers set-up. After the cruise started I had to stay up all-night twice in the first three days to fix problems with the CTD (a collection of bottles and sensors that measures water properties and takes water samples). Going back to work was a like waking up from a pleasant dream and finding out that you’re dropping down a steep waterslide.


But waterslides are still fun, as was the cruise. The chief scientist B and his group examined how certain types of bacteria produce specific lipids (fats in cell membranes). These bacteria are useful for estimating dates of geological samples. By looking at the quantities of certain lipids in say, a hefty cylinder of mud, it is possible to get an idea of when that mud settled on the seafloor. The amount of lipids can also tell us about what environmental conditions were like. B’s group was trying to measure lipid production in living organisms in order to calibrate previous age estimates.

There were a few other projects, too. E, from Florida, was collecting marine viruses. M & C were looking at the density of different molecules in water. S, L & M were examining plankton in the water.

The cruise consisted of mostly CTD casts every 6 or 8 hours. sometimes we also put down McClane pumps, which circulate water through filters at a specific depth. The CTD was what gave me the most problems. Bottles kept breaking and there were bugs in the software. I had to take apart the bottles a few times late into the night.

We had scientists and crew from all over. The countries represented were the Czech republic, Honduras, Spain, and Lithuania.

The beginning part of the cruise took us Northeast of Nova Scotia. The second half took us towards Bermuda. Nova Scotia weather was rather nasty, especially since there was a gale just to the South of us. But the Bermuda weather more than made up for it with calm, warm, sunny days. Sometimes summer comes early at sea!

Some pictures from the cruise:

1st mate D helps T test a Gumby Suit (photo by M):

The Gumby Suit

CTD bottle tops:

CTD Bottle Tops

M says “Gaze into my crystal ball!”:

M and the crystal ball

J & B brave the Canadian waves (photo by K):

J & B brave the Canadian waves

Deploying the CTD:

CTD Deployment

Recovering the CTD (photo by M):

CTD Recovery

Chatting around the water cooler aka ‘sampling’:

Night Sampling

SENTRY on Deck, Waiting to Bat

When we got back I was exhuasted! Now I’m rested and ready for the next cruise. I think I’m over my Spring slump now. The next cruise will be robot cruise, testing an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) named SENTRY. We’ll be going off the coast of New Jersey where SENTRY will try to make a high-resolution map of the seafloor. Should be exciting. Check back in a couple weeks to see how it goes. Thanks for reading.

Miscellaneous Pictures

sunset at WHOI:

Sunset from the Bridge

Sunset over the harbor at WHOI



  1. Alex–wow looks like you are doing some really cool things. Glad to see that the slump is over.

    So wait, this AUV–do you get to control it at all? If later in life you want to use one of these to treasure hunt…that would be a great reunion…Frank and Wayde can bankroll it.

    Those again are some beautiful photos.

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