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Daily Updates: January
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Daily Updates: February
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View Today's Slideshow!

brokenclouds weather

Broken Clouds
79°F (26.1°C)
Latitude: 9 deg 49’N
Longitude: 104 deg 17’W
Wind Direction: NE
Wind Speed: 17 Knots
Sea State: 3Swell(s) Height: 2 Feet
Sea Temperature: 82°F (27.8°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1012.5 MB
Visibility: 20 Nautical Miles

what's to eat today?

Lox, cream cheese, and bagels
Cheddar cheese omelets
Fresh fruit

Turkey and cheese club sandwiches
Pasta salad
Salad bar
Onion rings

Italian Night!
Antipasto (salads, salami, olives, beets)
Pasta with three sauces
     Basil and Spinach Pesto
     Spicy Marinara
     Sausage and Vegetables
Homemade Garlic and Italian Bread
Ricotta Cheesecake

Deeper Discoveryslideshow

Click here for examples of digital photographs taken by the Towed Camera Sled.

Daily Update: Dive 3526
February 1, 2000
By Dr. Dan Fornari

The Towed Camera Sled was brought on board early this morning at 0530 because we had to transit about 13 miles north for today’s dive. Pat Hickey will be the pilot for today’s dive along with observers Bob James and Gary Comer. They have a full program of hydrothermal vent mapping and fluid sampling, as well as taking digital video of different volcanic and vent features so that we can illustrate our drawings for our science papers and the web site. This area has many hydrothermal vents, black smokers, and biological communities which have been studied since the 1991 volcanic eruption which took place on the East Pacific Rise crest near 9° 50’N Latitude.

The camera worked very well for 7 hours on the bottom, then the battery power gave out. Dan helped Greg, Del and Jenny in trying to figure out how to get more power out of the batteries. We think that maybe they are not being charged enough, so we gave them an 11-hour charge today and hopefully tonight the tow will last longer. More photos from Camera Tow #2 are posted as a slide show today along with a map showing where the tow was.

This morning Dan Fornari spoke with the Science Club of the Paul Revere School in Chicago. Gary Comer has been very active at this school, which is where he attended elementary school. He has helped them establish a science club and has provided computer infrastructure and facilities for students and teachers. Dan answered questions from the students while Gary was in Alvin. The students had lots of questions for Gary and he will answer them by email tomorrow. Some pictures of Gary are included in today’s slideshow, including the ones requested by the kids! Don’t miss them.

Mid-morning was interrupted by some problems just as Alvin was approaching the bottom. When the sub was only 100 meters from the bottom, Pat noticed that he had a ground in one of the electrical lines that came from one of the main batteries.

When a piece of equipment becomes grounded, the electricity no longer flows through it correctly. Instead of staying in the wires, electricity gets out where the equipment is plugged in or, in the case of equipment on Alvin, into the pressure housing (the titanium metal case that protects the wires and components from the pressure in the deep ocean). Grounds allow the electrons holding together the atoms of metal in the electrical wires to “float” away into the ocean. *Click here for information about electrical grounds in Alvin written by BLee Williams

BLee Williams, the Head of the Electrical Team, Dave Olds and Bob Waters, the other electricians, talked to Pat on the underwater telephone and worked with him to try to isolate the ground. After about 30 minutes of discussion and testing, they decided that Alvin had to come back to the surface in order to fix the ground. After Alvin was recovered, Bob Waters sprayed saltwater all over the different penetrators and wires in Alvin to help locate the ground while Pat tested the electrical lines inside Alvin. It took them only an hour to discover that a few drops of water had seeped into one of Alvin's penetrators. Penetrators allow wires to pass into the Alvin pressure sphere - where the people sit. Penetrators are very specialized pieces of equipment. They have to fit perfectly into Alvin’s hull and not let ANY water in. Alvin has very sophisticated detectors all around the sub to warn the pilot if there is even a tiny drop of water anywhere in the electrical system. All the Alvin crew pitched in and fixed the penetrator and prepared the sub for another dive tomorrow. Bob and Gary will go down tomorrow to the vents with BLee Williams as pilot.

After lunch, Sam Dean of COSI - the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus and Toledo, Ohio, gave a lecture on some of the educational and outreach activities that COSI is involved in. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and COSI are collaborating on education and public awareness programs based around the Dive and Discover web site. At the end of his lecture, Sam also handed out some funny “Noise Putty”. This stuff smells very sweet, but the neat thing about it is when you stick your fingers in it makes silly noises. Everyone enjoyed playing with it!

The rest of the afternoon was spent analyzing the gravity and magnetics data from the first two dives.

Jim, Dana, Hans and Dan are working hard to make sure that all the information they are collecting is precise. They are also writing instructions for the next group of observers so that they can operate all the geophysical equipment installed on Alvin.

Dan took some time off to cook his Italian specialties for tonight’s dinner for all of the crew and scientists on board. Others took time off for a dip in the pool, or to work out with Tim McGee who lead a Navy SEAL exercise program on the bow.

Dive Summary
On Bottom: 0914 hours
Off Bottom: 0945 hours
Maximum Depth: 2534 meters

The dive today did not traverse the seafloor due to a ground. Tomorrow’s dive will carry out the science program which was supposed to be done today.

Keeping The “Big O“ Out of Alvin
By BLee Williams
BLee Williams holding one of Alvin's penetrators. These penetrators are located around the viewports and are where wires from outside of Alvin's sphere come inside the sub.
Submarine are often called “electric boats” because they need lights and power to see and move, computers to log data, and sensors to measure temperature and pressure. Add to that the manipulation capabilities and the needs of the scientific equipment that Alvin uses, and you can see why Alvin needs electricity to operate.

Understanding how electricity can be safely used in the “Big O”, as submariners sometimes call the ocean, is one of the first and most important lessons a new submariner learns. Seawater is able to conduct electricity very easily. Very pure water will not conduct electricity, but if you add salt to it, then electricity will pass through it because of the dissolved salt. The electrical energy to run Alvin and all its tools is stored in big batteries made up from lots of high-power golf cart batteries (see the Interview with BLee Williams - Alvin’s chief electrician and the person responsible for its batteries). It is very important that the energy stored in these batteries is not allowed to ’leak’ out of Alvin. Apart from wasting precious power and not being able to complete all the science planned for a dive, leaking power causes damage to equipment.

Electricians call leaking power a “ground”. When a piece of equipment becomes grounded, the electricity no longer flows through it correctly. Instead of staying in the wires, electricity gets out where the equipment is plugged in or, in the case of equipment on Alvin, into the pressure housing (the titanium metal case that protects the wires and components from the pressure in the deep ocean). These grounds allow the electrons holding together the atoms of metal in the electrical wires to “float” away into the ocean. If the ground is bad enough, or is left uncorrected, the metal actually begins to disappear as the bonds holding the atoms together are removed. This is called “corrosion”. Pretty soon, the wire disappears and electrons can no longer move along it. This could lead to electrical connectors failing and could let seawater into pressure housings or even the Alvin personnel sphere.

A close-up view of one of Alvin's penetrators.
Grounded equipment does not work properly, so sensitive instruments that rely on electricity from Alvin’s batteries need that power to be good, or “clean” as electricians call it. Alvin’s electrical team (ETeam) is primarily responsible for the sub’s electrical systems and testing for grounds on all its permanent equipment, as well as additional equipment that different scientists bring out to do their experiments. The ETeam inspects Alvin’s electrical system for grounds before and after every dive. During the dives, the pilots check for grounds frequently. Equipment that becomes grounded is never operated. Even a “little” ground on a piece of electronics is not “good enough”; it is either not grounded or it is not used.

I tell new members of the Alvin Group: “It’s nice to love the sea, but a healthy respect for the awesome power of the water is what will keep you alive”. Keeping track of grounds and where electricity is flowing in Alvin is important when working in the “Big O”.