MESA Archives: Aleutian Islands Deep Water Corals Cruise, July 23, 2004
Saturday evening at a Dutch Harbor hotel, principal investigators and other science team members
discuss their cruise plan, which they must present to the ship’s crew the next day. Even the
best-laid plans, however, may change due to weather or other variables. (clockwise, from left:
Doug Woodby, Bob Stone, Jon Heifetz, Phil Rigby, Gary Greene, Lena Krutikov, Jennifer Reynolds
(with back to camera).
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Mapping out a plan
By science reporter Sonya Senkowsky.
Location: Dutch Harbor (on land)
In the few hours they spend in Dutch Harbor, most science team members don’t have time to spare for
sightseeing. Saturday night, core members of the science team gather in a hotel conference room to discuss
the cruise plan.
Perusing the first of many high-resolution maps that will be guiding the team on their mission, geologist
Jennifer Reynolds describes the gulleys, ridges and canyons that, to scientists’ practiced eyes, leapt out
from the black and white page.
They plan a route that would take Jason II first to the north side of the Aleutian chain, to the “North Atka
site,” just to the north of Atka Island. But weather is more fickle on the south side of the islands, notes
biologist Bob Stone (who was just there two weeks ago), so the group may want to change direction and go south
if the weather there is good as they draw closer.
Wherever they dive first, the team wants to be sure to get video and samples representing a range of habitats
in the selected study path, or “transect.”
The scientists also discuss the difficulty of retrieving delicate coral from the ocean floor using the Jason II.
The remotely operated vehicle will be perfect for gathering video—but not as ideal for gathering samples, since
every sample could require slowing the device drastically, slowing the entire expedition.
To gather the most video and make the most of the Jason II, researchers agree to focus on gathering video most
of the time, designates just one or two dives specifically for gathering samples. The rest of the time, they
will just grab what they can, sampling “on the fly.” This could mean leaving many discoveries on the ocean
floor—a frustrating prospect—but it will maximize the amount of video coming from the trip.
Researchers are excited, however, about how much ground they think they can cover. They’ve heard the Jason II
has a maximum speed of 1.5 knots (1.5 nautical miles per hour) and slows to just under a knot while taking samples.
Hopes are high for covering much ground, but it won’t be until the orientation onboard with Jason II technicians
that they’ll know for sure how their plans will fit in with the vehicle’s capabilities.