About this cruise…

So here’s the deal:

For the past year I’ve been doing research on deep-water waves at UW.  Specifically, I use digital video of the sea surface to track and measure breaking waves.  When waves break, they transfer some of the energy of the waves to the water below the surface.  Breaking waves also trap (or “entrain”) air, and create foam.  If you’ve ever noticed “whitecaps” on the ocean, you’ve seen this effect.  For the same reason that whitecaps are visible to your eye, they can be recognized by a computer.  My work this past year has been to improve a method introduced by my advisor, Jim Thomson, to track breaking waves and relate the amount of breaking to the energy lost from the waves due to breaking.  Don’t worry, there will be more posts later where I attempt to clarify all that.  For now, let’s get to the fun stuff.

So all this work I’ve been doing for a year?  That data was given to me.  It came from a week or so spent in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (the body of water that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Puget Sound near Seattle) in February of 2011, before I had even arrived at UW.  While it’s been fun looking at waves from my computer screen and everything, it’s not really the same as being on the ship.  That’s where this next cruise comes in.  We want to expand the methods I vaguely outlined above to the “open ocean,” out beyond the influence of land.  So, we are journeying to Ocean Station Papa, one of the oldest oceanic time series sites.  We will be in the North Pacific for three weeks (September 26 – October 15) this Fall hoping to find as many big waves as we can.  Don’t worry, I’ll pack the Dramamine.  Because this is my first time on a ship for more than a few hours, and because this cruise will be the source of most of the data for my dissertation, I am very excited (and a little nervous) for September 26th to arrive.  I’ll fill you in on more of the details of the trip over the next few weeks,

There’s one more thing I haven’t mentioned yet.  See, we were actually scheduled to do all of this later in the Fall, from late October through early November.  That was before our ship, the R/V Thomas G. Thompson (“the Tommy”), started having engine problems.  Turns out, the ship’s z-drive is badly damaged, and needs a new steering pipe (whatever that means), leaving her out of commission until December.  This is bad news.  Luckily, we managed to secure time on a new ship, the R/V New Horizon.  What’s the problem?  In moving our cruise earlier by about a month, our lab has been scrambling to meet the time deadline.  There’s a lot that goes into planning one of these cruises, and being told your departure date is in three weeks instead of a month later, well let’s just say we’ve been using the word “triage” often.  Right now, it looks like everything can get done in time, there just might be a little more improvising.  And I’ll be here to document all the little crises and dilemmas.

So thanks for reading!  Hopefully I’ll do the trip justice.  And three or four (or six) years from now, when I’m sitting in front a computer and banging my head on the desk, I’ll be able to look back at this blog and remember the time getting a Ph.D. was new and exciting.  More posts soon!

– Mike

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