During the Museum’s Yellowstone Ecology Institute last summer, the educators who were participating in the 10-day workshop began calling their Institute the Plan B workshop due to frequent schedule changes, which were brought on by unexpected snow, icy roads, bison on the trail, etc. This cruise is turning out to be a “Plan B” trip.
Our original mission plan called for us to leave Pensacola and make a dive at a newly discovered deep coral site off Tampa. From there we were to make our way around the Florida Keys, survey a spot off Miami and eventually head up the east coast of Florida. On Wednesday, we completed the Gulf of Mexico dive and headed around the Keys. About an hour before arriving at the site off Miami, high winds and seas from a storm front hit us and we turned back to a site south of the Florida Keys called Pourtales Terrace. We dove at the Pourtales Terrace site on Friday and Saturday. Last night the group faced another decision: stay in this area and wait out the southward moving front and high seas for another two days, or steam northward through the front to the farthest northern limit of the study area (up near Jacksonville) and then work our way back south after the seas returned to better conditions. The latter course was chosen and we have spent today heading north in rough seas (8-10 ft waves) accompanied by large swells.
The ship has been rolling a bit all day and the wind has varied, being quite strong at times. One of the strange things about the ship in this weather are the loud crashes we periodically hear from below. They sound like a T. rex trying to break through the passageway wall, but we are told it is simply the side of the ship hitting a wave particularly hard.
Except for those sounds, it has been a quiet day in the lab with very limited Internet. It was so quiet that it almost seemed as if some people had gotten off in the Keys. It turns out that people were resting, processing samples, and doing data management. Unfortunately, a few were not feeling particularly well with all the “motion in the ocean”. I am glad I am one of the lucky ones and have not had problems with seasickness. (I would have hated to felt bad tonight because we were treated to a special dessert — all the fixin’s were laid out for us to create our own ice cream sundae!
We should arrive at our destination sometime late tonight. At that point, we will slow our speed and do multi-beam sonar map transects to record the topography of the bottom. These transects will provides high-resolution maps of the sea floor’s features. These maps will serve as useful guides for research on this and future missions.
By the way, another green flash tonight!
So, another rocky night…hope the T. rex stays below and happy.