Today I witnessed my first Alvin dive. The festivities began a little after 8:00 as Alvin rolled out of its storage hanger, parading slowly towards the stern. It stopped midway to have final safety checks, and then Chuck, Mike, and the pilot Dave climbed in through the red entrance on top. Then Alvin was secured and lifted into the air and over the end of the boat. It was more like flying than diving. Things seemed to get a little stressful once Alvin was in the water and all the safety lines had to be manually detached by divers. However, it’s routine and everything worked out as Alvin disappeared into the ocean. It was almost perfect, but while the proceedings were happening the weather started to change and the winds picked up, bringing along some rain. I’m sure everything will be perfect for Helen’s dive tomorrow!
While Alvin was 1400 m down exploring the bottom of the ocean, I had a bit of down time on the boat. I spent some time in the library they have on ship and looked through atlases and maps and charts of the oceans. There is also a lounge area onboard with a flat screen TV for watching movies. Living on the ship has been much more comfortable than I expected. The food is really good too. They had magic cookie bars for dessert the other night, which were my favorite. I had stuffed my backpack full of snacks and granola bars before the trip, but I have yet to need them.
The science group works primarily in three labs, the main lab, bio lab, and wet lab. The main lab is used for duping video and pictures from Alvin. The bio lab is for analyzing the corals and other samples taken, and the wet lab (also known as mud lab) is for sediment cores.
I got a little anxious as the estimated time of Alvin’s return neared. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was excited to finally do real scientific work on the samples brought up. When Alvin finally came up, they had collected 6 cores, a piece of coral, and slurp filters. Apparently Chuck and Mike weren’t entirely happy with the video footage they had gotten, so the next dive (which Helen is going on!) will also focus on filming.
I helped Helen with the filter from the slurp, which collected the slime from the corals. We cut sections of the filter and preserved them for later data analysis. I also helped Amanda section her sediment cores- there’s a reason the wet lab is known as the mud lab. Helen and I were able to get small samples of two of the cores which we will take back to Haverford and analyze. Amanda is using three of the other cores to see how the oil spill may have impacted macrofauna.
Since there weren’t many samples, we didn’t have to work too late. There was still time to decorate the styrofoam cups that will be taken down in Alvin tomorrow and shrunk. Tomorrow will be another exciting day. Sentry was deployed tonight and will be brought up again tomorrow morning, and Alvin is going out again at 8:00, weather permitting. Did I mention that Helen is diving in Alvin tomorrow?!