Today we left port around 16:00 and started our voyage out to the Gulf of Mexico. The day started with 7:00 breakfast followed by an Alvin briefing. I got sized for the rebreather I would have to wear incase of a fire in Alvin. Afterwards we were shown the gadgets with which Alvin is equipped: multiple streaming video cameras, an HD video camera, and still-frame cameras, along with the equipment needed to take cores and water samples. The cameras will be necessary for some of the projects happening onboard- seafloor mapping and photo mosaics. I ate lunch with one of the members of the film crew, and he explained that they are working on a documentary series with the aims of demystifying the contradictions and conflicting evidence of the Gulf oil spill. They have been interviewing scientists from all over who have studied the Gulf spill and are compiling their perspectives on what has happened and the effects they have studied. I recognized one member of the film crew, Mike deGruy, from Shark Week… He hosted a show on the evolution of sharks as top predators. I also talked with Amanda Demopoulos, who is with USGS looking at the impact of the oil on meiofauna (small invertebrates) that live in the sediments. I will probably be working with her and sediments we collect later on in the trip.
After more meetings and debriefings, I got to explore the ship a bit as we left port. It felt amazing to set sail and be on the water. Luckily, the seas have been calm so there hasn’t been much trouble with seasickness onboard. However, as I write this I can feel the seas starting to pick up as the ship rolls back and forth. Helen and I ventured out on deck at night to take a break and walk around. It was pitch-black but we somehow managed to make our way to the bow where we had a beautiful view of the stars. Unfortunately neither of us knew much about the constellations. However, with the help of her iPhone, Helen was able to show me the Big Dipper and we made guesses at some of the other bright stars. Tomorrow, our first stop is to pick up moorings and retrieve a sediment trap. Then we’re off again in transit to the site where we will deploy Sentry. It will make an overnight run and map the bathymetry of the seafloor, which will be used in part for prepping Alvin’s dive the following morning. Busy times ahead.