Mission Day: Seven, Eight and Nine

The pace has not slowed down!  In fact It has intensified.  Yesterday Todd, Sue and I hit the boat at 9:50am and were told we needed to splash at 10:15…25 minutes!  And that was not including eating breakfast – which we did on the fly setting up gear!  We made the time limit and dropped to our 300 ft / 90 meter target at 10:38am but….Lets get into sequence. 

Monday 25, July.  Back out to the Argus Bank to support Graham, Meredith and Kevin.  Today was their day to do the 300 ft/90 meter transects and then move up along the contour taking water samples.  We are not going to get a 100 ft / 30 meter transect because the shallowest the bank rises is to 154 feet so we will be going back to do 8 transects there. 

The dive team did a 5.5 hour total underwater run  and had the joy of doing the decompression of 4.5 hours floating in the blue water. 

Tuesday 26, July.  Okay, it is 10:38am and we were descending.  We had literally 30 minutes to prep our rigs, put on our drysuits and haul our gear to the rail and splash.  It is real frustrating to be pressed like that but it is the reality of this type of expedition.  We are at the whim of scientists who simply do not understand what we do and how we need to do it.  At times, like this, we have to adapt rather than explain our dive protocols to a PhD!  Sometimes it is just easier to do than to explain. 

My Rebreather Controller
 Note depth: Upper left corner-“300”
The cool thing… it is quiet and peaceful underwater, no one pressures us to do anything and we can relax in the cool waters of the Atlantic at 300 feet.  We could not have been more excited to submerge.

We were on our drop line over 280 feet and when we hit the bottom we were right on the wall dropping to well over 5000 feet.  Once at depth, we began our transect work and I took a minute to scooter out about 100 feet away from Sue and Todd just to see if anything big might be swimming up the wall…nothing.  This was my time to get out of the way.  I turned back and saw that they were on the move, so I secured their scooters and our tow-fish line and began to do my tasks of photographing the starting point of the transects, as well as my gauge, taking water samples and then scootering out along our transect line to do the same at the middle and the turn. 

Having a relaxing decompression:
Martin low and Sue above
It was absolutely beautiful down there, spiral corals, soft corals, some grasses and algae, fish but most of all…solitude, quiet, calm.  The three of us simply relaxed and went to work.  By the end of the dive, we completed 9 transects, got 6 water samples, 2 red algae samples and traveled over 2 miles underwater from our deepest point of 314 feet to 20 feet about 200 yards from shore.  This truly was our best dive yet of the mission.  Todd, Sue and myself are syncing as a team;  we call ourselves the scout team as we are out there doing the first protocols and performing them at about 50%.  We give that information to the Blue team, they improve and then give it back.  Now we are really being productive. 

The dive went through deep benthic barren topography between 300 feet and 180 feet.  Then it changed to a sandy and rocky bottom up to about 120 feet then incredible coral fields, full of aquatic life, all the way in to 20 feet.  It was an absolutely awesome dive.

Wednesday 27, July.  Let’s ratchet up the pace once again.  Once onboard the BEx, (we were earlier today, about 8am, because we did not have to play water taxi).  If I did not say earlier, we travel each day to the ship in St. George Harbor, via our dive support boat, Fountain.  This morning, we only had to pick up 6 folks from the Princess Hotel, they were all on time, landing us on the ship with plenty of time.  Unfortunately, I would run the dive support operations today solo.  Not optimal, but necessary as our camera calibration, the one we did 7 days ago, needed to be done again and so Todd and Susan stayed behind to accomplish this. 

At the helm of the Fountain
So I hopped on the Fountain at 9:30am and got off at 5:30pm.  All the while…following that orange tow-fish all over the north east side of Bermuda.  It was really very peaceful, nice breeze and I got in via our dive ladder frequently to cool off.  Once I stepped off the Fountain and back onto the BEx, I was told that tomorrow, was gonna be high paced again so I spent the next 90 minutes, foregoing dinner, and sorted out all my gear for tomorrow as I do not want to do a 60-minute prep in 20 again! 

I am getting I some real incredible diving opportunity.  As crazy and hectic as it is, it is real challenging and I am functioning in several capacities helping this mission to be a success.  If I had to keep score, I would say that it is Divers 24, Submersible Operations 10…we are kicking butt and providing the Science Team some invaluable data!!
I will post again in 3 days but I leave you with this little video clip of me scootering through the corals: