RaDyO FLIP Experiment

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September 24th
After a late night of testing the camera, we’ve now successfully collected all the bits and bytes that we’ll need. Today will be a more physical day which is nice for a change. Sitting in a folding chair behind an intimidating tower of computers all day has become a bit stale. Peter and I spend the day breaking down the LIDAR, LED, and underwater camera. These are all some expensive pieces and we take extra caution not to screw anything up. We also calibrate the crow’s camera, bundle cables, and organize our gear while helping some of the other groups recover as well.

Nightfall brings upon us the mandatory rummy session. These card games go beyond your casual social event. This is a more comical nerd-off version. Chris from Columbia, Luke from Miami, and Johannes from Victoria, along with Peter and I are keeping live stats on Excel complete with detailed Game Notes and up to the minute round averages as we march through hand after hand into the night. Subtle rules are debated, strategies are criticized, and heckling abounds. Tom, Terry, Joel and Joe look on during their respective shifts and add to the verbal punishment that criss-crosses back and forth between players over our makeshift Zarges playing table. On this night I live up to my reputation of late: peak early and fade late. This is just the right formula for suffering the consequences of early round roustings. I need a win already before I humiliate myself once again.

September 23rd
Today the weather is even better yet. Since all the optics people left via the Kilo Moana yesterday, there are no scientists to take advantage of today’s clear and dead glass conditions. In contrast, the wave-studying part of the crew seeks the less benign. The moderate wind and variable atmospheric conditions that were prevalent throughout the data collection period were met with open arms by us. And now today’s 75 degree weather comes at a perfect time for today’s scheduled instrument recovery that will last through Thursday.

Peter and I start with breaking down the stereo cameras and move on to the meteorological station to finish off the morning. In the afternoon we take down the crow’s nest camera while leaving the LIDAR, LED, and underwater camera in tact for more testing. We’re capturing away for the majority of the day and have almost filled our 20 terabytes of data. This should be a fun job to sort through upon return.

September 22nd
Today could possibly be the best weather we’ve experienced all trip. After a couple weeks of moderate winds, the conditions have calmed and the sun is showing early. We drop the camera twice in the morning and let the computers go to work. The camera is packaged with a motion package to correct for wave motion and is also framed together with the AquaDopp to get a measure of currents and wave motion. The middle of the day is the worst return from the camera, as the sun overpowers the intensity of the LED’s. For this reason we make the most of the early morning/late night hours and stop recording during the middle of the day.

Late in the morning, 5 of the crew members transfer over to the Kilo Moana which will be heading back to land tomorrow for all the early departees. The two Polish dudes, the Italian from UCSB, Russel from Australia, and the other Nick from Canada are all on the farewell list. We’re sad to see them leave, but we’re left with more space and less noise on board so there are no complaints.

In the afternoon we keep on recording full blast as this will be our last full day with everything running. There are a few software wrinkles I add to the camera/motion package programs and a few noted things I will have to work on when I return to land. Peter has me help him with some more checkerboard calibration of the stereo cameras. This has better results than our previous efforts and his preliminary 3D images of waves are looking sweet! On a side note, after 20 days I’m starting to fiend for an alcoholic beverage as our data collection is coming to a close.

September 21st
Well you patch one hole and a new one rips open at the seams. The camera is all ready to go by late morning after some preparation but now we’re having LED display problems. The camera will be filming the LED display from underwater. The distortion shown from the regular grid of LEDs through the surface of the ocean can give us a measure of the wave field above. So basically we’re screwed without our little lightbox. Peter and I spend the morning troubleshooting the display, restarting computers, checking for faulty cables, and speed dialing Luc to no avail. So we open up the lid and have a look under the hood. Getting underneath is not an easy task, but troubleshooting is. We find a loose power connector and before long we’re up and running with red lights flaring.

In the afternoon after lunch I finally get a fair shot at capturing some imagery so we’re all stoked. We let it run at 3 meters depth, keeping a close eye out for any error messages which could be linked to a leak. But all is well and we stream until midnight, making up for lost time. I make a few notes on some improvements for the software and the deployment. Next year we will be doing basically the same experiment off Hawaii, so we want to have everything dialed by then.

September 20th
With no profiling scheduled today and all the computers dancing along at their usual uninterrupted pace, Peter and I have an easy morning ahead of us. I am able to put a sizeable dent into Kerouac’s Big Sur in between more tall tales around the fireside chat with Tom and Terry. I’ve got 3 more trips on FLIP slated for the next two years so I’m sure to buddy up with the crew, fueling their lengthy sea narratives with wide eyed enthusiasm. I also finish up the new oring system and get the camera ready to drop. As soon the University of Miami guys are done doing there profiling this evening, we’ll be ready for another nervy housing trial.

In the afternoon I am able to finish Big Sur. I’ve now got two books under my belt for the trip. This is the first time I’ve read a novel in years. Without a lengthy school assignment attached to the pages, reading ain’t half so bad.

In the evening we drop the camera housing under water. Surprisingly, any edginess that I had experienced with previous deployments has now subsided as my faith in this forsaken ethernet connector has become nil. With the increasing wind waves beating at FLIP’s hull, my expectations are low to avoid any more disappointment. Miraculously though, after almost 4 hours under the surface, we bring her up without a drop. It’s about time. It’s also time for bed.

September 19th
I wake up with crazy neck pain. My pillow is effing huge on here, totally should have brought my own. Add to this the camera housing is still giving me fits. I’ve tried dozens of marine sealing substances now without a solution. The latest version with Splash Zone has ballooned to the size of a small hand grenade when finished and got a few laughs from the crew. Well I’m not laughing. It seems as though I’m slipping farther from the root of the problems so I change my tactics and attack instead the suspiciously crackly and stretched out gasket at the connector’s base. I put on my headphones and toil away for a few hours under some guidance from John Fogarty while excavating the connector from the grenade and installing a new oring.

In the afternoon we get another plane visit – this time from fellow lab grad student Ben who I recently worked with in Australia. He wrote the programs for the LIDAR and is a legitimate nerd but pulls it off quite seamlessly with an incessant string of witty humor. He makes drawn out passes above us all afternoon and into the early evening as we up our data output to maximize concurrent measurements once again. I also get a chance to try out our lab’s new camera during this time: a Nikon D300. This thing is insane and I’ve already got ideas for the camera as it will be under ‘communal use’ within the lab. After that I’m off to bed, but not before another movie night which is accompanied by FLIP’s sugary pantry of licorice, jelly beans, and York chocolate mints.

September 18th
Today is the clearest day of the trip thus far. We really do have a spectacular view to call our own and the crew is sometimes led to think that I’m making up excuses when I go up to the crow’s nest to measure our camera’s position from time to time. From up here you get a quality view of the islands and Santa Barbara off in the distance. Today the haze has finally burned and you can make out some of the detail in the accompanying terrain.

For the most part today is a bit drawn out and the computer monitoring has gotten a bit tiresome. There are a lot of things that could go wrong but right now everything is smooth sailing so to speak. You don’t want to get too comfortable and allow a chunk of our bread and butter to spoil while at the helm though. So Peter and I remain locked in and are kept focused by that next meal being simmered up in the galley below. Tamales for lunch and ribs for dinner today from Paul. Dee-lish. He used to be a personal chef for an admiral in the navy so there are no complaints at the moment. I’ve never had meat for so many consecutive meals either. Despite the internal log jam, I’m quite content after another cruisy day aboard FLIP.

September 17th
After hogging the boom with our profiles, it’s now time to let the other groups use the trolleys so Peter and I have an easier day on tap. Backing up files and monitoring output is pretty much what my morning consists of.

After lunch, Tom swaps to FLIP’s 2nd generator. The power will go out for a brief moment, so we shut down our computers beforehand to prevent any failures. There are a couple issues getting back up and running but we’re in full effect by 2 pm. Later in the afternoon, Chris and I map out every instrument’s location on the boom for documentation purposes. In the afternoon wind this is a bit of a tricky operation but we get the job done without a hitch.

The mold for the underwater camera connector still has not cured. I thought the molding was successful initially but I think the humidity of the sea environment has taken its toll on this specialized epoxy resin. With a 24 hour curing time, it has now been 48 and I’m more frustrated then ever. The crew has found yet another material – Splash Zone – for me to try to salvage the uncured mold. This is more of a putty material and I coat it around the outside of the mold hoping it will suck out some of the moisture. Crossing my fingers, I’ll give it time and see how it looks tomorrow.

Nightime brings another movie night. This has been the late evening trend of late. Huddling around the tight galley quarters and our lavish 19″ TV has led to some quality bonding time. There’s some real characters on here, extremes in every direction. From talking to European scientists about optical instruments to talking to deckhands about Tijuana nightlife, I’m enjoying my stay.

September 16th
What do you know, more profiling on tap for today with my friend the AquaDopp. The AquaDopp is a Norwegian instrument that measures currents. We’re mainly interested in vertical currents which can give us a measure of turbulence from the incoming wave field at the surface. The numbers we’ve retrieved so far from this instrument are very interesting and hold valuable information – especially during a transition from calm to windy weather. While this most recent run of data is all good and dandy, moving a winch up and down in the cold wind isn’t so much. But I’ll take a little physical monotony out here on FLIP over sitting in an office year round any day. The fog has lifted and the Channel Islands have been in full view over the past couple of days. In addition the abundance of sea life has made things quite pleasant on board.

The winds aren’t as strong today but Luc still comes back up from San Diego in a small airplane to do some airborne measurements above us with a pilot from CDIP. He’ll be using a 2nd LIDAR and another video camera to get an idea of the fetch, or area over which the local wind blows. When coupled with our FLIP measurements, this will give us a better picture of the small and large scale events that are creating the local wind swell that we’ve been experiencing. We up our sampling rates while Luc is in flight through the evening to maximize simultaneous measurements.

There are legends and then there is Tom Golfinos, captain of the FLIP. After dinner tonight everyone gathers round Tom like young boyscouts at a campfire. He is a master storyteller and has us all transfixed into the night with stories from his travels around the world 4 times over. Tom was raised in Greece, worked in Costa Rica for a decade, and has now been captain of FLIP for over 20 years. He knows the odd intricacies of this beast better than all and has the stories to prove it. I get the feeling the ship will be decomissioned the day he retires. FLIP is getting old and expensive to maintain and finding a replacement for Tom will be difficult. Tom keeps us entertained with his deep reservoir of sea stories and off color jokes until I’m off to bed.

September 15th
Nerves are a little tight after last night. Mirik, my Polish bunkmate, got into a little heat with the Portuguese cook Paul. We really need an international diplomat on board. Apparently Mirik stepped on him on his way to bed. If you could understand the bunk situation then you’d definitely feel for Mirik. But still you never mess with the cook, especially one as talented as Paul. Everyone’s walking on eggshells at breakfast this morning but all goes well.

We continue profiling in the morning and it’s already getting windy early which is good for the data. Peter and I trade off running down to the bottom deck to change the profile depths to stay out of the cold NW winds. By midday we’re at 25 mph and things are getting interesting out over the ocean with increasing swells. The LIDAR and video cameras are showing great returns. Peter and I hit our first stumbling blocks sans Luc with some dropped frames and a LIDAR program crash. Sorting this out while profiling keeps us busy and locked in until late afternoon. Also I filled a 2nd Scotchcoat mold from Ken’s care package. This time the epoxy oozed like syrup into the cranberry juice can/gatorade bottle mold I pieced together. I’m really starting to think that the initial run was part of a bad batch.

In addition to the winds, a strong current is now pushing and pulling on FLIP’s 400 foot frame. The heading is swinging back and forth 45 degrees and tearing at the 3 mooring lines below. The pitch and roll are easily up to 5 degrees as well. Good thing we brought all our motion packages to correct for this. By nightfall the wind is still ripping away and we are recording all the chaos with glee as a full moon comes overhead. Time for bed.

Sepetember 14th
Today Luc leaves so Peter and I try to put on our best sadfaces. There is a lot of work to do between the two of us, but there is less pressure once the Frenchman has left the building. Upon Luc’s departure I will get some new administrative duties which aren’t much fun. After 4 consecutive calls from the chief scientist on the Kilo Moana I’m craving to be a lowly engineer once again.

In the afternoon Peter and I calibrate the crow’s nest camera before starting the lovely game of profiling. 10 minute depth increments with the AquaDopp is just enough time to be very unproductive through the course of the day. We do catch the highlights of the Charger game though which doesn’t provide much relief. A second straight loss to start the season and now San Diego is home to two last place professional sports teams. We get over the loss with another quality meal from Paul and let the AquaDopp continue logging overnight before going to bed.

September 13th
Today the head hauncho arrives aboard FLIP. The other grad students and I call him The General, aka Ken Melville. He’s big and Australian with a deep voice and booming laugh. We dream up these lofty scenarios of him smoking cigars and playing poker with the heads of the big science research funding agencies like NSF and ONR. Nowadays Ken spends most of his time abroad as he has a high administrative position at Scripps, although he still oversees our lab and teaches a couple wave courses. He’s just here for the day so we quickly show him the setup and discuss a few details. We alter a few camera details and tweak a few data collection strategies to his favor before he leaves to the Kilo Moana after lunch.

After a lengthy nap in the afternoon, there is more discussion between Luc, Peter and I about the operation. We make sure to go over all details as Luc will be leaving in the morning. At nighttime the trolley opens up on the starboard boom for usage so we jump at the chance to test the 5200-patched housing alongside the AquaDopp. After a couple hours we reel her back in and the results have not changed. Actually things have gotten worse. This leak is starting to really get annoying. Luckily Ken brought a care package from my coworker Joel with some possible caulking solutions and a 2nd opportunity with the 3M Scotchcoat. We agree on one more final attempt at patchwork. With our turn on the boom on Monday all day, I hope to have everything ready for testing by then.

September 12th
Early in the morning I apply the 5200 to the connector assembly. This material is much easier to work with than the 3M Scotchast and I let it sit to cure after a hefty 1st coat. Luc and Peter work on synchronizing and calibrating the stereo cameras with the big checkerboard outside. Also in the morning, Russel arrives from the Kilo Moana to trade spots with Svein from Canada. Russel is from Australia and was at the pier experiment that was held back in January. He’s a true Ozzie to the bone and loves drinking beer and talking politics.

My afternoon is spent doing some profiling with our AquaDopp from the bottom deck. This instrument gives us a good idea of the turbulence from wave breaking in the surface layer of the ocean. This is a good time to put on the headphones, listen to music, and do some no brainer work. The instrument sits at different depths for 10 minute increments until I spool the winch up or down to new positions. Except for the cold down below and the proximity to the exhaust and bathroom discharge, it’s nice to be left alone for a bit on the bottom deck.

In the evening, Luc gets Peter and I up to speed on the entire computer system for our operation here on FLIP. We’ve got 7 computers and 3 laptops in our small lab so it’s a rather intense checklist to cover. We brought 20 terabytes of hard disk space but it will be used up quickly if we’re not careful. We’ve automated most of our instruments to run for 20 minutes on the hour every hour with the most demanding ones used even more sparingly. We want to save some space for if/when the winds kick up into full gear. After the meeting it’s time for a 2nd coat of 5200 on the housing and my 1st shower/shave of the trip then I’m off to bed.

September 11th
Last night was my worst night of sleep thus far. There is a symphony of snorers at night in my six bunk room. But I’m up early and ready to go ahead with the moldings for the camera connector. We’ve let everything dry out and made a mold out of some cans to completely enclose the coupling with polyurethane.

Luc is the chief scientist aboard FLIP and I am glad I am not in his shoes as he is constantly on the phone dealing with experiment logistics. You would think scientists would be cooperative in saving the world but this is not the case. I’m finding there is more and more politics just like any other industry I guess. A 2nd unmoored boat, the Kilo Moana from Hawaii, is anchored not far from us as part of the experiment and holds all the fat cats. This boat has a gym, library, pool, etc. A bit different from the 45+ year old FLIP but I’m glad I’m here and not there. We’ve got a very international crew on board which is always entertaining. Peter arrived late in the morning and he will be setting up the stereo imagery cameras to get a 3D view of the waves. He’s basically taking Luc’s place who leaves on Sunday.

After getting Peter acclimated and making a few met station code changes in the afternoon I am prepped and ready to start the molding by five. This ends up being a kindergarten fingerpaint project gone wrong. Thick and messy, the two part material is difficult to form and I’m frustrated with this camera to say the least. Terry is valiantly trying to help me the whole time but things are looking grim. Another deckhand, Joel, suggests some 5200 glue. The name is scary and the results are permanent but we’re desperate at this point. All the time and money go into the actual experiments so it’s now or never. Tom brings us a couple tubes and we decide to try it out tomorrow. We pass the night listening to Terry on his shift tell grandiose stories of the Bering Sea in winter, pirate hat company side projects, and monster trucks in Alaska. With 20 knot winds today, we’re pleased with the amount of quality data that came in.

September 10th
I’m writing this nearly 3 days after the fact and my short term memory is a bit of a blur of instrument setup and calibration. We did a lot of fine tuning this morning since the bulk of our equipment is now up and running. There are still a few things to deploy and Chris from Lamont and I have an agreement that we won’t take a shower until all our instruments are up and running. This makes 6 days strong and the sourest of stages have already come and gone. In the morning we make sure everything is level and document carefully the orientation of all our instruments. One thing I have learned in the past is to write everything down. Resolving small details from particular days and times after the fact can be a painful process, especially when it feels like Groundhog Day in this unending marine layer.

After lunch I start setting up the underwater camera for usage. It will be lowered from the winch on the bottom deck so I have to spool our data cables down through FLIP’s maze of cable conduits. I also streamline the eddy program to remove some unwanted channels from the output to speed up downloading and enter in the new calibration constant for our newly purchased radiometer which is part of the met station. The underwater camera is functioning fine when out of the water from below so we let her drop in the water for initial testing. The aperture and focus have to be set manually which will be a painful, iterative process. I will have to open up the housing and adjust these settings after each deployment until things are optimized. This initial test shows that there is way too much light getting in. The afternoon glare is horrendous and it becomes obvious that we will have to restrict our testing to the night hours.

A couple hours later we deploy again after the sun has set. For 20 minutes, things are looking peachy and we stream all the data to disk as Luc tweaks the software and I man the winch. Then at the 20 minute marker the software shuts down with errors popping up. Oh s***. I pull the housing up and unscrew the housing quickly. About 1/2 tablespoon of water comes out. I’m relieved it’s not worse but it still sucks. This has been a recurring problem with the Ethernet connector over the past couple weeks. It really is the connector and not human error. Quality connector assemblies come at about $250 but although rugged, they can’t handle the speeds we’re looking for from a gigabit camera. We found this out only a week before we left. My quick fix was an off the shelf underwater coupling but this has proved to be a nightmare. The manufacturer claimed it to be tested at 10 meters but that was in a pool and here the wind waves are quite strong with 17 knot winds. I will try a mold kit that I brought along tomorrow to cover the entire connection. It’s a bummer but the test data we got is promising and at least no instruments were broken in the process.

September 9th
OK we’re gonna hit this wind sensor on the head this morning. Up early ready to go with another hot breakfast – my gut rot is up to Pismo Fish and Chips levels but it tastes too good to stop this caloric momentum that I have going for me now. More troubleshooting after breakfast, but we’re not taking no for an answer this time. Finally with some more walkie talkie jockey we find that a pin is bad on one of the connectors. What an anticlimax for such an oversized pain in the ass. We still can’t get FLIP’s heading to spit out on the met station but we get it to work on another computer. I spend the rest of the morning cleaning up some programs for the motion packages and underwater camera. Skies are actually clearing for once and I’ve just spotted my 2nd whale in as many days circling within yards of the ship’s hull.

After lunch I climb up to the crow’s nest and do some tedious changes to the camera’s settings now that the sun is out. This takes too long but I’ve got more than enough time on my side. From up here I can take in both Santa Cruz Island and Santa Barbara on either side of me. I come down and test the underwater camera – everything looks good. This is literally my blood, sweat, and tears for this experiment and it just passed the software test, stoked. I get her cleaned up and wired and stowed away for testing tomorrow.

The LED screen we’ve got is like a giant Light Bright from the early ’90’s. You might see one at your local church or restaurant reminding you of upcoming dates or menu specials. Well we’re putting ours face down on the starboard boom of FLIP. Coupled with the underwater camera mentioned above you can measure the distortion of regular patterns in the LED to get an idea of what the geometry of the ocean surface looks like. We get the LED mounted and running before nightfall which is a bit of a task due to its odd shape and unbalanced weight. Tom helps us using the capstan with crewmember Joe climbing up and under the boom to bolt everything in place. She looks all pirrty in the dark, illuminating the ocean surface during some preliminary tests. We’re hoping to turn the LED on with the camera tomorrow but space is limited on the pulleys so we’ll have to wait and see. I have to say we pretty much killed it today after a couple frustrating days. There is still more setup to do tomorrow but we should be fully operational by Thursday (minus the Cadillac). The increasing winds before bed mean a good return from the LIDAR and a happy boss. Time for some card games.

September 8th
We awake to some more calm foggy staleness. It is time to start hanging our expensive decorations on our Christmas tree of a starboard boom. Just completed weeks before this expedition, the new boom is a sight to behold. The guys at the MPL machine shop did a great job designing and constructing this 60 foot cantilever platform. We start the morning with our old faithful – the $100k LIDAR. The mounts and housing are things I’ve been working on over the past couple months so it’s nice to see them go up smoothly and we’re recording data by noon.

After lunch it’s time for the meteorological station. The eddy part of the system for measuring energy exchange between the ocean and atmosphere is mounted first. Then comes the motion package, temperature/humidity probe, GPS and the acquisition box. Mounting stuff at the end of the boom is kind of freaky – reminds of the old swinging bridge in old town AG – minus one fixed end. After a few hose clamps and zip ties we’re getting wired to our computer. A second motion package is added as these instruments aren’t completely “fixed” and need to be corrected for intermittent wind swept motions. As has been the case all trip long, things don’t go so easy after all the physical mounting has taken place. When hooked up to the computers upstairs, errors start spewing out all over the place. Troubleshooting ensues. And some more. Wiring, programming, cables, which is it? Some of the things are outputting fine, others are a mess. Manuals strewn out everywhere, Luc and I have walkie talkies going back and forth between the boom and the computers in the lab into the night. Some progress is made, but we’re worried the wind sensor is straight up broken. Defeated I’m off to bed.

September 7th
This morning I awake to the crew still securing the port boom – what a debacle this has become and what a disappointment for Tom and the scientists. It’s gonna be another long day of waiting with the newly finished starboard boom yet to be deployed. To make things worse, Franchesco – a graduate student at UCSB from Italy – cut his head badly this morning on his way through the engine room to the dreaded Tank 10. Tank 10 refers to the bunks below the engine room. Noisy, smelly, and a long walk from the nearest amenities. Poor Franchesco’s hurting and luckily we get a passing yacht on the radio to swoop him back to Santa Barbara. Later we find out he received 5 staples in his dome.

I spend most of the day reading and watching some grainy football on our little TV. Bummed when an LA channel plays the Cowboys over the Chargers and even more bummed when they show the highlights to their season opener loss. I kind of feel like a pile but the only thing I can do is get out of the crew’s way and remain optimistic.

Today is the calmest it has been. Glassy all morning with a little sickness this afternoon with socked in fog all day. Not really the prime conditions we want. We’re looking more for the clear skies and moderate wind sort of thing but the present pattern looks to continue on the forecast. With another 3 weeks ahead we’re bound to get some kind of weather variability. Before night I rewire the crow’s nest camera and position it to the west toward the starboard boom which we will now be sharing with a few of the other groups. The crew is able to get this deployed late in the afternoon and we make a few adaptations to our mounts for this slightly different boom. Tomorrow is gonna be a big day and Paul’s made the perfect concoction to let us sleep soundly: bbq’d steak, shrimp, double baked potatoes and strawberry shortcake. I’m taking this guy home with me.

September 6th
We’ve twisted our orientation some during the night which is a bit worrisome with the possibility of the mooring lines becoming tangled with the boat. The currents are strong here and Tom doesn’t like this one bit. Our exact location is 34 deg 12.311′ N by 113 deg 37.316′ W which is just south of Santa Barbara about 10 miles. It’s another calm and foggy morning, the usual Santa Barbara summer weather. I spent my morning up in the crow’s nest getting the Imperx camera wired and the settings dialed for whitecap coverage. Luc readied the computers and tested some of the complex triggering software. There’s not much else we can do until the port boom is deployed which is the one we will be working on for this experiment.

The crew has been working on the port side boom all morning. As has been the case all trip, things go slow and preparation takes longer with the newly hired deckhands. This particular boom has to be shifted and rolled up a track in its vertical position before it can be lowered which proves to be a bit tricky after numerous attempts. At 3:30 pm tragedy strikes. The port boom buckles as its being lowered. Gone. Snap. Straight outta one of the History Channel Engineering Disasters episodes. Luckily nobody is hurt and no instruments are damaged. The deckhand Terry was actually at the boom’s end when this occurred and somehow came out unscathed. This guy was on an Alaskan King Crab fishing boat for 20 years with Phil Hughes and feels absolutely nothing. Complete respect to this guy. Suddenly the entire trip is in jeopardy. A meeting is called among the scientists. Some instruments will be compromised but the trip will go on. The remaining 2 booms will have to be divvied up and shared with a tighter schedule dictating usage. We will have to give up our Cadillac which is a major loss. At 260 lbs there is no way we can move the thing to another deck nor try and push the weight regulations of one of the other remaining booms. But this misfortune also gives us an opportunity to mix instruments and come up with some clever ways of using our instruments with the other groups’. This could give us some interesting results in the scope of RaDyO.

As night falls, Luc gets the ship’s heading sampled and the AquaDopp ready while I get the motion package up and running and enjoy some more down time. The crew struggles to secure the broken port boom to FLIP. There is talk of cutting if off and dropping it but the risk of slicing into the ships lengthy hull below is not amusing to Tom. They’re still working when I hit the hay at 11. I was bummed at first that this was a dry boat but now I can see why after such a disastrous day as today. The depressing mood on board would have us all kissing the bottle if otherwise.

September 5th
I’m up early with the sun after a couple scares on my new top bunk. Due to the nature of FLIP, all the beds are on bearing systems that are free to rotate when the ship transitions from a horizontal to a vertical position. Well, my bed wasn’t completely locked into place when I went to bed. When my Polish roomie propped himself down from the adjacent bed, my bunk followed his lead and I was left dangling by my left arm about 8 feet up from some unforgiving aluminum floors. All ended well though and I’m sharing my sleeping quarters for the trip with the Polish dude Mirik, the 3 deckhands Joe, Joel, and Terry, and the cook Paul. This would be cool if they weren’t on 4 hour shifts for 24 hours a day.

We arrive at our location at 8:30 am. Nothing more than a spot on a map to me as the surroundings look the same as the last 100 or so miles that we’ve traversed. Here we are nonetheless and by 11 we’ve gone vertical. This process is really quite remarkable, culminating in the last 10 or so seconds as it accelerates through the course of rotation. Things open up quite a bit once we’re vertical with four floors. The bottom floor is the engine room, the 2nd the bathrooms and kitchen, the 3rd the lab and the 4th is home to the capstan and most of the sleeping quarters.

The remainder of the day we attempt a three point mooring via our tugboat near our proposed position. After a rather calm morning, the winds and currents flair up which makes any kind of maneuver by the Northern Mariner a difficult task. Anchors are dragging, captains are swearing, and scientists are stressing as our orientation faces us north instead of the proposed easterly direction. But by 5 we’re moored, our computers are up in the lab, and our ADCP is running on the ship’s hull. At 6:30 the face boom is deployed successfully. The rest of my night is spent getting the GPS server up and running and making sense of our spider’s web of cables. Solid day’s work for the team. Two more booms to go tomorrow.

Thursday, September 4th
At 8 am I arrive at MARFAC, home of the infamous R/P FLIP, with my French boss Luc in tow. Hopes are high amongst the awaiting group which consists of 9 other scientists and 5 crew members. Many late nights previous, including a laborious Labor Day weekend, have consumed me in preparation. Specifically, preparing a coupled LED display/underwater camera system has haunted me. Multiple pressure test leaks, wiring difficulties, and software issues are all part of the game when you start from scratch I guess. But as of Wednesday at 1 am everything now is legit (knock on wood) and I’m ready to get this party started. Yesterday we spent an entire day loading our ship on the shit, errrr. We filled the Hydrolab’s 1.5 ton flatbed truck with a vast assortment of ocean instrumentation: Luc’s beloved (and heavy!) “Cadillac” that is armed with an array of optical sensors to look at wave induced heat flux at the ocean surface, a scanning LIDAR to look at high resolution surface wave height, a LED display as a light source, a LED camera/motion package/AquaDopp/hydrophone system for monitoring light diffraction/camera orientation/currents/pressure fluctuations due to waves, an eddy covariance system for measuring gas/heat flux and standard atmospheric conditions, a crow’s nest camera for whitecap coverage, stereo imagery cameras for god knows what, long wave IR cameras to monitor larger scale heat flux, an ADCP to get detailed current and directional wave spectrum measurements, and a PT Sensor for ocean pressure/temperature data – not to mention an ugly mess of cables, mounts, computer racks, and tools. Luckily I had my Canadian buddy Peter to help load, who happens to also be one of the lab’s graduate students.

The above list has got me stressing because my boss is only along for the first 10 days until all this multimillion jargon becomes my burden with Peter penciled in for the remainder of this ambitious 25 day endeavor. I feel up to the task though after several months of preparation and the help of some crafty computer automation. Still I’m feeling a bit slighted by mother nature as I will be missing a quality string of south swells that just blipped up on the forecast menu.

We wait around until about 10 am as our captain Tom and the other deckhands secure the boat and get ready for departure. Patience is a virtue aboard FLIP I’ve come to learn and I’ve loaded up on Bonine and literature to help combat any sufferings from motion sickness or boredom. FLIP is not self-propelled so we’ve chartered the Northern Mariner to tow us out to our destination – the Santa Barbara Channel. ETA is 20 hours and we pick up the pace to a roaring 7 knots once outside the bay. The rest of my day is spent catching up on z’s, a bit of reading, and acquainting myself with my fellow shipmates. Thank god we have a legit cook. Paul is my Filipino savior.