Posted by: adorsk | May 25, 2008

Bermuda, Buoys, & Bagpipes

The ship is back at WHOI after a mooring cruise near Bermuda.

W is for…

Weather? Waves? Yes and yes. The ship took a minor beating in the Atlantic ocean between Woods Hole and Bermuda. It started and ended with a bit of rough, wet, nasty weather. On Saturday & Sunday we got about half-way to Bermuda , collected one mooring, and then did some CTD casts. Then on Monday there were 20-foot waves and we couldn’t do anything but roll around in the ship. We came back to WHOI on Tuesday to get out of the weather and to pick up more buoy gear…only to go back out and get pounded again. Too rough for mooring work. We ended up coming in a few days early.

I feel bad for the science party. It’s heartbreaking when so much planning goes into a cruise only to have it get swamped. But it comes with the territory. Hopefully J, the chief scientist, and his group will be able to get more ship time later.

W is also for ‘Line W’, a much-studied region of the Atlantic between Woods Hole and Bermuda. The goal of this cruise was to to put moorings along the line. J studies large-scale water transport in the Atlantic. He and his group use moorings to measure currents and water properties. Usually they put in group of moorings every few years, then collect them and analyze the data.

The ‘W’ in ‘Line W’ is for ‘worthington’ (though ‘wild weather’ might be more appropriate). It’s in honor of Valentine Worthington, one of the original WHOI old timers who developed a number of techniques for measuring water properties. Physical oceanographers like Line W because it crosses the gulf stream.

The Buoy Bunch

There were a few different groups in the science party. The first group consisted of B and JDB, both from WHOI. I call them ‘The Castanets’ because they did the CTD casts and because B is from Spain. And they are musical, too. JDB brought her bagpipes on board to prepare for an upcoming pipe & drum band performance, to the delight of any Scottish whales that were about.

The second group was ‘The Buoy Guys’. They were the most numerous group, and did most of the work during this cruise. There are four of them plus S, their deck leader.
During the few days of good weather we had, the buoy guys deployed and collected buoys. It’s hard work. Usually it takes around eight to ten hours of deck work per buoy. Deploying a buoy involves first putting a big yellow foam ball in the water, and then streaming out kilometer afer kilometer of wire down to the seafloor. The buoy guys attach pumps, current meters, and other instruments to the wire throughout the process. They also do diapers! Every time they need to attach a new instrument or change to a new roll of wire, they wrap the wire connections in a rag so that it won’t cut anyone. The rag is called a diaper.

The third group was ‘the New Yorkers’, E and S from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. S is from Switzerland and works as a bug curator (moths) at the museum of natural history in New York. Bag pipers and bug curators, you sure meet some interesting folks on ships.

E & S study seawater chemistry. E built a wild-looking contraption for sampling seawater. His machine looks like an accident between a pinball machine and a package of crazy-straws. It has all sorts of wires and computer parts and metal hoses spiraling out to canisters of gas. Multicolored lights flashed all the time while E and S worked the machine’s switches.

Ship life was fairly routine for me this trip. During the day I would write computer programs, then at night I would read and noodle away on the guitar. Sometimes I had to do a few repairs of the CTD, but things were fairly regular for me.

My reading was especially good this time. One of my books was a collection of John & Abigal Adams’ letters. These are excellent for seagoing folks, really gave me another perspective. Some people think that going to sea is hard because you don’t get to see your family and friends for weeks on end. Maybe you only get an email every few days. But sometimes John & Abigail didn’t hear from each other for over a year! Times have changed.

On the 25th I will have worked for WHOI for exactly one year. I have been very fortunate to have such a good job. WHOI really is an incredible and exciting place to work. Truly, the best oceanographic institution in the world. It is an organization that is good to its employees, and I think they respond in kind.

My next cruise is with D and his group. We’re going back out to George’s Bank and the Gulf of Maine to observe the summer Red Tide bloom in progress. Should be a good time. check back in a couple weeks to see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Here are a few shots from the cruise:



  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I have been both an IT person as well as a science educator (museums) and computer science professor. I have also been involved in broadcast – I am now primarily a videographer though I enjoy getting my hands dirty with gadgets and electronics.

    I live in Falmouth and hope to someday come along on a cruise if I can figure out a way to make my abilities useful to a WHOI cruise and know the right people at WHOI who would hire a freelancer or maybe someday as an employee.

    I have enjoyed getting a sense of what it is like going out on WHOI cruises from your blog.

  2. Hi Peter,

    I’m glad you have enjoyed reading the blog, thanks for the note.

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