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 sixth blog post. To see all her posts, see "60 Seconds in the Mid-Pacific."
SOMEWHERE IN THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC (March 26, 2009)—We are at our second site, U1332. The coring is going well, and we're improving the assignment of sediment ages, particularly to the early Eocene epoch. We have been dealing with the usual complications that occur in any field science: We lost a tool when it separated from a wire line in one hole, and we haven't been able to do as much overlapping coring because of about three meters (10 feet) of ship heaving.
But, that's not what was on my mind yesterday. It was showering. Why? Because of those heaves. The seas had picked up.
The JOIDES Resolution is about 500 feet (150 meters) long. This is big for a U.S. oceanographic research vessel. The bigger the ship, in general, the better it handles ocean motion. When the JR is on station, the thrusters arrayed around the ship are controlled by a computer system—the dynamic positioning system—to keep it at or near the borehole. The ship is even more stable on station than when underway as a result.
Yesterday the swell was the biggest we'd had, and there was a rain storm, too. As I showered at the end of the day, I remembered the feeling of developing sea legs at the beginning of each cruise, even on a big ship like this. I can tell when I have fully relaxed into the ship's motion when I can easily close my eyes in the shower. Watch yourself at home: You will find out that you close your eyes a lot when you shower—to rinse your face, to rinse your hair. Try taking a shower without feeling balanced when you close your eyes—it's hard.
So, the bigger ship motion was most apparent to me yesterday when I was showering. (See what Katrina Edwards had to say about showering on board ship in 60 Seconds in North Pond.) It reminded me to police my cabin to find the things I had mostly put away but had gotten lazy about in our small sea state—to put them places where they wouldn't fall or roll about when I was trying to sleep: toothpaste back behind the barrier in the medicine cabinet, not on the sink; shampoo and conditioner back in the plastic bin I bought for the shower; round things or unstable things back on the shelf above the desk; close and latch the drawer, not just close it. Better to do before I lie down than while I am sleeping!
I also remembered when I finally made it into the bunk: the transition back to shore, when it feels odd to be on surfaces that aren't always moving; a bed that holds still when you lie on it; not having to wait until the ship rolls the right way to open or close a heavy door; not having the odd feeling of lightness on the gym treadmill or exercise bike that comes unexpectedly as the ship moves. And, the biggest transition for me, lasting at least a week, is being able to close my eyes in the shower when the world around me isn't moving without getting dizzy. Life is what you get used to!
Photo: Site U1331 beacon recovery: Leo Yuan (Transocean) controls the grapple hook as the crane lifts it over the side. (courtesy IODP)