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R/V Knorr June 15- July 15, 2007



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Daily Log

Daily life working on a scientific research vessel is very different than going to a normal nine to five job. A ship operates 24/7 while underway performing geophysical surveying. It takes a team of both scientists, mariners, and other technical support staff to keep the ship moving and on task. In the coming days we hope to give you a small glimpse of what it will be like making maps and show you the unusual things we will see or find while out on the ocean.

July 2007

July 9, 2007:

Today is Julian Day 190, or July 9th and at 11:20am GMT we crossed over one of the largest seamounts we have seen thus far. The deep rapidly decreased from 1500 m, 1000 m, at the top of the it was very flat and around 560 m in depth below the surface. It will take at least three of the survey tracks, which are two nautical miles apart to map this entire seamount. I love watching this map being made as with everything else we had done on this cruise it is a part of the seafloor that no one has ever seen before. That is what research is all about...discovery. The sky is clear and blue. Great day for a BBQ....more soon!

July 8, 2007:

International relations are so important to keep science up, running and in good standing. We here on the R/V Knorr are doing our part. Our friends at the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) loved our (Breton's really) daily log with the riveting account of their visit they posted it on their own web site: [http://www.lhg.is/starfsemi/stjornsyslusvid/frettir/nr/1026].

I hope you can read Icelandic. The helicopter dreams of a lady scientist on board the R/V knorr, is the loose translation of what introduces the portion of Breton's entry that is quoted on the ICG page. The "survival-suited hero" sent Breton a picture of himself from another mission. I think we will need to have that picture autographed when we get back into port....you know the picture of the "dreamy" guy, aka Thorben Lund! We watched "The Guardian" last night in his honor!

July 1, 2007:

Tonight we had to swap out the Geometrics Magnetometer with the Magis Magnetometer. A special thank you to the Icelandic Coast Guard for bringing us that spare cable! Another twist in the story--the "old" cable and the "new" cable had different sized connectors. It made for an exciting evening on the c-o-l-d back deck. Here's the story (am I mean "story") according to Laura Jones and Pall Kolka:

Season 1
Episode 18

Previously on the Knorr…

            The malfunctioning of “the device,” codename Magi, on Day Seventeen has been discovered as an act of sabotage and has jeopardized the team’s not-so-classified mission, Operation Minesweeper. Their job is to map the sea floor of the North Atlantic for all mines left during the Great Cod War of 1973 between the British Navy and the Icelandic “Navy.” Each mine is marked by a small red flag in order to warn local fishing vessels, without which the entire economy of Iceland would collapse. As a side project they are also mapping the magnetics, gravity, and bathymetry of the Reykjanes Ridge…but that’s not important…

            The loss of Magi and the search for the saboteur on board has forced the team to seek the assistance of the Icelandic Coast Guard, stationed at the port of Reykjavik. However, as soon as the helicopter is seen on the horizon, dark clouds begin to gather and the radio cracks out a warning for sever weather ahead. As waves crash against the hull, a man clad in an orange jumpsuit can be seen repelling off the helicopter and on to the ships deck. Strapped next to him and locked in an encoded case is the new “device.” But before a transfer can be made an unknown bearded stowaway runs out onto the deck in hopes of sabotaging the transfer. Fearlessly Peter Liarikos flings himself in front of the assailant unaware that he is holding a syringe filled with one the deadliest viruses known on earth. Peter successfully foils the saboteur’s plots, but in the process his leg was injected with the mysterious virus. The anonymous orange hero of the Icelandic Coast Guard quickly flies into action, flinging the spy overboard and airlifting Peter back to base. Later that night, Magi was reconnected and all seemed safe once more; but little did they know more sinister plans had come to light involving a Danish submarine, more sabotage, even more sabotage, a paperclip, a rubber band, a Star Wars action figure, and some duct tape..

Day 18 on the Knorr… 0000-0500

With her trusty expandable protractor in hand, Laura keeps watch in the Magi control room…pacing back and forth…just waiting for someone to try and get past her so she could use her deadly protracting skills to take them out.

Soon however, Páll showed up to relieve her of duty and it didn’t take long before an argument had begun and they were debating about who had the better weapon: Laura with her expandable protractor or Páll with his hot scalding tea.

Their duel of words was interrupted by a deafening siren, blackness, and then by a flashing of red lights all throughout the room. There was someone following them…

Laura shouted at Páll to check on Magi, she was already on the mainframe scanning the ocean around them, and then she found them; the Danish! Their submarine was lurking only 100 meters behind them…she heard Páll shout out that the Magi was picking up too much interference and could no longer detect  the mines around them. They were sitting ducks. If the Magi remained down, it wouldn’t be long before they would run into one of the mines and be blown out of the water.

Special agents Robbie Laird and Amy Simoneau arrived quickly to the control room. They are both agents of a very unusual branch of the FBI, the SSSG. Before long, Robbie learned that the Danish submarine was sending out a signal to interfere with Magi and almost immediately he began rewiring the system and typing wildly in order to send out his own interference signal to combat the Danish. This tactic however would only hold off the Danish for a matter of minutes, we needed to act.

[Commercial Break]

A conference had convened in order to formulate a plan of attack. Páll suggested that we use the torpedoes…

Páll’s idea was shot down…he had forgotten that the torpedoes had been sabotaged weeks ago and had not yet been repaired

They all finally agreed on the solution, they would use the Sea Beam. 

Robbie sent out his interference signal, the enemy was distracted…Amy yelled that Sea Beam was locked and loaded. Páll aimed the beam, and Laura pushed the big red button.

The “ping” was sent. Ping………Ping………Ping………Ping……….Ping………Ping………Ping………

[Commercial Break]

The “ping” had landed, and it was a direct hit! The submarine had been pinged right out of the water. Celebration commenced.

The celebration did not last long…before the Danish went down they had sent us one last gift, a torpedo aimed directly at Magi. A direct hit! Festivities did not commence.

With the Magi destroyed there was only one option, an emergency repair and deployment of Old Magi on the high seas.

Robbie and Amy soon got to work; rewiring, cutting, soldering… Laura and Páll prepared for the deployment.

Páll decided to make a comment on how Laura was looking pretty on the sidelines

The bridge gets a call: Man Overboard

Páll is successfully fished out of the water…carefully avoiding Laura on his way up

[Commercial Break]

After all that, the Old Magi had been fixed and deployment was ready to take place. Robbie grabbed the cable and began to attach it onto the device. It wouldn’t fit…Robbie looked inside the connector, and found just what he thought, SABOTAGE. Someone had tampered with the threads of the connecter. 

With the connector damaged, Páll began running in circles screaming that all hope was lost. He soon received a quick slap to the face by Laura who screamed at him to control himself. Robbie would know what to do…

As with any experienced SSSG agent, Robbie had found himself in this situation many times before; because of this he always carried with him a very special tool, his Star Wars action figure.

In ways no one knows, Robbie somehow fixed the old connecter using a Star Wars action figure, a paperclip, a rubber band, and some chewing gum.

Magi was deployed

The Knorr was safe was again

…or so everyone thought…little did they know a fleet of 30 Russian pirate trawlers lay waiting for them in the distance…


June 2007

June 29, 2007:

In the main lab on watch:

Out on deck for the BBQ:

June 28, 2007:

Since so many were raving about the food out here on the R/V Knorr, a restaurant reviewer was sent to sample the eats. Here is what the restaurant critic had to say:

The Cuisine On This Vessel Cannot Be....Ig-Knorred!

June 27, 2007- out of 4 stars.

THE NORTH ATLANTIC -- Ship cooking has come a long way since the days of hard tack and grog. No where is this more evident than at Mess Deck on the R/V Knorr.

You can tell that something good is cooking even before you're inside. Starting at the
bow, where rich meaty aromas waft out from the ventilation shafts, just follow your nose down below decks to midships where the steward's department does their daily magic.

There you'll find a welcoming atmosphere. The main dining room contains two rows of
4-seat formica tables, each with a well-supplied condiment rack. For private functions,
there is a separate table in the back. Natural light streams in through the port-side
portholes which look out onto the Atlantic. You would be hard pressed to find a
restaurant with a better a view. Just watch out for the porthole covers, which have
brained more than one scientist.

The warm ambiance continues behind the counter, where the stewards serve up meals from an open galley. During my first visit to Mess Deck, I ordered a roast beef sandwich bean sprout salad (0$). Both were excellent. A bag of fritos provided a dash of color to complement the presentation.

The Steward's department at Mess Deck seems to be committed to the "Personal Touch." Everyone on staff knows all the customers by name, and even how they like their orders.

It appears that their efforts have won them a loyal clientele. Pete, Bosun on the Knorr,
had nothing but praise for Mess Deck. "I eat here every [Expletive] day. Other
[Expletive] ships, they [Expletive] give you [Expletive] [Expletive]. But here they
[Expletive] make the [Expletive] best [Expletive]. [Expletive]."

I have to agree with him. At dinner one night I had the freshly baked Asiago bread,
orange-glazed duck, and garlic mashed potatoes (0$). The bread was moist and chewy, the duck cooked to perfection, and the potatoes had just the right amount of garlic. For dessert, there were brownies so deliciously dense that only a 12khz chirp could penetrate them. Excellence seems to be the standard.

R/V Knorr is Mess Deck's first restaurant, opened in 1969. Mess Deck has since opened two new locations on the R/V Oceanus, and the R/V Atlantis. According to acting director Jim Luyten, WHOI is considering plans for a fourth Mess Deck, on the R/V Tioga, . "We're planning to start small on the Tioga, just an upscale deli-style lunch stand to start off. If things go well, we'll add a bakery, and then work on catering."

This reviewer hasn't tried the new locations, but he does know that you can't go wrong
with the original.


Mess Deck , mid-ships, main deck, R/V Knorr, 104

ATMOSPHERE: A cafeteria-style dining room with contemporary decorative flourishes and views of the ocean.

SOUND LEVEL: Moderate.

RECOMMENDED DISHES: CTD (Chicken Teriyaki with Dumplings); Steak with a GPS fix (Gravy, Potatoes, & 'Slaw); NSF (Nachos, Salsa, Frijoles). Desserts: AIS (Apples-in-Syrup), gravity core mud pie.

WINE LIST: None (the Knorr is a UNOLS ship). But Mess Deck does make their own original beverages which are available on-tap in the after bubbler. Try the red stuff, the blue stuff, or the purple stuff.

PRICE RANGE Breakfast: 0$ - 0$. Lunch: 0$ - 0$. Dinner: 0$ - 0$

HOURS: Open all week. Breakfast: 07:30-08:15, Lunch: 11:30-12:15, Dinner: 17:00-17:45. Take-out available after 17:45.

RESERVATIONS: Mess Deck does not take reservations.

CREDIT CARDS All major cards.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.

-Alex Dorsk, Ship's Savory Sensational Galley (SSSG) Critic

June 27, 2007:

JD 178--Today was like an episode of JAG. The Icelandic Coast Guard came to visit and to bring us a very special package. They dropped off a box with a replacement cable for the Magis Magnetometer from France, which has been down since June 20, luckily there was a spare on board and we were up in running in no time thanks to SSSG's. Great work guys! The Icelandic Coast Guard also extracted a very special package, Peter, the Bosun, who needed a trip to the Dr.'s. We will miss you Peter...so hurry back! When the Captain asked about the pictures I took today I told him that he should have sent me up in the helicopter so I could get the best angle for the drop. He said he should have thought of that! Science is so exciting...what will tomorrow bring?

Here is a journal entry from Breton Frazer, who recently finished her undergraduate degree in Geoscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Enjoy her day with her:

It’s roughly 4am.  I use the term “roughly” because it’s actually 3:47am.  You ask what the difference is?  This early, the difference is huge–that’s 15 minutes of sleep!  My shift has just started and I’m digging in for the long 4 hour stretch in front of me.  My two comrades, Prianca and Jesse have settled into their seats.  The music is on.  Eighteen more days, here we go. 

No, no, no.  I’m just waking up.  When it’s not this early I’d shed a more positive light on the job. The geophysics is really quite interesting and I’m learning a lot. The nice thing about being trapped on a boat with a bunch of experienced professors is that they have a lot of down time.  They’ve got nothing better to do than answer all your ignorant questions.  However, as it is, you caught me now.  Geophysics questions are out of my head and no one’s around but the other poor souls on an early morning watch.  Humph.

Since we’re both here, and both obviously have nothing better to do, here’s how my day has transpired so far…

At 3:20, sound asleep, my alarm screams bloody murder and I hit it off hoping to disarm the alarm while not breaking my phone.  I’ve had great success so far, but I’m sure it can’t last for long.  In my stupor I don’t seem to care about the odds.  Gradually I drag myself to a sitting position.  The boat’s rocking is more extreme than usual, though with the incredible weather we’ve had, that’s not saying much.  It is enough of a motion, however, to throw me off balance while I’m dressing.  I slip one leg into my pants and my whole center of gravity is thrown off.  I very nearly get a concussion before leaving my room.  Somehow I manage, and as my reward, the honey nut cheerios couldn’t have tasted better.

And now, here I sit here, at our desk with oh, 7 computer monitors (all of which we are responsible for watching and keeping happy), 2 camera screens, and a box that says “3PS” with a bunch of bold numbers with red background.  As far as I know, these bold numbers have never changed.  Like most of the things on this boat, I have yet to discover what this box does.  This mystery doesn’t seem to phase me.

My computer, blasting Sugarcult (a band), is (unsuccessfully) drowning the monotony of the morning with melody.  I settle in to my chair with a book while both hoping and dreading a break in the repetitive nature that defines watch keepers job.  A break means something exciting has happened and time travels ten times faster than its usual crawl.  But, something exciting usually means something isn’t working, which is not only detrimental to our mission, but it gives the watch guard a terrible fright the whole time the drama ensues.  Then again, I’d have something a little more interesting to write about.  Silver lining.  I’ll wait till something interesting happens and come back to you.  Don’t wait up; this could take a couple of days.

An hour passes…

Ah hah!  Ask and you shall receive… or something like that.  An Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter is coming today, during our afternoon watch (4-8pm).   We’ll pull our magnetometer up and deviate from our track as we exchange Peter, a man who needs to go to the hospital (leg pains), for some new cable lines (which the coast guard is kindly delivering to us). Sorry about Peter, but as far as I know, it’s not an emergency.  And who knows?  This could take a whole hour out of my watch.  Awesome.

After my afternoon watch…

Dreamy Guy!To be perfectly honest, I was not planning to be impressed.  So it’s a helicopter.  Big whoop.  In actuality, it was so much more than a helicopter.  It was a rescue mission.  These guys were hardcore – and this was a day at the beach for them.  Nice weather, stable ship, no time limit.  They made it look so easy.  They swooped in and hovered over the main deck as they lowered and our crew secured a cable.  Down swung an orange survival-suited hero.  Next came our new replacement cables in a Fed Ex labeled box (cue production crew to film commercial “where ever you are… we get it to you”).  Up swung Peter.  I was so jealous, I was looking for something to break my leg with so I could be “rescued” too.  A few minutes later the dreamy (hey, give me a break…gut reaction) guard retraced his trip and slid back into the helicopter like the professional he was.  Damn.  All I could think was “I want to be him”.  I was a 12 year old and they were the NASA crew of Apollo 11.  Off they flew, taking my dreams of joining the coast guard with them.  We plopped Maggie back in the water and 30 minutes later we were back on track.  Sigh.  Back to mowing the lawn. 

June 26, 2007:

At 2102 GMT we crossed the ridge axis thus taking us from the European plate back to the North American plate. Approaching the ridge axis you could see the change in depth on the Sea Beam and make out some lava flows in the side scan data. Earlier in the cruise when we crossed the ridge axis we needed to divert our course a bit because of how shallow that axis rose up. Now we are in deeper water on track 15 of our survey. We have all settled into a routine of sorts and are just "mowing the lawn" over the mid-ocean ridge. Data looks good and the scientist are happy...what more could we want.

This is a journal entry from Ásdís Benediktsdóttir who will begin her graduate work with Dr. Hey in the fall at the University of Hawaii, School of Ocean, Earth Science and Technology.

* English version below *

Ég vaknaði klukkan 7:30 í morgun eins og alla aðra morgna hér á skipinu. Mér til furðu færðist ég fram og til baka en þá rann upp fyrir mér ljós, ég er á skipi. Síðustu dagar hafa liðið nokkuð hratt hjá, þótt hver dagur um borð sé keimlíkur hver öðrum.

Deginum er deilt niður í sex fjögurra tíma vaktir. Sjálf lenti ég á '8-12' vaktinni, ásamt Lauru Jones, sem þýðir að ég fylgist með því að allt gangi vel á morgnana og á kvöldin á þessum tíma. Vaktin felur aðallega í sér að taka niður þau gildi sem segulmælirinn gefur frá sér auk dýptar á fimm mínútna fresti. Þess á milli spjöllum við, lesum bækur og þegar þreytan gerir vart við sig kemur fyrir að við dottum (en þá til skiptist, einhver verður að vera vakandi).

Maturinn er án efa hápunktur dagsins. Borinn er fram morgunmatur klukkan 7:30, hádegismatur klukkan 11:30 og kvöldmatur klukkan 17:00. Á boðstólum er matur sem er algengari sjón í Bandaríkjunum en á Íslandi og því töluvert um nýjungar fyrir okkur Klakabúa. Ekki er hægt að blóta matnum, því alltaf er um tvo rétti að ræða í hádegis – og kvöldverð og á morgnana má fá hinn 'hefðbundna' bandaríska morgunverð; beikon, egg og pylsur (ásamt morgunkorni og fleiru).

Eftir morgunvaktina er sú hefð orðin hjá mér að fá mér kríu í einn tíma eða tvo. Það er ósköp notalegt að leggjast í kojuna og finna skipið rugga fram og til baka, það liggur við að það veki upp endurminningar frá þeim tíma þegar maður svaf í vöggu.

Við höfum verið gífurlega heppin með veður, vel hefur gefið á sjóinn aðeins örlítil undiralda. Því hefur verið mikið um myndatökur, sérstaklega hjá þeim enskumælandi. Það er ekki oft sem maður fær tækifæri á að sjá þau mögnuðu sólsetur sem hér má sjá á nánast hverju kvöldi.

Það má svo ekki gleyma 'ræktinni' sem er að finna á skipinu. Um er að ræða eitt stykki hlaupabretti, einhvers konar skíða- eða tröpputæki og hjól sem og nokkur handlóð og ýmis önnur lyftingartæki. Það kom mér á óvart hversu mikið þetta er í rauninni notað, fólk virðisti fara þangað niður reglulega til þess að ná af sér öllum þeim mat sem það setur ofan í sig. Vert er að minnast á það að þegar spretturinn er tekinn á hlaupabrettinu verður viðkomandi að halda sér í til þess að hendast ekki af brettinu sökum veltings!


I woke up at 7:30 and started my shift at 8 after a good breakfast. When it finished at 12 I went to lunch and napped for a while afterwards. It is really nice to feel the rocking of the boat once you are about to fall asleep.

It is not an overstatement if I tell you that the meals are the top of the day. They have got some incredible food on board and you can usually choose between two courses for dinner and lunch. Also, you can have all these different kind of eggs for breakfast, something I am not at all used to having in the morning back home in Iceland.

While I am not on shift I take a nap, talk to the people on board or try out the cool gym they have on board. What is better than to work out after all those good meals and these 4 hour shifts?

June 25, 2007: In the wee hours of the morning on the bridge we all got a lesson in Celestial Navigation and the use of a Sextant by Mark Maloof, Second Mate. Here is the morning event shared by Laura Jones:

After my night shift I sometimes stop by the bridge to talk to Ansley and Mark and to watch the sunset/sunrise. This particular evening was interesting because Mark decided to teach me a thing or two about celestial navigation.
            Celestial navigation is the process by which angles between celestial objects and the horizon are used to locate one’s position on the earth. The celestial objects used are most often the sun, moon, other planets, or one of 57 “navigational stars” whose coordinates are noted in nautical almanacs. These angle measurements are then used to define circles on the surface of the earth called celestial lines of position (LOPs). In order to triangulate your exact position on the globe you need at least 3 LOPs all of which will cross each other at one similar point, your location

Angle measurement has progressed over the years starting from simply an outstretched arm to instruments such as the sextant, and of course now a days all done by computers. Tonight I was able to use the Knorr’s sextant in order to try and measure the altitude of the sun above the horizon. The scale of a sextant is 1/6 of a full circle (60 degrees), hence its name (sextant, sext?ns, -antis is Latin for 1/6). The horizon and sun remained steady as I looked through the sextant, even though I thought as I was on a moving ship. I was then told that this occurs because the sextant views the motionless horizon straight and views the sun (or any other celestial object you are viewing) through two opposing mirrors that subtract the motion of the sextant from the reflection.

            The Knorr has a traditional half-horizon sextant which divides the field of view into two sections, on one half is the horizon and the other half is the celestial object. Once I had the sun in my sights (using the sextants shade glass as to not blind myself), I then had to swing the arm across the arc until the lowest section of the sun was touching the horizon. Once this was done the arm can be locked and the angle can be read off the arc of the sextant. Finished with the sextant, it was then placed very carefully back into its case and stored away (just because they aren’t computers doesn’t mean they aren’t expensive).     
I then came to realize that celestial navigation required more then just a sextant, but a well oiled team consisting of a marine chronometer, a sextant, a nautical almanac, sight reduction tables, charts, etc… Modern navigation has now replaced the sextant and its many comrades with computers and highly accurate GPS satellite systems. However the sextant is not dependent on electricity, unlike its technological replacements, therefore it is a highly practical back-up navigational tool for all ships. I was surprised then to hear that the Naval Academy no longer requires that a Celestial Navigation course be taught to their midshipman. What should happen if there computer’s crash? Personally I not only find celestial navigation a vital and practical skill but a skill that brings back the idealistic romantic quality of sailing across the open sea.


June 24, 2007: Last night the Sea Beam Multibeam System went down for a few hours keeping everyone on their toes. Join Biology, MATE interm, Prianca Joshi as she shares with you her new scientific understandings into the world of Geology:

It is day 11 for us in the cruise! After finally adjusting to the sea, I have started to savor life in a ship. This morning, as we get ready for our morning shift, we find that the sea beam system has crashed and Robbie has been meticulously trying to fix it for the past two hours. We take our positions to record data, ready to graph the magnetic and bathymetry. Later, after the recovery of the sea beam, we are extra cautious not to miss signs of any malfunctioning systems. Doesn’t it feel good to be confident with knowledge and sound professional? Sure does! However, it’s hard to forget that the initials days on this cruise were not a piece of cake for me. The first day was a mixed bag of emotions and experience. After being hounded mercilessly by sea sickness, I literally hated the idea of being on a cruise. I made a mental note that this would be my first and last cruise for life. I thought I was never going to make it through the trip; I was just not able to get a grip on my so called “sea legs”. How I wished I had the power to stop the ship, land on a steady ground and feel normal! Sadly, it was too late. We were on the high seas and there was no option but to remain rocking on the ship for a month. Just to spice up my misery, a whole new subject called “geology” was knocking on my door. Right when sea sickness had started to take its toll on me, literally sapping out every joule of energy from my body, I felt I was being bombarded with these big geological terms, figures, and maps. Please remember that my field of study is biology- a subject which is not at all related with this research. I admit, though, that it was my sole decision to be a part of this expedition. For I think, learning is all about boldly taking steps that lead into unrelated avenues of life. Learning should not be limited to books! Let experience be my teacher. I still remember the first science meeting on June 15, 2007, held at the main lab. I recall Amy briefly introducing the instruments that were going to be used for data collection. At this early hour, all I could honestly hear was a bunch of indecipherable geological babbling. I felt lost and out of place. Each day since then, I’ve overcome many of the hurdles that initially impeded my understanding. I learned terminology. Professor Hoskuldsson explained our purpose. Soon, I felt more comfortable and confident about my duties and am glad to say that I am learning something new about Icelandic geology with each passing day. I’m so thankful to my mentor, Dr. Richard Hey, my watch stand chief, Dr. Armann Hoskuldsson, and my watch mates Breton and Jesse, for being patient and answering every single query I had… no matter how ridiculous it might have sounded at that point in time. I’m happy to say that I currently have no bitter feelings towards sea life. In fact, if I am given another opportunity to join a sea expedition, I’ll be more than happy to participate. This is, of course, dependant on my ability to acquire more sea sickness pills!

June 22, 2007:

Welcome to Vesmannaeyjar......such an exciting day of science! Vesmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) is a archipelago southwest of continental Iceland, consisting of two main volcanic islands; Heimaey and Surtsey. Heimaey means "home island" because it is the only inhabitated island in the archipelago, and Surtsey was named after Surtur, the fire giant, of Norse mythology. This afternoon these islands were the location of sedimentary sampling using gravity coring...two of the three were sucessful...The first core was successful in retrieving 1.5 meters (5 ft) of sediment and the second core was successful in retrieving .75 meters (2.5 ft) of sediment, unluckily the third was unable to retrieve any sediment.

Here is a journal entry from Dr. Ármann Höskuldsson:

Today is the day for coring. I woke up at 06:00 hrs, took my daily shower and went down below to see where we are. Nice we have just made the turn at the end of the track and thus heading for Vestmannaeyjar. Weather is calm and the sea like oil, at the horizon the volcanic peaks of Öræfajökull shone in the morning sun. Öræfajökull last erupted in 1727, causing great havoc, destroying farms and people. It is, in fact, the deadliest volcano in Iceland causing fatalities in both historic eruption the one of 1727 and the one of 1362. Further east of us the glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull rise towards the skyline. Both glaciers are on top of volcanoes that have been erupting during historical time. Last eruption of Mýrdalsjökull in 1918. At 08:00 our shift was over so everyone went for breakfast. The coring was estimated to be at 14:00. Half an hrs before coming to the coring sites we need to slow down the R/V Knorr and hale in the magnetometer, so that it will not fall down to the bottom and prevent it from being damaged. Coring is a big business and needs people that are used to sending the 500 kg pipe down so that it sticks into the mud on the bottom of the ocean. The first two coring gave us about 2 meters of core (out of 3 possible meters). So not ideal but we got some mud up. The second site was not at all successful. So after about 6 hrs of coring we decided to stop that and continue our survey south along the Reykjanes ridge. But I had got some mud to study during the winter.
Coring of the ocean floor is done to see into the past history of the oceans, atmosphere and earth. At the bottom of the sea sediments are laid down in regular intervals growing younger towards the surface of the bottom. By coring into these sediments we can trace the ancient history back in time. The coring around Vestmannaeyjar is intended to strengthen our knowledge on the eruptive history of the islands. So far we have only been able to date two eruptions, those of Sæfell (About 6200 years BP) and that of Helgafell (Around 5900 years BP). Only two historic eruptions have taken place within the archipelago, Surtsey in 1963-7 and that of Heimaey in 1973. Hopefully the core will allow us to trace back the prehistoric eruptions of Vestmannaeyjar since the tephra layers should form a distinct horizons or bands within the core. Organic life forms below and above the layers are then going to be dated and thus give us absolute age for the deposition of the tephra. Chemical analysis of the tephra grains is then going to help us pinpoint which volcanic formation within the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago formed the given tephra layer.
All in all good day weather nice got some core material and all meters working well. And off we sailed towards western evening sky.
Many thanks to captain and crew for professional assistant.



June 21, 2007:

Today is the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, when the Earth's axis tilts the most towards the sun. It was a great day, it started a little grey but there was much excitement as we approached, Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands).


June 20, 2007:

It's 0130 and the North Atlantic is calm and glassy. Pall doesn't think we are near Iceland anymore with seas this calm. We are happy to enjoy the tranquil sea as long as it will last. We are on track 11 of our survey. Earlier this evening we passed by the Reykjanes Peninsula, where the Reykjanes Ridge (MOR) comes onto land.

Here is something written by Russ Adams, the ship's Marine Electrician, a little electrical history:

Theory of 2Ø Electricity
Two phase - 2Ø
           Two-phase electrical power was an early 20th century polyphase alternating current electric power distribution system. Two circuits, or "phases", were used, with voltages 90 electrical degrees apart in time. Usually circuits used four wires, two for each phase. Less frequently, three wires were used, with a common wire with a larger-diameter conductor. The generators at Niagara Falls installed in 1895 were the largest generators in the world at the time and were two-phase machines. Some early two-phase generators had two complete rotor and field assemblies, mechanically shifted by 90 mechanical degrees to provide two-phase power.
            The advantage of two-phase electrical power was that it allowed for simple, self-starting electric motors. In the early days of electrical engineering, it was easier to analyze and design two-phase systems where the phases were completely separated, since this avoided the need for the effect of unbalanced loads. It was not until the invention of symmetrical components that three-phase power systems had a convenient mathematical tool for describing unbalanced load cases. The revolving magnetic field produced with a two-phase system allowed electric motors to provide torque from zero motor speed, which was not possible with a single-phase induction motor (without extra starting means).
            Induction motors designed for two-phase operation use the same winding configuration as capacitor start single-phase motors. For smaller consumers (just how small varies by country and age of the installation) only a single phase and the neutral or two phases and the neutral are taken to the property.
For larger installations all three phases and the neutral are taken to the main distribution panel. From the three-phase main panel, both single and three-phase circuits may lead off.  Three wire single-phase systems, with a single center-tapped transformer giving two live conductors, is a common distribution scheme for residential and small commercial buildings in North America. This arrangement is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "two phase".  A similar method is used for a different reason on construction sites in the UK.
            Small power tools and lighting are supposed to be supplied by a local center-tapped transformer with a voltage of 55V between each power conductor and the earth. This significantly reduces the risk of electric shock in the event that one of the live conductors becomes exposed through an equipment fault while still allowing a reasonable voltage for running the tools. Three-phase electric power requires less conductor mass for the same voltage and overall amount of power. It has all but replaced two-phase power for commercial distribution of electrical energy, but two-phase circuits are still found in certain control systems.
            Two-phase power can be derived from a three-phase source using two transformers in a Scott connection. One transformer primary is connected across two phases of the supply. The second transformer is connected to a center-tap of the first transformer, and is wound for 86.6% of the phase-to-phase voltage on the three-phase system. The secondaries of the transformers will have two phases 90 degrees apart in time, and a balanced two-phase load will be evenly balanced over the three supply phases.
            Three-wire, 120/240 volt single phase power used in the USA and Canada is sometimes incorrectly called "two-phase". The proper term now used is split phase or 3-wire single-phase.

Russell P. Adams, Jr.
Marine Electrician, R/V Knorr

June 19, 2007:

June 18, 2007: Jesse Favia is a recent graduate from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, School of Ocean, Earth Science, & Technology, with a B.S. Geology & Geophysics. Here is a glimpse of what his day was like:

            I awoke at 6:30 this morning; unfortunately I was not in my bed, but in the main lab in the middle of my 4 am – 8 am shift.  Little balls of white paper were scattered about me on the floor; the girls, Prianca and Breton, had been throwing them at me as I slept in an attempt to amuse themselves during the tedious early morning shift. 
            The Knorr is currently surveying the western shelf of Iceland between the Snaefellsnes peninsula and the Vestfirdir to the north.  The recon survey requires little of the watch standers and I look forward to the survey of the ridge south of Iceland that will provide the opportunity for work.  Data collected from the survey of the submarine portion of the Mid-Ocean Ridge south of Iceland to 62º north will be modeled on the ship; before the ship docks in Reykjavik in less than a month the scientists on the Knorr will be closer to explaining the anomalous v-shaped ridge.
            I suffer through the last hour and a half of my watch, awake; in order to avoid the indignity suffered by dart boards everywhere.  As I stumble into breakfast close eyed and quite grumpy, I ponder the possibility of a schedule.  If I sleep directly after breakfast I have eight hours before my next watch, this will make typical daytime hours my night and typical nighttime hours my day.  This seems wrong, I should be awake during the daytime, but I haven’t been blinded by the dark of night in the eight days since I arrived in Iceland, so conventions can be forgiven, plus everyone keeps odd hours on this ship. 
            Odd hours dominate the activity of the ship with scientist and crews standing watch 24 hours a day.  The ship must be constantly monitored from the bridge down to the engine room including here in the main lab.  The bridge keeps watch for navigation hazards, the engineers keep the boat running, and the stewards keep everyone happy and fed all for the benefit of the scientists monitoring the equipment in the main lab, all for the benefit of science.
            I awake, again, at 3:15 pm this time in my cabin, a small but comforting space, and prepare for my pm shift.  My cabin though slightly small than the other science staterooms has a private bath, I think I got the better end of the deal.  I grab my computer and head up stairs.  Much of my watch is spent cleaning up my computer. 
            With nothing but free time for the next 27 days and have promised myself I will take the time to perform such menial tasks that are not possible in the routine of life on land.  Between watching the SeaBeam readings and the return from the magnetometer I cleanup my hard disk and defrag the drive.  I derive the same satisfaction from these tasks as I do from cleaning my bedroom.  Though scarce, cleanings are thorough.
            I eat dinner at five; we break two at a time for meals while on watch.  Dinner is Halibut with a citrus sauce and Pork Chops with gravy.  There is grilled cauliflower and cold salad.  Dessert is blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  After dinner I head downstairs to my stateroom and finish a project of the last few nights.  I am working through the first two seasons of Rescue Me and fear I will finish tonight.  After I finish I go to the gym in the stern of the ship and work out.  Then I grab a quick half hour nap before back to my am shift.

June 17, 2007: Laura Jones is a junior at the Indiana University-Bloomington, majoring in Geology. She is on this research cruise as an intern with the MATE program [http://www.marinetech.org/]. She enjoyed the day this way:

Daily Log: JD 168

      I woke up, rather abruptly, to the sound of my alarm ringing in my ear. I slowly rolled out of bed in what could be considered ameba-like behavior, and fumbled around the room until I tracked down the culprit. Once my phone was turned off I staggered toward the light switch at which I immediately I was blinded by the sudden increase in the brightness around me. At this point I seemed to be stuck in place swaying to the rocking of the boat; apparently my brain had not awoken with the rest of my body. At this point however I was still able to get dressed and meander my way up to the main deck fueled by a much greater power, my stomach.

      Due to the travel woes of the previous days, the time change, and the 24 hours of sunlight, my sleeping cycle was thrown way off. Yesterday I fell asleep after my morning shift (8-12AM) and didn’t wake up again until my night shift (8-12PM) Meaning of course that I both missed dinner and had made it impossible for me to get sleep last night. As I made it into the mess hall, Karen proceeded to serve me a nice thick slice of asiago frittata, bacon, potatoes (while in the process I was grabbing a bowl of fruit salad and some yogurt); just what I needed.

      My watchstanding shift started in 2 min. so I made my way over to the main lab with Asdis, my watchstanding partner. On our way over her and Páll started to talk to each other in Icelandic, and can’t be sure but I they were talking about me. My morning watchstanding shift was relatively uneventful, seeing as we were in rather shallow water the whole time. Besides recording the magnetometer and bathymetry data every 5 min., the time was spent listening to music, talking, and filling our brains with Dr. Hey’s knowledge. Dr. Hey came over to check on us around halfway through our shift. He gave us somewhat of a mini-lecture explaining the readings, what we should look for, and what they were going to do with the data afterward. For the echosounder he told us to watch out for noise, multiples, and side echoes; but that we should watch for changes in the thickness of sediment covers, sediment/rock layering, interesting/significant landforms, and magnetic anomalies.

      At around 1-o-clock we were told that we were starting to pass Snæfellsjökull (jökull meaning glacier) and at hearing this we all charged the doors to get a good view. I proceeded immediately back inside after realizing that I jumped outside in windy and cold (5?C) weather. After I put around 4 extra layers, I went back outside in perfect time to see the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. At the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the perfectly cone-shaped Snæfellsjökull volcano, crowned by a glacier and summit caldera 3 km wide. Snæfellsjökull has a beautiful majestic presence standing at 1446m high. It has been active for the past 700,000 years and has produced 25 eruptions in the past 10,000 years; however none of these eruptions occurred in the past 1,100 years (the time of human settlement in Iceland). As with many of the world’s great wonders, cameras will never capture its full essence. The clouds seemed to pool around the top, giving them the likes of a large UFO landing on the summit. Ironically Páll told me that the volcano is the site of much UFO craze, like the Area 51 of Iceland. The volcano is most known, however, for being the starting point for the epic voyage portrayed by Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

      Our afternoon shift went by much faster with nothing too eventful and luckily all the equipment was still in working order. I made sure to send my dad a quick Father’s Day message, and then headed down to my bunk and collapsed into my pillow…or at least I tried…that is until I was seeing stars. Apparently the fact that there was a top bunk in my way slipped my mind, oh well, I knew it would happen eventually. At that point, with minor brain damage, I was able to slip into a beautiful deep sleep at last.

June 16, 2007: Jessica Thomas is a junior heading for Chico State in Mechanical Engineering this fall. She is one of three MATE interns [http://www.marinetech.org/] on this cruise. Here is a slice of her day:

JD 167

Today started with my second shift and my first night watch. It is not a bad shift, starting at midnight and ending at four in the morning. I have yet to decide when I will sleep and when I will stay awake. I think I will take a couple of days to make this decision. I am still recovering from my long trip here and the effects of my seasick medication. I am not seasick, but I feel off… like I am a little shaky and weak. I have a hard time moving and walking around. With all this in mind, I am glad that I am working with Pall. He has a great attitude and has kept me laughing all night. I am looking forward to working more with him.

My noon shift started with an odd feeling. Eating lunch for what should be breakfast considering that I had just gotten up for the day. It was good food, but I was still not feeling hungry.

Once again I had to step outside not to just wake myself up, but to keep myself from becoming sick. I started feeling the effects of sitting and staring at a computer screen for four hours. I had not eaten a lot at lunch and tried to eat some crackers during the watch but could not bring myself to swallow them. It was an odd feeling – not hungry and drained of all energy. The cool air was enough to make the difference. I made it to my room and took a shower. When I emerged I was struck with a feeling of extreme hunger. It took me a while to figure out what had happened, but it turned out that the seasick armbands that I had put on the first day had been suppressing my appetite. Needless to say, I was very happy when I saw what was for dinner: Steak and Baked Potato. Yum!

After dinner and feeling better, I decided that it was time to get on a schedule. Sleep will occur in the morning time meaning that my day will start at noon. With that in mind, I headed into the movie room and put on Serenity. I ended up going to bed before it was over, but it was a good start to the new schedule. Tomorrow will be easier, especially if I can eat.

June 15, 2007:


June 14, 2007:

After many delays in airports, cancelled flights, and air traffic control issues all of the scientific party made is to the ship which was docked in Reykjavik Harbor. After a time of getting settled in, we went on a walking tour of the city. Also docked in the harbor was a German Navy Frigate, many small fishing boats, long liners, whale watching, and sail boats. The weather is ~50 degrees Fahrenheit and in the 40's at night. Reykjavik is a beautiful port city of 190,000 people located right on the water amongst some spectacular volcanic landscape.

Today is about getting things ready to be out to sea for the next 30-days. Making sure everything is tied down, put away as not to be tossed to and fro by the sea while we are underway. The biggest excitement for the ship today was being visited by the local news reporters from TV and newspapers. They came to see the ship and interview the scientists. Here is a link to those reports (they are in Icelandic):

Click here to download Frettabladid news article(.pdf)

We are really looking forward to a great cruise, exciting scince and getting to know new people. Thanks for joining us on our adventure!

Tina Mueller