Recovery of a Boat Adrift

R/V Sally Ride is currently home to the scientists from CalCOFI’s teams from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA. It’s their fourth time aboard, and CTD casts, net tows, and marine mammal observations are underway as usual. Today, however, was far from a normal day. Science operations were briefly paused in order to allow the ship’s crew to recover a boat that had been adrift for a week. 

Crew members brought the boat Anne aboard, and will return it
to San Diego. Photo by Second Mate Randy Christian.

Second mate Randy Christian reports, “Last week these trans-ocean rowers had to abandon their boat. They got picked up by a passing container ship, so the boat was left adrift. A sailboat that was following the rowing race… towed the Anne to us. They rendezvoused with us at one of our western stations, and were very grateful for our assistance. I don’t think the owners expected to see it again, so they’re very happy to be able to recover this vessel they’ve obviously put a great deal of time, money, and hard work into.” 

Read the statement about the abandoning of the boat here.

Chief Scientist Jennifer Rodgers-Wolgast says, “We had been following the progress of the abandoned ship since we found out it was in the area. So when the support ship offered to tow it directly to us at our scheduled work station, I gladly agreed to take time out of our operations for the recovery.” The crew worked together to bring the boat aboard, and it is now lashed to a laboratory container van on the back deck.

“The deck crew rigged a cargo net with a couple 2×6’s into a bridle, and hoisted it aboard with the A-frame, just like we do with buoys and other oceanographic equipment. We then used the crane and slings to move it into position to secure it on deck,” says Randy.

The Anne will ride along as the CalCOFI team finishes its summer cruise aboard R/V Sally Ride, and then return to San Diego.

Cover photo: copyright Ellen Hoke. Reporting and pictures thanks to Second Mate Randy Christian. Apologies for the low resolution, internet bandwidth from ship to shore is limited.

 

 

 

 


Geology of the Ocean Floor

R/V Sally Ride is doing work out of her first foreign port – Manzanillo, Mexico. The ship arrived after a recent cruise and stayed for a well-deserved few days of rest and relaxation for the crew, as well as resupplying food, and fuel. A new science party came aboard, and the ship headed off again for a month-long trip that took it to its furthest point south (so far), almost all the way to the equator!

Below are some photos from the cruise.  Definitely check out the many blog posts from the science party for more. They have a great website with information about their science goals while aboard R/V Sally Ride. It also includes many posts about life and work aboard the ship, including their operations, samples of rock from the seafloor, visiting whales and birds, shrinking cups, getting to know the crew, and lots more. 

 


Bioluminescence

The last few days, the San Diego coastline has put on a gorgeous light show. Tiny creatures called dinoflagellates have shown up in droves. During the day, the ocean turns the color of red wine as they congregate near the surface. But at night, they bioluminesce, flashing bright turquoise whenever they’re disturbed. Every wave crashes with color, as does every footstep or swipe of your fingers if you wade in or just play in the wet sand. San Diego residents have gathered to see the phenomenon from La Jolla to Carlsbad, and it’s a truly magical experience. It’s not an easy thing to capture on camera – but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Go out and see it in person if you can, otherwise enjoy these photos. 

Waves of turquoise crash on Torrey Pines State Beach, looking south towards Scripps and La Jolla. Photo by Bryndan Bedel, taken May 8, 2018.

 

Surfers and swimmers near the Scripps Pier. Their every movement causes the dinoflagellates to bioluminesce. Photo by Billy Lambert, taken May 8, 2018.

I met up with one of R/V Sally Ride‘s computer technicians, Daniel (who you may remember from a previous post), around 10pm on May 8, 2018 at Torrey Pines State Beach, where he relayed to me a story about a recent experience he had aboard the ship. 

“The night before we pulled into Manzanillo, I was going around checking the labs and doing final prep for the systems to be shut off after a successful cruise. It was past midnight. A frenzied scientist found me and frantically told me he had to show me something. He lead me outside to the bow of the vessel. After my eyes acclimated, I yelled out. There was sparkling blue lights popping in and out of existence all around the vessel. The bow created intense blue lights as the generated wake agitated so much bioluminescence.

Bow wave, the water displaced by the front of the ship, glows with bioluminescent life.
Photo by Daniel Yang.

“Then came the dolphins. They were riding the bow of Sally Ride. At one point there were more than a dozen dolphins with their characteristic rapid sonar chirping that sounds like laughing. You can see them jetting in from the sides as they raced into the bow of the ship. You can’t even make out their tails because they generated a long vortex behind them, and all that is illuminated by the bioluminescent organisms; dolphin body + vortex. So they looked like dolphin ghosts with long tails, and the front of their heads were generating all sorts of large blue sparkling effects that looked like either the dizzy star effects from cartoons, or fairies hitching a ride in front of the dolphins. Two of them would weave in figure-8 formation in front of the ship; and occasionally, we’d see frightened flying fish just fly out in all directions. Those looked like fireworks exploding in front of the ship.

In this shot, you can almost make out the dolphins
swimming just ahead of the ship. Photo by Daniel Yang.

“Only about four people saw this. The night owl of a scientist, the second mate, the AB on watch, and me. Of course we wanted everyone to experience what we saw, but everyone else was sleeping. The ocean was as calm as it could be.. almost glass-like where you could see all the stars ever, and the reflection of the stars across the horizon. It was a moonless light. Fairy ghost dolphins with blue fireworks from flying fish, surrounded by a sparkling blue ocean all around us in a glassy sea where you could see the reflection of the stars. It was perfect.” 

Magical experiences where we sit in awe of nature solidify our love of the ocean. All of the technicians and crew members who work aboard R/V Sally Ride have stories like this to share after years working and living at sea. With the local bioluminescent event happening, there’s no excuse for

everyone in San Diego not to have one too. Get out there!

More details about the phenomenon are available in this article from Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Header photo credit: Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego


Sally Ride to the Rescue

Today was a big day for R/V Sally Ride, as the ship and her crew carried out a Coast Guard-coordinated mission to assist a catamaran in distress. 

A report from Third Mate Randy: “We received a call from the Coast Guard two nights ago, asking if we could render assistance [to] a dismasted catamaran out of Papeete, Tahiti, bound for Panama. They were not in immediate distress, but they were running out of fuel and would not make it to the Galapagos, which is the nearest land. At the time we were about 200nm to the southeast, so we finished up the science operation we were engaged in and started steaming to the northwest to intercept, guided along the way by periodic position updates. Upon the rendezvous this afternoon, the deck crew had a towing bridle and an astern-fueling rig set up and ready to go. After about 4 hrs of roasting in the equatorial sun…both vessels were on their respective merry ways, one happy for the help, and the other happy to have helped. The brotherhood of the sea knows no borders.”

We’re so proud of the mariners onboard the research vessels at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They are trained to spring into action to keep our researchers safe, and anyone else they can help as well! 

Check out more pictures and details from the science party’s blog!

Now back to the regularly scheduled science mission, which has R/V Sally Ride operating near the equator for the first time. Follow the scientists on Twitter and Instagram

R/V Sally Ride comes to aid of damaged catamaran in the South Pacific

R/V Sally Ride comes to aid of damaged catamaran in the South Pacific

Posted by The San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Commissioned Art on the Ship

Living and working aboard R/V Sally Ride involves a lot of transiting through hallways and stairwells to get between labs, staterooms, the lounge, the galley, etc. One could be forgiven for not noticing the beautiful piece of artwork in the main stairwell, but it would be a shame. Commissioned by Sally Ride herself, artist Adam Koltz created a masterpiece in his style of drawing ships over nautical charts and, in this case, a sky chart. Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally’s partner and the ship’s sponsor, donated it to the ship and it makes a gorgeous addition. 

The artwork on display in the stairwell of R/V Sally Ride. By Adam Koltz. Gifted by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

Tam recently told the story to UCTV for an upcoming special about the new ship. As she explains, “[Sally] had this idea and so she talked to the artist, Adam Koltz, and said, ‘I’m Sally Ride.’ And he knew who she was once he heard the name and so they came up with this plan. The Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the H.M.S., (Her Majesty’s Ship) Challenger. And it turns out that the H.M.S. Challenger actually did the first study [where] scientists were aboard. They did the first study of the world’s oceans so it couldn’t be more appropriate for the R/V Sally Ride. One of my duties being the ship’s sponsor was to give a gift to the ship and when that came to mind it’s like, ‘What could be more perfect?'” 

Indeed it is a wonderful parallel that the shuttle to carry Sally Ride to space on her historic flight in 1983, and again the following year, was named for a sailing vessel that undertook the first global marine expedition. From 1872-1876, Challenger travelled 68,890 nautical miles. Guns and other Naval equipment were traded for labs and extra bunks, so that oceanographers and naturalists could do their work aboard. One of the tasks was sounding, which determines the depth of the ocean using little more than a weight on the end of a rope. The deepest known area in the Mariana Trench is called the Challenger Deep, and James Cameron’s vehicle that reached it is Deepsea Challenger, both named after the ship who’s crew first made those readings. In case you’re wondering (I was), Challenger measured a depth of 8,184 meters in 1875, multibeam data now says it’s 10,984 at its deepest, and Deepsea Challenger landed on the eafloor at 10,898 meters.

 

 

 


She is with us

Most scientists that I know are passionate people because they’re working in a field that they’re interested in. And the environment you work in is important. So if you’re on an expedition in the high seas and you’re on a ship like this that is comfortable, that is gorgeous but functional in a very beautiful way…it just facilitates the good work and helps the scientists.”  – Tam O’Shaughnessy

People around the world know the name Sally Ride. Her legacy is so much more than America’s first woman in space – she was an advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and an expert that NASA called on long after her retirement. Her name on the ship’s stern, and in every data file the shipboard instrumentation creates, means that we at Scripps will never forget that we are carrying on part of Sally Ride’s legacy. But there will soon be another addition that will keep her in the forefront of our minds. Tam O’Shaughnessy, co-founder of Sally Ride Science and Sally Ride’s life partner, has generously donated some personal effects to be housed in a shadow box on the ship. 

Sally Ride’s flight jacket.
Donated and photographed by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

This includes one of her NASA flight jackets and patches from both of her missions aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Also included is a copy of the “Ride Report,” officially known as “NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space.” The report came from a task force led by Sally Ride and was issued in 1987. Among other things, it called for learning about Earth from outer space. As you may recall from Tam’s speech intended for the ship’s commissioning back in October, Sally Ride’s space flights led to her future environmental work. “Mission Planet Earth” is what she called it, later writing a book for kids of the same name. Tam donated a copy of that book, as well as “Mission: Save the Planet,” both of which they wrote together and were co-published by Roaring Brook Press and Sally Ride Science.

Mission patches and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Donated and photographed by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

 

Rounding out the shadow box aboard R/V Sally Ride is the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded posthumously by President Barack Obama in 2013.  Tam accepted the award in an emotional ceremony that acknowledged Sally Ride’s heroic legacy and her relationship with Tam. As the president said, “Sally didn’t just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it. Today, our daughters — including Malia and Sasha — can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.”

You may remember from a recent post that sister ship R/V Neil Armstrong houses that astronaut’s Congressional Gold Medal on the bridge, awarded to each member of the Apollo 11 crew in 2011. Neil Armstrong was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Richard Nixon in 1969 upon returning from the moon. Tam says, “The Medal of Freedom is really a beautiful medal…it says Sally K. Ride on the back and I just decided ‘All I’ll do is keep this medal in the safe in my house, so why not have it be part of the shadow box?‘” Scripps is grateful for Tam’s generous gifts. On display aboard R/V Sally Ride, they will be admired by a generation of scientists, many of whom grew up with Sally Ride as a role model, and all of whom are expanding on her legacy. 

Quotes from Tam O’Shaughnessy are thanks to Shannon Bradley and UCTV, who interviewed her aboard R/V Sally Ride. More from that interview coming to UCTV later this summer, so stay tuned!


Crew Introductions: Electrician

“Sometimes it feels weird to be home. And when I get back to the ship, it just feels normal again. I really do enjoy going out to sea. I used to get homesick, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I actually found a job I enjoy.” 

Adam can usually be found in the electrician’s office just outside the lab.

Adam Goodbody has always had the skills and inclination to be an electrician, even helping his dad rewire the house as a kid. His uncle, a tanker captain and former SIO Chief Mate, suggested that he work at sea so that he could also see the world. So for the last three years, that’s exactly what Adam has done. Right out of high school, he began as an OS (ordinary seaman, see post about that job here) on the now-retired Melville. He then worked his way from wiper to oiler (see post about those duties here) in the engine room of R/V Roger Revelle. The Chief Engineer there knew he was interested in becoming an electrician, and made sure he learned those duties when he had time. Adam was then sent to R/V Sally Ride as day oiler while the ship was still in the shipyard in Anacortes, Washington. There, and on many of the science verification cruises, he trained under Manny, a long-time electrician on Scripps ships. And now the training wheels are off and Adam has been sailing as ship’s electrician for the last few months.

Coming aboard a brand new ship and learning about the electrical systems was a trial by fire experience (though thankfully not literally). As Adam says, “You start the engines from a screen, there’s no manual way to do it. The fact that everything is electronic on this ship means that my job is that much more important.” And he’s not overstating things, pretty much every component in every space falls under his purview. When things are running smoothly, he’s studying diagrams in anticipation of the day that something important breaks. “That’s my biggest fear. I want to have a basic understanding of everything on the ship before I have to fix some major problem. So I study constantly…and I hate studying.”

Adam at work, taking things apart and putting them back together.
This is his patient face, just after I made a joke about cutting the red wire. 

There are hundreds of these diagrams, and he showed me a few. To me, it just looks like a confusing jumble, which Adam assured me is normal. “It all looks like a bunch of jumbled up lines when you just look at it, but all you have to do is find a line and focus on it and you can tell where and what it is. There’s switches, junction boxes, but it’s not as complicated as it looks.”

Adam works a day shift. His morning rounds begin on the bridge and take him six decks down to the engine room. He checks on the lights and alarms all over the ship, as well as any equipment that’s plugged in outside on the decks. He also monitors the load on the ship’s UPS (uninterruptible power supply), which protects lab equipment from power surges and supplies a charge even if the main power is lost.   

The electrician is also treated like the ship’s resident MacGyver. If a scientist lingers sheepishly in the hallway outside the electrician’s office, you can bet that something has broken and they need help. I have definitely brought nonfunctioning instruments to them, putting on my nicest voice, and opening with “Hey…so, I have this problem…”

Adam trained AB Natasha and day oiler Dave on the operation of the winches, which run
the spools of cable or wire that scientists attach their instruments to before lowering them
into the ocean. I tried to sneak up on them to get a natural photo, but was noticed.

From waterproofing crates to soldering a circuitboard, from removing water from a winch on the back deck to fabricating Teflon pieces, or if the carburetor on your remote controlled kayak has stalled – Adam has seen it all and can probably help. Or give him a few minutes and he’ll catch up. Science parties try to bring everything they might possibly need (or at least they ought to), but if you forget tape, the drawers in the electrician’s office have like 12 kinds of tape, along with zip-ties (all sizes!), rope, screws, you name it. When asked what his favorite tool onboard is, Adam says, without hesitation, “…the sledgehammer. I’ve found there’s a lot of situations where it does the job. A few good smacks.” 

During his downtime on the ship, Adam shows up to game nights (see Twitter picture below), watches movies, and gets as much sleep as he can. Like many crew members, he extolls the virtue of having his own room. On Revelle, he had to change rooms often, moving in and out of other people’s rooms based on their schedules. Despite this, he says he’d be happy enough to go back to that ship, and says “It’ll be cool to see Revelle come into San Diego. I kind of miss that crew.” The ship just arrived into its home port for the first time since 2012, and will be working along the West Coast for the rest of the year.

Adam in the ship’s engine room.

Adam’s preferred schedule is to work about eight months a year, though this year he’ll only get two months off. When asked what he’ll do with that down time, he says, “I don’t have the full year with my friends and family, so I spend time with them. I enjoy whatever holidays I get at home. It’s not the same at sea – you still work your full day, though there’s usually some sort of treat from the galley.”

Down the line, Adam is interested in becoming an electro-technical officer, adding programming and networking knowledge to his skill set. There’s always work on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, where the money is astronomical. But he plans to remain aboard R/V Sally Ride, keeping the ship running smoothly so she can travel the world doing science. There’s still a lot he can learn onboard Scripps research vessels, and he’s eager to do just that. “I largely attribute why I enjoy working with Scripps to the crew. Any time I want to learn something, it’s not difficult to find a teacher in the crew.” Research cruises have taken him to nine foreign countries already in his short career, and Adam says that is a huge draw, “The adventure keeps me coming out.” 


Crew Introductions: Oiler

“I like the people at Scripps. It’s a tight knit family, which makes everything much more enjoyable, especially when you’re living here for two-thirds of your life, maybe more.” 

Willie Brown has been working in the engineering department of Scripps research vessels for 13 years. His dad worked with Captain Tom, master of R/V Sally Ride, and it was through that connection that Willie found out about an open job as wiper on the New Horizon. All three of his brothers followed in his footsteps, and two still work rotations at sea. A wiper works two 4-hour shifts per day in the engine room, assisting the engineer and oiler.

Willie (right) assists fellow oiler Dave in fixing a hydraulic fluid leak
on the ship’s A-frame. Though by this point he’d noticed the camera.

Willie has since moved up to be an oiler, working with third engineer Sarah during the 12-4’s shift (midnight to 4am and noon to 4pm) on Sally Ride. There are no wipers aboard the new ship, the trend towards automated equipment has led to less people being required to operate and maintain the engine room. Willie’s been learning everything he can on the job and watching online lectures in order to ensure he stays competitive in the narrowing job market, “before this AI takes over everything.” He says this is his usual deadpan seriousness, which can make it nearly impossible to determine if he’s joking or trolling you, both of which he does quite often. I’ve watched him humor people that are impossible to talk to, the kind of people I try to avoid sitting anywhere near at the dinner table. He’s also a master at finding people’s conversational triggers, and pokes them just to get a rant started. I’ve discovered over the years that he’s a nice guy, and it’s an excellent distraction in what can become monotonous interpersonal interactions at sea.

New Horizon’s ship track in a typical year.
Learn more at http://siogames.ucsd.edu/Ship_Tracks/

Willie worked on New Horizon for most of his Scripps career, ending with that ship’s retirement in 2014. It was an intermediate class research vessel that operated in the northeastern Pacific, often out of its home port of San Diego. Willie was born and raised in Southern California, and enjoys the “normal life” afforded by working out of San Diego. Many of the crew don’t have this luxury, choosing to live elsewhere and fly to meet the ship and live aboard it in port. Under these circumstances, working about 4 months straight and then taking 2 months off is the usual routine. Willie tries to work as long as the ship is in its home port, saying he’s “24/7/365. It’s very expensive to live in San Diego, other people come here on vacation, so I’m not taking vacations.”

In its first year since leaving the shipyard, all of Sally Ride’s research cruises have been in and out of San Diego. Willie has been onboard most of that time, meaning he’s often training the other oilers when they switch out for vacation or rotations on other ships. The oilers are assigned to run the winches when science operations require them for deployment and recovery of gear, so Willie often spends a few hours of his shift doing that and a few hours of overtime training newer crew members.

Willie (back) oversees O/S Daris’ training on the scientific winch controls.

He’s also been known to stop by the lab to check out what the scientists are doing, “especially if they’re pulling up something besides water and mud.” If you’ve been following along on the blog, you know that much of oceanography is collecting water and mud, and Willie isn’t the only one who only stops by the lab when something else is going on. Many people crowd in to check out biological samples, gathered with nets towed over the starboard side or stern. In typical engineer style, when Willie is seen above deck, he’s often in coveralls, though his colorful board shorts are becoming legendary. 

Willie has done a few cruises aboard the other SIO research vessels, Revelle and Melville, which is where I first met him in 2010. He’s a workout champion, and being in the gym at the same time as him is intimidating. I’ve been on research cruises where other crew members join his workouts and follow his meal plan, bucking the trend by coming away more fit after a research cruise. Having access to three hot meals a day and never-ending snacks, on top of not being able to walk more than 200 feet in any direction at a time, often leads to gaining a few pounds – but not if you’re around Willie. Though he says the 12-4 watch is cramping his usual habits, “I cannot get used to it, no matter what. It’s the Reese’s peanut butter watch, I get the munchies, it’s the worst time to be up.” Rumors of an intensified workout were spreading last time I was onboard, so perhaps he’s stepped up his game to compensate.

I’ve managed to get only a few candid pictures of him, as he’s a complete ham and usually notices me after a few seconds and begins to mug and flex. He even suggested a topless welding photo, and we joked about a “men of Sally Ride” calendar, but instead we kept it to a staged session in the machine shop. And while fellow oiler Buck got a case of the giggles, Willie managed to keep a straight face in every single shot, even when wearing a welding helmet and holding an enormous chain wrench for no apparent reason.

SIO crew members together at The Loma Club.

Like others I’ve interviewed, Willie enjoys being on the Sally Ride. A key selling point for the crew is that they each have their own room. “Privacy is huge, I love it, I value it,” he says, continuing in his deadpan, “I can listen to podcasts out loud. I can walk around in my underwear doing karate moves. That’s very important to me.” It’s the simple pleasures that really add up. The ship has been keeping a busy schedule, out to sea more often than not. In what little time off in port they have, many of the crew members golf together. Enjoying each other’s company outside of work, especially since this isn’t your normal 9-5 job, really speaks to the cohesion and general happiness of the Sally Ride‘s crew. And, as the saying goes – happy crew, happy ship!


Week 3 Report from FLIP

The small boat from R/V Sproul pays a visit.
Photo by Jeremiah Brower.

**Guest blogger Randy Christian is a crew member on R/V Sally Ride, but this month is working on FLIP, Scripps’ FLoating Instrument Platform. FLIP is deployed on a project offshore of Southern California, accompanied by other members of the SIO fleet, R/V Sproul and R/V Sally RideYou can learn more about Randy in this blog post introducing him as second mate, though he sometimes sails as third mate, and read his first report here.** 

Monotony set in after the first week or so. Though morale is still generally good aboard the R/P Flip, by now signs of restlessness and homesickness are showing. It’s no secret we would all rather be with family and loved ones. We are all missing the creature comforts of home, privacy, long hot showers, clean laundry, and our own beds. This is sometimes exacerbated by the issue of food. Anyone who’s worked on ships for a while knows the importance of food to the morale of the crew. Run out of anything, and there is a noticeable dip. Fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by after the three-week mark. Thankfully, we’ve had a couple resupply missions from the Sally Ride, which has much more reefer space than Flip does. Hot sauce and the “good” coffee are running low, but we’re keeping it together. Things could be worse, and we are on the final countdown with just a week to go.

The so-called penthouse, with bunks for crew and
scientists. Photo taken by Randy Christian before
the flip, bunks swivel and are then locked into place.

Individual idiosyncrasies and habits, having been tossed together into this confined space with virtually no privacy, have aggregated together to become little rhythms and traditions, an odd Waterworld-meets-The Life Aquatic kind of culture. The squeak and clank of rigging is ubiquitous, as is the sound of water bottles being crunched in order to save space in garbage bags. Heavy metal plays on the Bose speaker in the galley as Matrik cobbles together our next meal. Coffee is slurped quietly out on deck while giving the gulls congregated around Flip the evil eye. The Wirewalker’s buoy has developed an amusing squeak that sounds like the bark of a shih-tzu. Pairs or small groups of people form around a piece of equipment or a computer monitor and discussions break out. The individuals then dissipate, and new groups and discussions form in other areas. Discussions range from the utterly pedestrian and mundane to the fascinating and profound. Everyone comes out on deck to watch dolphins and whales swim by. I get off watch at noon every day, and Johnny Rod is watching Flipper in the penthouse, something that has become correlated and identified with my afternoon supercomfyrelaxingtime.

Down time relaxation is a necessity. Photo by Randy Christian.

Later, the residents of the penthouse gather there with our dinner plates to watch some much-needed comedy while we picnic on our bunks. Several of us gather on the exterior decks to watch the sunset, if there is one. At any given time of day, Tom is telling someone a story, and someone is lounging in a beanbag or a deck chair and reading. Headphones signal a desire to be left alone. Some evenings, San Thanh Nguyen shows off his gallery-quality photography, and sometimes asks for input on which of his photos he should enter into the County Fair. Depending on the time of day, you know who is likely to be in the lab, or the pilothouse, or the galley.

There have been minor gear issues, which caused Laurent’s near-constant smile to be temporarily subdued for a few days, but by all accounts the trip has been a success. The Wirewalker walks its wire and collects data that San spent the first few days writing code to be able to interpret into a series of graphs on his monitors. The “underwater weathervanes,” as I call them, are on an intricate system of rigging that periodically adjusts itself (startling whomever is standing near the winch), or gets adjusted by Laurent and Ralph “R.J.” Jiorle from out on the booms. Jerry Smith’s passive sonar array, mounted on the hull, does its thing and beams him data. The wave gliders circle Flip, or rather rectangle it, sending their current location and wave motion data to R.J.’s workstation. Terabytes of data have been and continue to be collected just here on Flip, to say nothing of the two other ships and the small plane that have also been involved in this big, expensive project.

Chief Scientist Laurent shows off preliminary data. Photo by Randy Christian.

It will take the scientists months to comb through it for meaningful patterns and trends. Some of it may never even get used, there’s so much. Laurent (now referred to as “The Wiry Frenchman” by his cohorts who read my first blog post) will be writing several papers, as will other members of the scientific parties here on Flip, and those aboard the research vessels Robert Gordon Sproul and Sally Ride. I look forward to reading them from the comfort of my big red couch with one arm around the woman I love. It won’t be long now.


Crew Introductions: Senior Cook

“I have traveled all over the world. I get to work with a lot of interesting people. It’s what I do, it’s not only work for me, it’s part of my life.”

TGIS. A typical Sunday dinner menu,
plus a cheese plate and ginger beer.

Mark Smith has been a cook at UC San Diego for 22 years, first in a dining hall on the main campus and then onboard SIO’s research vessels. He’s cooked on Sproul, New HorizonMelville, Revelle, and is now senior cook on Sally Ride. Of working on the new ship, Mark says, “The pride factor is really high here, we want to keep this vessel looking good.”  I interviewed him during meal prep for Sunday dinner, which is the best night of the week thanks to him. It always includes surf and turf, plus special extras like a fancy dessert, cheese platter, and ginger beer. If there’s not scientists working on the fantail, the cooks or chief engineer often pull out the barbecue to grill steaks, filling the whole working deck and lab with the delicious smell. On this occasion, there were operations going on, and we got prime rib made in the galley instead (a worthy second choice). 

As senior cook, Mark is in charge of three meals a day, as well as placing the food orders. Generally every 2-3 weeks a truckload of fresh supplies pulls up to the ship in port. It’s an all hands on deck moment, with crew and science alike setting up a chain to get everything onboard (see the time-lapse video below from during the shipyard period last summer). On longer trips, the cooks have to make sure fresh food lasts as long as possible. I’ve had crisp lettuce a month in – meanwhile at home mine turns into brown sludge in the drawer after two weeks. “We have plenty of tricks for keeping food good that long,” says Mark. He also makes sure the mess is supplied with plenty of snacks for people working all hours of the day. At any time you can make a PB&J, heat up some leftovers, pour a bowl of cereal, grab a granola bar or handful of nuts, satisfy your sweet tooth with candy, or make popcorn. Stashes of tea, coffee, soda, water, and milk are also available.

Mark gets everything set just minutes before 5pm thanks to the galley clock
being set 8 minutes fast.

A second cook works with Mark, they trade off days being the primary cook: planning the menu and preparing the hot food like entrees and bread. The other person takes care of the salad bar, dessert, and cleaning the galley. To keep things fair, the primary person also gets to choose the music; you can tell it’s Mark’s day when you hear Prince getting funky as you walk down the hallway on the main deck. 

Mark has worked with a few other cooks on Sally Ride in its first year in service as the crew rotates their time off, or moves to other SIO ships. He gets along well with Nick, who was onboard the ship in November and again in March. “Sometimes you don’t know what to make. I like cooking with somebody like him, that’s different from me, who has their own thing.”  The cooks make sure to accommodate members of the crew and science party with specific diets – vegetarians, gluten free and other allergies, and I seem to detect slight changes under different captains as well.

Mark prepares 3 meals a day, keeping the crew and science party happy.

These are the hardest working guys on the ship from what I can tell, working 6am-6pm every day, no matter what the weather or other circumstances. Scientists often work a 12-hour shift, but get down time if seas are too high to deploy equipment. There is no autopilot function in the galley, and good food is as essential to a research cruise as any other factor. “I know that the food is a big part of morale on any trip. For most people, it’s work and eat and rest, that’s it, so if you have a bad meal, that’s not good for anybody.”

I’ve sailed with Mark numerous times since beginning my oceanographic career, and I’m always excited when I see him in the galley when I come aboard for a cruise. He’s friendly, and remembers people even if it’s been years since sailing with them. Recently I’ve developed an allergy to walnuts, and he’s always good about making sure I can easily avoid them. During my stretch onboard these last few months, pecans have been the go-to nut in cinnamon rolls, brownies, and other tasty treats, and I know he’s looking out for me. He’s a good guy to befriend, and makes sailing on R/V Sally Ride a great experience.

Check out this 360 degree view of the galley (kitchen) and mess (dining room).

See more from Mark at the R/V Sally Ride gallery at Birch Aquarium’s Explorations at Sea exhibit! Thanks to aquarium staff for the interview, taken for the “Meet the Crew” feature.