A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5: Transit

At sea!


I woke up before Jessica and got ready in the dark, trying my hardest to keep quiet. The auto-latch of the drawers and doors made it almost impossible, so I felt bad when Jessica groaned and pulled the covers over her eyes. “Sorry,” I mumbled, then slipped out of the room for breakfast.

After breakfast, I admittedly wasn’t feeling great. The new motion of the ship combined with the loudness of the lower decks made sleep fitful, if not impossible. I had stuffed my headphones into my ears, hoping that the rubber would block out the high pitched squeak that kept sounding, but it was no use. I was exhausted.

I sat in the main lab for a few minutes, but Gi was the only one there. He tapped away on his computer. I debated on doing the same, but decided instead to head back to my cabin for a short nap. I even set an alarm for 10:30, intending to wake up and get some work done before lunch. When I woke up, however, it was already noon.

I groaned. After a moment of arguing with myself, I pushed myself out of bed and nearly toppled as the ship rolled. I pulled on my shoes and rushed upstairs to have a very small lunch, then help out in the main lab again.

Jeff and Sean were hard at work repairing a few gas and fluid samplers. One of them had been on the seafloor at 5000m for over four years before they had recovered it (apparently there was a ballast miscalculation), and the other was leaking. I offered my services but was turned down, so instead found myself a seat in the lab and did homework.

Jeff, Sean, Annalouise (the chief scientist) and I were the only ones in the lab. Turns out that everyone was feeling sick from the ship’s motion, especially Niya and Karen, one of the New Zealanders. I felt fine now that I had slept and so enjoyed the motion. It was like walking a kiddie roller coaster, and I found my sea legs again quickly.

Bud eventually poked his head into the lab, asking for help with something about a ‘sound velocity profile’. I had no idea what he was talking about but decided to help anyways, wanting something to do.

It turned out that the sound velocity profile was obtained through a probe, which had a lead tip and a long copper wire attached to the end. The copper wire measures the temperature of the ocean as it drops and sends the data back to a shipboard computer. The temperature profile then allows the computer to calculate the resulting sound velocity of the water column.

The sound velocity data is processed, then sent to the multibeam software so that the system can calibrate its results more accurately. An accurate multibeam system is necessary to create precise seafloor maps. Not to sound childish, but ‘I helped!’ was probably the most exciting thought I’d had all day.

After helping Bud I went back to homework. Sean and I chatted as we worked, him on a gas sampler valve and me on notes for my petrology class back home. He was an alumnus of the school I attended, so we compared our professors and classes. He lamented the way the department was moving towards environmental versus the hard science. I couldn’t help but agree with him – it was impressive how many environmental classes the department now offered rather than hard science classes. Now, I’m not saying that environmental is in any way a bad path to take – it is simply evolving with the needs of the world around it. I just wish that I had more ‘rock’ classes to take instead.

Dinnertime passed and we all moved our separate ways. Poor Niya was curled up on a couch, trying to sleep off the seasickness. Wen yen and Gi were nowhere to be found, nor were the other younger scientists aboard. Jessica sat with her computer, and I with mine. The night went by peacefully, and I eventually drifted to my bed.

Posted by mrh616 18:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ship transit revelle Comments (0)

Day 4: Preparation

The day of departure


The 21st dawned bright. I groaned when I heard Jessica moving about the room, not wanting to wake just yet, but a glance at my watch told me it was already 7:15am and thus time to get up. Breakfast was at 7:30 and only lasted a short while, so you had to be there on time if you wanted to eat.

After breakfast, I returned to the main lab and helped with more set up. Most of the work was done, so the majority of the time was spent simply untangling wires and setting up an air pump. After lunch we moved all the equipment boxes to the main hold and tied them down so they wouldn’t shift when the boat moved.

1pm was the meeting for all the scientists. Our chief scientist went over the bullet points for our watch shifts and the chores we did off-shift, then Brett went over safety protocol while aboard. It lasted about an hour and I, admittedly, was somewhat bored. However, it was something to do – better than the rest of the day.

The rest of the time was spent putsing about on computers and with an espresso machine Jeff had brought. It was his proudest moment – the machine worked perfectly and produced a great cup of espresso. Around 3:15, I went up to the deck, where the crew was working to remove the gangplank.

I found myself a good seat towards the front of the ship and waited for the mooring ropes to be tossed. Bud, our computer guru, joined me with his camera. We chatted for a bit, then simultaneously moved towards the port side to watch the boat begin to move away from the dock. A few others joined us within minutes, and we sat, watching the ship move out of port for over an hour until we were out to sea and it was time for dinner.

Admittedly, after dinner I went straight to my cabin and to my books. I was tired and my sea legs were not quite there. I sat with the pitching of the boat, willing my body to cooperate until around 8pm, when Jessica arrived back to the cabin. “The washers are both free!” she announced. I jumped up. We both began gathering up our things to shove in the washing machines. Nobody was allowed to do laundry while in port, and some of my things were still damp from the beach a few days earlier. It would be wonderful to have dry jeans again.

By 9:15 our clothes had been washed and dried. I elected to stay in, but Jessica decided to go up with some of the others and play cards. I wanted to finish the chapter in my book, then go back to sleep. By the time Jessica arrived in the cabin I was, again, fast asleep.


Posted by mrh616 18:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 3: Drills

Hello, US Coast Guard


An air of anxiety filled the science crew when I went up to breakfast. None of the equipment necessary for the trip had yet arrived, even though it had been shipped on the 6th of April. It was now the 20th and the agent in charge apparently had no idea where any of it was.

We waited in the lab, not really doing anything, for several hours. I read a book and helped out with whatever needed doing, but for the most part we were bored. A few people arrived as the hours passed, including a scientist couple from Russia. Our chief scientist was thrilled and hopped up from her computer to show them around the ship. The same occurred when our New Zealand counterparts arrived, and the rest of us stayed behind and contemplated on how best to stack boxes.

Lunchtime rolled around and we finally got word that our pallets were on the way, to arrive around 1pm. We wolfed down our meals and returned to the main lab, waiting anxiously for word to come that the truck was here.

Brett ran in shortly after one with the good news. “Your stuff’s here,” he said, not sounding entirely enthusiastic. We didn’t blame him – the four pallets were stuffed to the brim, and he was in charge of making sure the crane to lower them aboard didn’t send anyone to the hospital.

Wen yen, Niya and I helped out as the pallets were lowered, all wearing white hard hats and reveling in the arrival of our beloved boxes. Sean was especially excited – he had shipped all his things, save two or three outfits, with the equipment. He had been wearing the same shirt for three days and was more than happy to shower and change into something relatively clean.

At 2pm, as we were in the midst of unscrewing and unlatching boxes of every size, the fire bell rang. It was piercing. My eardrums certainly did not appreciate it. We had been warned of the drill in advance – the US Coast Guard had to inspect the ship yearly, and we just so happened to be on board when it happened. It didn’t make it any more fun, though. We ran to our staterooms, grabbed hats, pants, and sweatshirts, and forced ourselves into bright orange life preservers. Muster was in the main lab, so all the scientists gathered and milled about until Brett began to call out the roster.

Twenty minutes later, the drill was complete. Apparently the ‘fire’ was in the galley, so the crew had to rush in and put it out as the Coast Guard observed. We all moved to put our things back in our staterooms, then returned to the main lab. Just as we began to unpack once more, Brett returned. “There’s gonna be another drill,” he warned. “They want to do an abandon ship.”

A chorus of groans filled the lab, but we all dutifully put our hands over our ears in preparation for the imminent alarm.

Muster for abandon ship was on the aft deck. We joined the crew and watched as a crewmember demonstrated use of a gumby suit, then as the captain showed us how to launch a life raft. I am fairly certain I got a bit of a sunburn.

The drill ended after the life raft briefing. We trailed back to our cabins to put our things away again for the second time. I had just wound up my vest when the alarm went off a third time.

I wasn’t the only one confused. I poked my head out, life vest back in hand, to see fellow scientists stepping slowly out of their cabins with the same perplexed expression. We looked at each other and shrugged, unsure of what the situation was, but dutifully returned to the main lab with life vests in hand.

Brett took one look at us and chuckled. “That was the signal for the end of the drill. Sorry guys.” He smirked at our life vests. “Good response time, though.” Sean and Jeff, both back in the lab with him, were grinning as well. I sighed and returned my vest, thinking that the doors to the stairs were entirely too heavy for this to be any fun.

We spent the next few hours unloading and sorting out the equipment. Sean and Jeff set up the gas chromatograph, and Wen yen and I set about screwing things into the ceilings and tables to ensure nothing dropped when the ship rolled. We set up gas tanks of nitrogen, helium and compressed air, screwing them to support columns and ratcheting the bottoms. I learned how to use some sort of gas tight screw that I can’t remember the name of. Niya, meanwhile, set up the pH stand.

By dinnertime, most of the lab was set up and ready to go. Only a few more touches remained. Sean and Jeff looked around proudly. “Good job, guys. Almost done. We’ll finish up tomorrow.”

We trailed upstairs to dinner, deciding that afterwards we would spend our last night ashore out on the town. The food on ship was, as always, wonderful. After dinner I went to take a short nap, still recovering from jet lag, but woke up around 7 to see if anyone was still on board. A few people hovered over some equipment on the biology side of the main lab. They mentioned that most people would be leaving in a few minutes to go get some last minute items at the supermarket, then meet the others for drinks around 9.

I joined the group leaving. We stopped by an atm (thankfully my card cooperated) and a grocery store, where I purchased some New Zealand ‘Kiwi party mix’, which was a mix of gummy candies. I had never seen most of them before, so I figured it might be fun. I also purchased some tea bags, figuring that they might be good to have for cold nights.

We left the grocery store and found the crew and some fellow scientists at a bar one block down. They sat outside at a table, taking up the whole block. We decided to add to the chaos.

I stayed until 10pm, sipping a local ale and laughing at the stories told until my eyes grew heavy. Jessica and Wen yen joined me on our walk back to the ship, and once again I dropped off almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Posted by mrh616 18:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 1: Exploring

The beach and the brewery


I waited next to the line of cars picking up and dropping off for nearly an hour, checking my phone for the time every few minutes. I had no service of course now that I was international, and no wifi signal seemed to be in the area for me to check the messenger app I used to contact my ride. Finally, I hauled my 49-pound duffel bag (just under the limit, thank goodness!) onto a trolley and wheeled it inside in search of a phone book, hoping to use a payphone to contact my ride. Maybe she had slept through her alarm, I thought, or perhaps the time difference and crossing the date line had skewed my dates for when I would arrive.

I wheeled my trolley to an airport information desk and began flipping through the Auckland white pages. Just as I reached the appropriate entry, I felt an arm slip around my shoulders. “Morgan! You made it!”

I whirled and found Hannah, my ride and Auckland local, beaming at me. It turned out that she had been there as long as I had, yet we had somehow missed each other as I walked out of the baggage claim and customs. I had looked through the crowd and paused inside for a short while to see if she was there, but I hadn’t seen her and instead walked straight outside. Turned out she had sent me a message several hours before telling me where to be and her phone contact information, but due to my lack of service I had never received it.

We drove for a short while. I had grown somewhat accustomed to the idea of driving on the left as I watched the line of cars dropping off and picking up passengers, but it was a completely different experience when actually in the vehicle. I learned that there is no ‘left on red’ in New Zealand (we have ‘right on red’ at home), and that New Zealand drivers are – there is no better term than this – completely crazy. Watching them drive felt like watching a Nascar race. They sped around blind turns as though the hills were invisible, and had no problem pulling into a miniscule break in traffic when there was a much safer break just a few moments away. Thankfully, Hannah wasn’t as reckless on the roads and we reached her house safely.

The moment we opened the door we were greeted by happy whimpers and soft ‘woofs’. My legs were buffeted by tails wagging at a hundred miles an hour. Their names were Bruno and Tonka, both males, and a black lab and golden retriever respectively. You can’t help but fall in love with their goofy grins and big brown eyes.

Hannah showed me my room and I dropped my things to the carpeted floor. I kicked off my shoes with a sigh of relief and went to join Hannah as she showed me the bathroom. Within a few moments however, to my surprise, I was nudged in the leg by something solid. I looked down to see Bruno with my shoe in his mouth, offering it up as a gesture of friendship. It was almost painful to make him drop the shoe (he was so happy!). However, the key word there is ‘almost’… I learned quite quickly to leave my things on high shelves or zipped up where Bruno couldn’t reach.

After a warm shower and a change of clothes, I joined Hannah and her husband Paul upstairs for a cup of coffee. Paul and I got along right away, and as Hannah showered I helped Paul reattach the door to ‘my’ room and clean his golf clubs of sulfur-rich soil. When Hannah reemerged, we discussed taking the ferry out to Rangitoto, but the skies were darkening in the windows behind us. The views would have been subpar, and so we decided instead to take the dogs to the beach.

It was a 45-minute drive along winding country roads, heading south from Auckland. We stopped within an ancient caldera. Peaked hills loomed over us, and a small river ran across the beach to the rough waves beyond. The sands themselves were a dark tan, with black sands scattered throughout. In all technicality it would be labeled a black sand beach, and that is indeed what Hannah and Paul called it. I do not remember the actual name of the beach, unfortunately… it began with a B. Breakers Beach, perhaps? I will have to look it up.

The dogs were in heaven. Paul threw the ball into the river and both dogs sprang to reach it before the other. Tonka was faster than Bruno on land, but seemed incapable of doing the ‘doggy paddle’. He preferred to leap through the water like a jumping dolphin, forcing his way through as quickly as he could. This technique beat out poor Bruno’s 8 times out of 10.

The area around the beach was gorgeous. Pyroclastic deposits dominated the cliff faces. Erosion took off ash and pulled blocks out of the walls and left lava flows poking out laterally. The river and waves had pulled material out of the cliffs, creating small caves that narrowed the further you went. The floors of these caves were covered in soft sand that coated your feet. The largest of the caves had fallen victim to bright red graffiti, but for the most part they looked pristine.

The cliffs

The cliffs

The cave

The cave

After a few minutes I reluctantly picked my way back across the river in my bare feet to where Hannah and Paul waited. The dogs bounded alongside me, thrilled to be in the water whenever possible. We meandered down the beach to where a large hill, eroded to bare rock and volcanics on all sides, stuck out of the beach sand. Hannah and I went to investigate while Paul entertained the dogs. Rain began to fall lightly on our heads, but we ignored it. The beach and the walls surrounding us were too cool.

Crossing the 'river'

Crossing the 'river'

The hill

The hill

We moved out from under the shadow of the looming hill and glanced around to the side, where waves beat the rocks into submission. Thankfully we were there at low tide, and we picked our careful way across the barnacles and mussels that lived there to the edge of a large rock. Paul and the dogs went up first, as he still had his shoes on. Almost the moment he reached the edge, a large wave rushed the rock, splashing foam and water all over him and the dogs. The dogs couldn't have cared less. Paul, however, was soaked.

Paul on the rocks

Paul on the rocks

Hannah and I took the opportunity and snapped a few pictures before moving up to take his place. Paul snapped a picture of us as we were rushed by yet another wave. The combination of the wind, rain and waves nearly knocked us off the rock, but we stood our ground until Paul had the picture, then quickly scrambled back to the safety of the sand.



By this point, the rain and wind had picked up to a brutal level, stinging our faces and soaking us through. Thankfully I had remembered to bring an extra pair of jeans which sat, safely dry, in the car. Tonka and Bruno were starting to tire. Tonka kept trying to lie down with his tennis ball prize, but Paul urged him on. We made it back to the car, soaked to the skin and freezing cold, just in time for the rain to die down some.

The dogs leapt into the back of the car and, sitting on our rain jackets, we drove away from the beach. A brewery nearby was our next destination. It boasted of good beer and good food, and had heating lamps above the tables - a welcome addition for our wet selves.

We changed in the bathroom and sat down at the last available table in the restaurant. In a few minutes, we were joined by a few friends of Hannah and Paul. We shared an enjoyable lunch, followed by homemade gelato at a small stand nearby and a quick stop at a grocery store. We then turned back to the house.

The beer paddle

The beer paddle

Hannah and Paul took a nap while I tried my best to stay awake and beat the jet lag. Around 5:30pm, they awoke and began getting ready for a party they were to attend that night. I found myself drifting. After they left, I took up their suggestion and sat in the hot tub for a little while, letting the jets massage the travel knots from my neck. Soon, however, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I rinsed off in the shower and drifted to bed, where I was joined by Tonka and Bruno. By 8:30pm, I was blissfully asleep. Tomorrow, I boarded the R/V Revelle.

Posted by mrh616 15:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rain hills beach dogs brewery caldera Comments (0)

Day 2: Boarding

On board the R/V Revelle


Day two began with freshly made juice and coffee at Hannah and Paul’s house. Poor Tonka was forced outside onto the deck after his bath and Bruno was made to join him as we ate. To make up for it, Paul allowed me to give them apples – their favorite treat. I moved to toss an apple across the deck for Tonka, but the pup was too fast and he grabbed it from my hand. Within moments, bits of apple were dropping from his mouth as he attempted to eat the thing whole. Bruno was a little daintier – he bit the apple in half, then quartered the remainder so that no pieces remained.

We piled into the car soon after, leaving Tonka and Bruno on the deck. They looked at us pitifully, begging to come with us, but there were things to do and not enough room for two large dogs to join us. The ride to the dock went by too quickly. I didn’t want to leave, not after exploring so little of the country beneath my feet. Plus, Hannah and Paul had been so wonderful and welcoming, bringing me into their (fluffy) family so easily, that it was hard to say goodbye.

They dropped me off at the port entrance and hugged me goodbye. I watched them get into their car and drive away as I waited for the port shuttle to take me to the ship that would be my home for the next month: the R/V Revelle.

The shuttle pulled up alongside a dark blue ship, the letters emblazoned in white across the port bow. It was bigger than I had expected, nearly 300 feet long. I pulled my duffel across the gangway and onto the deck, where a crewmember sat waiting for me. She checked my ID and glanced into my bag to make sure I wasn’t bringing anything unwelcome aboard, then handed me a badge and gave me directions inside.

I immediately got lost. The ship was a maze of stairs and hallways, all looking the same to me. I had to ask three different people how to reach my room. Eventually I picked out a landmark, a map of the geomorphology of some basin off California, and marked off my new room.

It was small, but nearly twice the size of my cabin on my previous ship. I gave myself the top bunk and packed my things away with ease, noting that my roommate was not yet present. I later found out she would arrive with our chief scientist, who was traveling back from Taupo.

As one of the first of the science crew aboard, I had plenty of time to explore. I discovered the galley two floors above, and the main lab directly on top of my cabin. I went outside and met Jason and Aldea, our ROVs for the cruise. Jason was enormous – twice the size of Hercules, my previous ROV encounter. The engineers working on him were friendly and teased each other mercilessly from either side of the ROV, each seeking to outdo the other in their introductions.

I returned inside and ate lunch with the few science crew onboard. My supervisor had not yet arrived, so after lunch I sat and chatted with some crewmembers. It would be another several hours before anyone showed up.

Around 3pm they arrived, toting a few things with them but otherwise unhindered by the lab equipment I expected to see. It turned out that their expected shipment had not yet arrived in port, and our lab setup would be a little rushed if it didn’t arrive on time. Introductions went all around. I met my roommate, a fellow undergraduate from Portland State. She was studying microbiology and was helping with cultures and similar duties in the biology section of the lab.

For dinner we all decided to leave the ship and went to a small pub nearby. The food was expensive but good. We talked excitedly about what adventures awaited us this cruise, fingers crossed that the equipment we needed would arrive in time for us to leave.

I left early, jetlag getting the better of me. The others had been in the country longer and were more accustomed to the time change, so decided to stay for another round of drinks. I went immediately to my bunk and was asleep before my roommate returned.

Posted by mrh616 18:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ship boarding revelle Comments (0)

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