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MESA Archives: Aleutian Islands Deep Water Corals Cruise, July 25, 2004 (afternoon)

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Part I: Just started, and already changing course! By science reporter Sonya Senkowsky.
Part II: Jason's first dive. By Sonya Senkowsky.

  Jason orientation
Jason team member Chris Taylor, in orange, introduces the science team to Jason II, to his left. Behind him is the A-frame and winch that lower the ROV unit (made up of Jason II and its companion unit, Medea) into the water. From left, science team members are Gary Greene, Auke Bay Laboratory biologist Bob Stone (chief scientist on the cruise) and Gordon Hendler.

Just started, and already changing course!

Location:  En route to the Andreanof Islands, approaching Amutka Pass

Weather conditions are looking good on the south side of the islands, so the science team has decided to change course and head toward the West Amlia site, southwest of Amlia Island. (This decision wasnít finalized until just after lunch-and before then, I overheard more than one Roger Revelle crewmember wonder when exactly the scientists would tell them where we were going.)

Besides figuring out our destination, the business of the day includes a briefing and orientation for Jason II. First, we saw the vehicle itself, a blue and yellow, 8000-pound behemoth sitting out on the shipís deck. The device has lights, cameras and robotic armsóone of which was fitted with a boxing glove(!) The ungloved arm revealed a claw, suitable for grabbing samples to place in collection trays.

During dives, the ďJason teamĒ warned us, no one was to be out on the deck-a safety measure, so that someone doesnít get knocked off their feet by a wayward cable.

We also get our first look into the Jason II control room, or-as itís called-the control van. (Itís not actually on wheels, as Iíd assumed when first hearing the name.) The room, which has black walls and no windows, is filled instead with video and computer monitors and serves as a sort of "mission control" for the Jason dives. A specially trained pilot drives the ROV from this room, while scientists watch and track the video on their screens. Others in the control room are keeping track of the ROVís location in relation to the ship; the Revelle doesnít just drag this thing along, but needs to maintain a course parallel to Jasonís.

One bit of news has the science team reconfiguring their plans further: Jason IIís maximum speed will be only .5 knots-and slower still when taking samples! Taking a single sample could slow a dive by as much as an hour.† The revelation has the science team reconfiguring their plans and ratcheting down expectations of how much ground they can hope to cover. The researchers reconvene again over their maps, figuring out a way to make the new reality meet the science plan.

Weíll be at the first dive site by about 8:30 tonight, says Jon Heifetz.

Later: "Jason's First Dive"  >>>

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