Current Position: 48°25′ N, 124°35′ W

For our last night, we were given the treat of this beautiful sunset. I’d have to say that this all went by quicker than I expected. Life on a ship is different and sometimes exciting, but I’ll be glad to be sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night.

– Mike


Data collection = finished

Current Position: 48° N, 129° W

And just like that, we picked up our toys and headed home. These experiments tend to end anticlimactically, especially if they’ve gone well. You steadily work towards each objective, sidestep minor crises, develop some kind of routine, and eventually your time runs out. This is still just the beginning after all, something like step three of the scientific method (I’ve forgotten all the steps as they were taught to me back in middle school). Fittingly, here’s a picture of the SWIFT buoys, the workhorses of this experiment, unceremoniously lying on the floor in the main lab area. Tomorrow we have a full day of transit, and are expecting arrival at the UW dock around 10 am.

– Mike

The way back

Current Position: 48° N, 130° W

We’ve been making our way east towards Seattle since yesterday afternoon, which has left plenty of time for preliminary data analysis and lab clean-up, not to mention ping pong and movies (last night we had the obligatory viewing of The Life Aquatic). At the rate we’re going we would arrive home much too early, so we’re planning two more days of data collection, even though there’s no more stormy weather on the forecast.

While processing the stereo imagery, I came across the following plot which I thought worthy of posting. On the left, it shows a still frame from one of the roughest days so far, taken from the left stereo camera. The middle panel is the result of matching this image with the corresponding right camera frame, and shows the distance of each pixel from the camera. The main signal is that of the tilted, but mostly flat, sea surface. There is some visible waviness, but it doesn’t really come out until the last step, after making the transformation to surface elevation. This is shown in the right panel, where the steep crests of the whitecaps are clearly visible. Pretty cool stuff.

– Mike

Wave Pictures

Current Position: 48° N, 139° W

Today was a great day for waves. We measured winds approaching 40 knots (46 mph), and wave heights of about 5 meters (16 ft). We’ve been lamenting how difficult it is to take a picture that shows how rough it has been. No matter how big the wave, or how many whitecaps, the scale never quite comes across. Seeing as how pictures of waves constitutes much of my data, I am used to this disappointment. In a way, this is the point of the stereo video system — I can actually measure the size of the waves. Nevertheless, I wanted to depart from pictures of food to show the stuff we’re out here to see. The wave crashing over the bow was actually from earlier in the trip and comes courtesy of Jarett Goldsmith.

– Mike

The Engine Room

Current Position: 49°N, 143°W

We have been steaming all day, targeting a small storm to the east of us for tomorrow morning. In honor of all the work the ship is doing for us right now, I thought I’d show some pictures from inside the engine room. I took these a couple days ago, during a tour that one of the engineers was nice enough to lead for a few of us scientists. The ship is powered by several large diesel generators, shown in yellow in the first photo below. The motors that drive the propellers are actually electric motors, which was a surprise to me. The lights, heat, water desalinators, and all other electronics run off ostensibly the same power as the engines themselves.

Instead of a propellor and rudder system, this ship has several propellors which can swivel on a vertical axis. Each of these is called a “z-drive,” named for the shape of motor-gearbox-propellor system, as shown in the schematic taped on the wall of the engine room. Note: a z-drive is what failed on this very ship in 2012, and prompted our group to scramble down to San Diego to use the R/V New Horizon, but that’s all water under the bridge. Anyway, the z-drive propellors give the ship a special capability called “dynamic positioning,” which basically means it can move in ways that most ships cannot. This has been especially useful when it comes to rounding up our buoys — not usually an easy task with such a large ship.

– Mike

Mealtime – Dinner

For dinner tonight we had the option of pot roast and potatoes, or salmon and rice, so I opted for a little of both. Yes, salad options are available… but pot roast, you know? And to finish it off, a little apple cake with whipped cream.

Long story short: we’ve been well-fed on the ship. And that’s not even showing the snack food and soda I’ve been doing my best to avoid. Dinner conversations often involve whether to abstain from whatever dessert just got set out that looks so good. I just don’t know how the crew can continue to eat this well, cruise after cruise.

Is it too early to go back up for another cookie?

– Mike

Mealtime – Lunch

My lunch today:
– Bacon cheeseburger
– Mac & cheese
– Baked beans
– Caesar salad

– … Plus milk and cookies.