HIRES FLIP experiment

Today I spent a majority of the time troubleshooting that pressure sensor I mentioned earlier. After some time going back and forth with the manufacturer it seems that I have the analog output working. The problem lies where the output is converted to a digital signal. I am presently working on getting this fixed as it will affect several of the underwater instruments. The winds have calmed some today but the currents have strengthened. This has resulted in a strong list, or angle of FLIP. In the afternoon we measured a 10 degree angle which meant we had to tie down loose insturments that were rolling around on the different floors. Our boom now is pointed down toward the water at a menacingly low height. Other than that we took advantage of the low winds to clean the optical equipment again. Other than the two ADCP’s having stopped, things are going very well with data collection.

Well today saw mixed results. On the one hand we had a Lakers victory (which saw them crowned as this year’s champs) along with a whale sighting in the late morning. On the other hand, we lost two ADCP’s (underwater current/wave meters) due to the vicious waves that have cyclically been splashing up against FLIP’s hull. We spotted an issue with the cables/cable tray that winds its way down from our computers to a depth of about 50 feet a few days ago. We knew it would only be a matter of time from all the chaffing against random bolts and hooks that live on the body of FLIP. Luckily we still have one ADCP in tact to give a measure of the lower underlying currents. We also had some issues calibrating one of Peter’s instruments. It seemed there were some problems with the pressure sensor which I’ll investigate manana with the manufacturer.

A small break in the wind this morning allowed us to clean some of the windows/lenses of the optical equipment from days of salt abuse. Other than that it was business as usual, holed up in our tight lab space sifting through piles of data to catch problems before they balloon. We did have one malfunctioning computer and power supply that kept us busy as well as some more background CAD. The Sproul had taken refuge from the weather in SF the past couple days but reemerged today as conditions calmed slightly. Along with them we had two planes overhead for a change. My boss’ fingerprints are all over this experiment. Three of his former students are chief scientists on FLIP (Fabrice Veron), the Sproul (Eric Terrill), the Partenavia aircraft (Leonel Romero) with one of his employees leading the Twin Otter aircraft (Luc Lenain). Throw in Peter and myself and a couple of undergrads who have helped out and you may as well change this from the HIRES experiment to the Melville experiment.

Groundhog day has already begun and we’re only at the 1/3 mark. Staying out of the wind, monitoring data, watching a little World Cup, a solid Lakers victory, three more good meals, and a late night showing of Three Amigos. I’ve been working on some background CAD of our whole instrumentation setup as well. All we can do now is look from afar until things settle down and we can work on the booms again. Once things settle down we will have a large checklist of daily operations: cleaning windows/lenses of the sea spray, deploying underwater instruments, and swapping out batteries and hard drives. Tomorrow a second airplane will join in on the surveying work from above. These planes are also equipped with a variety of cameras, laser wave gauges, and atmospheric sensors.

Today was the most extreme weather of the trip. Winds were on it early and increased up into the 40 knot range with some 50 knot gusts. I worked on getting the windcube settings dialed in and doing some general monitoring of data as it was too rough to do any work on the booms or deploy anymore underwater instruments. This evening around 7 we had a huge wave hit FLIP that gave us a good shaking. We checked the wave gauges and saw that it was in fact a 30 foot wave that was the cause. Significant wave heights max’d out at around 17 feet in the afternoon.

Yesterday morning one of the scientists transferred over to the Sproul so we are down to the final 12 man crew that will remain here for the rest of the trip: Tom (Captain – Greek), Terry (Crew – Portuguese), Johnny (Crew – San Diego), Dave (Crew – San Diego), Mike (Cook – Idaho), Peter (Scripps – Canada), Zach (Univ Delaware – New York), Fabrice (Univ Delaware – France), Jesus (UC Irvine – Mexico), Tihomir (Johns Hopkins – Bulgaria), Ben (Scripps – Miami) and myself. The chemistry is good and I am hopeful that it will last for the next 4 weeks.

Today started off calm for a change. Peter deployed one of his “Contraptions” that will be key in his long quest for a PhD. This is a large frame with a collection of turbulence measuring instruments that is lowered into the water on a winch off the opposite port boom. Peter worked his tail off to get this thing ready so it is nice to see some of his work pay off as one entered the water and successfully recorded data in the afternoon. This particular frame will be stationary just under the troughs of the waves with two more additional frames to come later that will profile down to depths of up to 150 feet. We also deployed the Windcube, which is a big pain of a box that measures vertical wind profiles. The difference is we adapted it with a mirror system to measure horizontal winds that are affected by wave motion. Finally! This was the last item to be installed above the boom so we’ve been celebrating with Snickers/E’claire/Klondike/Oreo ice cream bars, sherbert push pops, Jolly Ranchers, Kit Kats, and Hershey kisses. There are still two more “Contraptions” and another small float to go in the water but we’ll have to wait for calmer weather as again the wind/waves intensified in the late afternoon with even more severe conditions on the forecast.

A break in the weather today meant we could fix a couple malfunctioning instruments and finish up some unfinished details. We cleaned windows and washed the salt off of instruments that withstood some heavy sea spray treatment over the past couple of days. We also got one of the previously problematic laser wave gauges back on track. We’re getting close to being done with boom deployments. Another weather event is coming in a few days so there is pressure to get everything done in time. USA world cup tie + lamb ribs for dinner was a nice touch.

Today work was called off on the booms once again as high wind/waves persisted. Luckily we’re getting tv coverage out of Santa Rosa. Univision + ABC = NBA Finals and World Cup action. We were able to add Peter’s Aquadopp float into the mix which was quite a task considering the conditions. It is accompanied by another camera on the top deck to couple breaking waves with turbulence measurements. We also continued setting up auto backup batch files to fire stuff from our computers to our two servers hourly. Right now we have 16 computers chugging along not including our stack of laptops and spare computers. Luckily the beanbags carried over from the last trip to Hawaii. There is not much space in the lab area. If you can’t get dibs on the beanbags then you’re stuck sitting on miscellaneous instrument boxes and a few old folding chairs monitoring data and listening to the stories from the crew.

Tom called off all work on the booms today as the winds increased through the night and into the afternoon. In this case there’s very little you can do but sit back and watch mother nature’s show. I set up some automatic backup of data from the computers to our server. We brought out over 100 terabytes of hard disk space that will predominately be filled with imagery – especially from the stereo visible and infrared cameras. Other than that we monitored all of our data streams and altered settings to suit the lighting and wind/waves changes that take place during the day. There are still a few other instruments to deploy underwater but we will have to wait until conditions subside to deploy them.

By the afternoon wind gusts were up to 50 mph with some waves reaching the 16-18 foot range. It was pretty spectacular. Any of the other Scripps ships would be a sea-sickening mess, but not the FLIP. We got some real quality LIDAR data which uses a scanning laser to finely measure passing waves and some good video from atop the crow’s nest to study whitecaps. My boss Luc flew passes over using a twin otter today that is equipped with an eliptical scanning laser, some more cameras, another laser wave gauge, an infrared camera and a sea surface temperature instrument. All in all a good day topped off with our first bbq meal out on the deck. Also, I just have to say that Captain Tom is his usual story-telling, trash-talking self. He is a legend.

Today we took advantage of the good weather. The Gordon Sproul launched their small boat so we could transfer all our trash and get some new supplies. We installed a camera up on the crow’s nest to look at white caps, two accelerometers to compensate for FLIP’s motion, a second scanning laser, several more wave gauges, focused/cleaned/calibrated a couple cameras, and troubleshot a couple issues including the failure of one of our main power supplies and a couple instruments from our weather station. We lost one of our crew over to the Sproul as well so we are down to 13. This makes things a little more comfortable then the capacity level of 16. Heavy winds/waves predicted for tomorrow.

I’m beat. A lot more instrumentation in some heavy winds. The majority of our time today was spent spooling cables. From the end of the boom to our computers is about 120 feet. Multiply that by about 50 cables and the tally becomes pretty high. Plenty more work to do tomorrow with conditions expected to calm down a bit. We’d like to get most everything installed tomorrow while it is calm as a big system is projected to come our way for Thursday/Friday. There are some reports of 40 knot winds and 15 foot seas which would be awesome. Got to see the last 8 minutes of the Laker game – stoked on Fisher pulling through in the crunch as usual. Been killing the Snickers ice cream bars too.

Well the wind/waves only increased overnight. Tom called off all work on the booms today as things picked up to the 35 knot range with gusts up to 40. The Sproul looks like a little rubber ducky in the ugly Pacific so I’m pretty happy to be on FLIP at the moment. With much work still on the plate, we kept ourselves busy with some other non-boom busy work: spooling cables, preparing the crow’s nest large field of view and stereo cameras, installing the winches and winch controller on the lower deck, and preparing a bunch of boom mounts in hope of installing more equipment tomorrow on the boom. Conditions should become more tame over the next two days before things get wild again for Thursday/Friday so we’re hoping to get most everything out and running to capture this forecasted event. I attached a pdf with a schematic of our projected layout of instrumentation below.
FLIP Instrumentation (PDF)

Today was a full on instrumentation day from dawn til dusk. We finished installing the weather station which has two wind sensors for wind speed/direction, two carbon dioxide sensors for gas exchange from wave breaking, a tempertature/humidity sensor, a radiometer for long and short wave solar radiation, GPS for position and heading, and two accelerometers to correct for movement of the booms. Also, we deployed the “Cadillac” (a CO2 marking head, video camera, laser altimeter, and infrared camera) for measuring currents and heat exchange due to wave breaking, a stereo visible and stereo IR system for extracting wave slope and heat exchange information, and a scanning laser for watching wave evolution. Also of note, the weather has been mild the past couple days but the wind picked up vigorously this afternoon to 25 knots from a dead calm at noon. Throw in the 55 degree air temps and it was pretty darn chilly working out on the booms this evening. More to come manana.

Another solid 15 hour day clocked aboard FLIP. These are the long days that Peter and I are accustomed to from our last trip to Hawaii. Luckily we have two others in our group to help out with things this time around – although we have added several additional instruments to the mix. Fabrice (aka Fabulous), a professor at the University of Delaware (and an ex-student of my boss), and Zach (aka jjjaaccc), a graduate student of Fabrice’s, have joined us this time around. The tandem are a good addition; Fabrice is French and knows karate so he’s pretty darn cool and Zach is from New York and provides constant comedic input.

Today Tom and his crew were able to get all three of the booms down. These booms are long cantilever structures where we can dangle all our instruments out away from the hull of FLIP. The length is advantageous since the influence of FLIP on the surrounding wave field is lessened the further outboard you take measurements. Deploying the booms took longer than expected, so in the interim Peter dialed in the settings of the ADCPs while I continued some previous CAD boom models that we will use to document our instrument locations. Once Tom got our boom down in the afternoon, we were out installing instrument mounts and some of our weather station and a few small laser wave gauges. Not a bad start but lots still to be done! Also, there was a pretty heavy accident that occurred when a member of another group got his hand caught when installing the massive WAMOS tower on the upper deck. Luckily he is ok but it caused quite a stir.

Today was pretty hectic. We were up early to “go vertical” as Tom says. This never gets old. Preparations take several hours to secure equipment on all the decks from 6 figure instruments right on down to our bedding. We also wait while the Sproul comes to the vicinity to report current speeds and directions to predict our motion once we’ve unhitched from the Sioux. We flipped mid-morning in some thick, drizzly fog so I wasn’t able to record any video. The anchor dropping commenced shortly after. After the mooring experience in the Santa Barbara Channel, this went surprisingly smooth. The calm seas definitely helped and we were done with this right after lunch. This afternoon we were able to erect the WAMOS tower on the top of FLIP for recording waves and currents via radar. A big portion of this experiment will be the calibration and qualification of the measurements from this device. This evening we prepared the lab space. It is difficult to describe the amount of boxes upon boxes of science crap that were loaded in the bowels of FLIP last Friday, but we sifted through a good portion of it begrudgingly and got our floor space and computer situation figured out. Our servers were then fired up and synced to GPS, the FLIP heading was sampled, and the ADCPs (that are now below us) were powered on and setup for recording. It is nice to see the very first data trickling in with much more in store tomorrow.

Only three days in and things are already feeling pretty Ground Hog Day-ish. Luckily the ocean did sort itself out overnight as we continued northward with much calmer seas today. Peter and I made a few more adjustments to the ADCPs but other than that there was plenty of lurking on board. We watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie and got some intermittent tv coverage of the Laker game this evening which was a nice initial victory for the purple and gold. Overcast conditions finally cleared this afternoon and things got warm enough to actually enjoy some time on the bow where we witnessed a pack of dolphins playing around in our wake. Today we also discovered our first FLIP problem with a faulty freezer in the galley being the culprit. We ordered a new one that we will hopefully be able to transfer over tomorrow when our accompanying ship, the Gordon Sproul, arrives on location via Monterey. Tomorrow marks a big day for many reasons as we’ll be up at 5 am to prepare for going vertical, setting the anchors, and clearing up the lab space from our massive instrument pile. Currently we’re about 40 miles off of the coast of Half Moon Bay cruising at about 7 mph to Bodega Bay behind the Sioux.

We live to tug another day. Wire to wire this was another 24 hours in the wake of the Sioux, venturing up the California coastline to our present position directly west of Morro Bay. After transiting outside of the shadow of Point Conception around midday, we slowed our speed down to a measly 8 mph as conditions got pretty chaotic with waves regularly spilling over the bow. In turn this has meant another day of lounging and keeping sane mostly indoors until the next meal is served. Computers and books don’t mix well with my stomach under the present sea state so I slept some more and zoned out through a couple of movies. The finale tonight was pretty classic with 10 grown men cramped in a small swaying icebox of a room glued to Clint Eastwood’s Josie Wales. Peter and I also did some adjustments to the ADCP’s on the hull of FLIP to make sure the cables and orientation were squared away. Once FLIP goes vertical these current measuring devices won’t be accessible at about 50 feet deep so it was good to get that sorted out in the interim.

Yeehawww we’ve finally made it – but of course not without a few last minute hiccups. Currently our crew of 14 is on course off of the coast of Oceanside, weaving our way through the Channel Islands in route to the Bodega Bay area behind the USNS tugboat, Sioux. The preparation has mounted over the past few weeks for this forthcoming 42 day cruise. This culminated in a final Memorial Day weekend bananza back at the lab alongside the ever sleep deprived student and good friend of mine, Peter Sutherland. My hands are stained with Scotchcast resin and anti-seize from some last minute preparation that prevented us from enjoying a rare three day weekend in sunny San Diego. But there is now a deepening sense of relief that is slowly soaking in with the cool ocean breeze and the familiar comfort of Captain Tom Golfinos’ animated stories upon transit. Couple that with an extended nap in my narrow bunk between lunch and dinner and I’d almost be feeling back to normal if it wasn’t for the slow logrolling motion of FLIP on the presently mellow seas.