Editor's Note: Peggy Delaney is sailing on a newly refurbished research vessel, the JOIDES Resolution, that left Honolulu on March 10 with an international group of researchers on board. The ship, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, conducts scientific investigations beneath the seafloor by drilling the ocean floor and retrieving long “cores” of mud for testing and data collection. This is her second blog post. To see all her posts, see "60 Seconds in the Mid-Pacific."
STEAMING TOWARD THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC (March 10, 2009)—Wow, we are out in the ocean. We left Honolulu today, and are on our way to the drilling site.
I'm sitting in the computer room, and that's a good place to start to describe just how different the newly retrofitted JOIDES Resolution (JR) is from the one I've been on for other expeditions. This is my fourth two-month stint on the JR: 1990; 1996; 2002; and now, 2009. On previous trips, sitting in the computer room was near-torture. The ventilation was horribly noisy, and even noise-canceling headphones and CDs couldn't mask it. Here, I can concentrate.
The changes to the computer room are just one of many on board. Essentially, the forward 40 percent of the vessel, everything forward of the rig floor, is newly constructed from just above the hull upward. All of the structure of the living quarters, the lab, the bridge—they're all new. There's even an internet café! (More on the changes in communication aboard ship in a later post.)
There is lots of new scientific equipment in the labs, and new data handling systems. Everything else on the ship--including the drilling equipment--has all been renovated. There is a lot more lab space, and it seems to be intelligently laid out. We'll see once we start coring. More lab space on a ship still means very tight corners and areas to pass by other folks and computer chairs in the way of getting around a counter corner. It is easier to get from the house to the labs—I sure don't miss passing through the emergency generator room, with the kitchen vent!
Some issues linger on, such as the elevator. Some of us refer to the stairs as "StairMaster Number 1" or "who needs to go to the gym to use the StairMaster?" The primary function of the elevator is to move core and materials around in the seven-floor lab stack. The luxury of having multiple levels of lab equates to the work of going up and down stairs over and over again to get to different levels. They worked on the elevator in the port call, but it is still cranky. Use is reserved for freight—material that really needs to move around—and we take ourselves up and down stairs, even at the ends of those long days where it might be nice to push a button to go from the computer room to the bridge deck five floors above to meet with the co-chief scientists.
The crew tested some of these systems on a trip from Singapore to Guam to Honolulu, where we boarded, but this expedition is really the full-on use of the JR after the retrofit. I was a member of the management team, as a scientific community representative, of the National Science Foundation–funded retrofit. I've spent more than three years championing the needs of the scientific drilling community in this retrofit project, flying thousands and thousands of miles, spending many, many days and hours in meeting rooms, and on conference calls.
It's so exciting to see the ship finished, out about to do what she is supposed to be doing—drilling, coring, taking logs. Watching all the things we planned, dreamed about, argued about and worried about get used by scientists is tremendously exciting.
This is why I did this.
Photo of the JOIDES Resolution courtesy IODP