My First Dive
Well now it is my turn in Alvin!! I can now understand Ashley’s emotions the day before her first dive. I am nervous about going but anxious to jump in the sub at the same time. I do not want to make a mistake because I know the work is extremely important, but at the same time I want to say, “Forget the work, lets go exploring!!”. I am pleased that my hard work these past five years is starting to pay off. Probably the scariest part of the whole dive will be the fact that the other scientist and myself will be on our own. Although I have helped to make decisions with my advisor/mentor in the past, this is probably the first time that I will have to make important scientific decisions in the field without his immediate input. It will be my fellow diver, the pilot and myself that make the decisions because there will not be anyone else down there with us to instruct us on what to do at any given time. We can call up to the ship and ask for input if necessary, but for the most part, we are expected to complete the dive’s task list and make the proper decisions given what we find on the seafloor.
During the first days of the cruise (as mentioned in previous posts) the entire science party underwent safety training in multiple areas of ship’s operations. Safety/Dive training in Alvin was included along with fire drills, man overboard drills, general policies, etc. The sub training included being fitted for oxygen masks so that the correct sized mask could be installed if you were chosen to dive during the cruise. The next step is to climb inside the sphere of the sub and be briefed on safety procedures inside the sub in case of fire, power outage, or the unlikely event the pilot becomes incapacitated. We are taught how to make the sub rise up to the surface and to communicate with the ship to advise of any emergency. The night before your scheduled dive you attend a pre-dive meeting with the Alvin crew, the Chief Scientist, and any other member of the science party and/or crew members who have a direct interest in the next mornings dive. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the previous dive, what was and was not completed, if there was anything that could have been done better, and to discuss and plan the next days dive to effectively utilize the limited time of the dive (usually an eight hour dive). My dive in the morning will take place in the southern Hydrate Ridge area known as the Pinnacle. In this area we will deploy various experiments from the three science groups, recover some older experiments that were placed here a few years ago in previous cruises, and collect rock and tubecore samples in active seep areas (areas where methane gas is seeping out of the seafloor) and also inactive areas (areas of “normal” marine environments). We will also utilize a elevator platform, which is basically a floating platform with thick plastic “bioboxes” attached to it that is dropped to the seafloor. We will use Alvin to fill the bioboxes on this platform with samples and when full, drop the weights and allow the platform to rise to the surface where it is retrieved by the ship. Alvin will then continue on filling up bioboxes that are connected to the front of the sub and taking tubecores in selected environments.
A Part of History
From a historical aspect I am honored to be able to dive in one of the most famous submersible known. It is hard to concentrate on writing this post because my head is spinning trying to remember everything I need to do while I am on my dive. I can not help but think about everything Alvin has done and all the famous people who have been down in the sub before me. With the pure adrenaline rush I am beginning to feel it will be almost impossible to go to sleep tonight.