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A Day on the Night Watch

June 14, 2011

 By Megan Prescott

Reader beware:  This blog was written during the night watch…

Being on the night watch, midnight to 8 a.m., has its ‘perks.’  You get the whole ship to yourself (practically), and you can blast the music, because let’s face it that is what is keeping you awake.  You get to have midnight meal, 4 a.m. snack, and sleep through lunch (unless it is something completely irresistible such as pizza!).  Oh, and did you know that it starts getting light out around 4:30 a.m.?  I do, thanks to the night watch.

3-D multibeam sonar image of Norfolk Canyon

Figure 1. 3-D multibeam sonar image of Norfolk Canyon, looking down the axis toward the canyon mouth.

The night watch is actually a very brutal place to be, and I don’t just mean all those times I run into a wall or the door.  When we are not fortunate enough to have a CTD cast during our watch, we spend all our time “killing dots.”  This is when the real work is done!  After the acquisition of a line of multibeam data, we are tasked with cleaning out the bad data, which in our case consists of thousands of dots (pings from the multibeam) with some that simply do not follow the surrounding bathymetry.  We also get to produce lovely graphics once the multibeam has been cleaned sufficiently (see Figure 1).

When we are fortunate enough to have a CTD cast, excitement abounds as Vern dons her hard hat, life jacket and radio and heads out to help the Survey Tech, Laurie, deploy the CTD.  I stay inside and do the important task of logging all the information pertinent to the cast (time, position, depth, etc.) while Vern remains outside keeping an eye on the CTD cable to make sure it doesn’t angle too far aft, forward or under the ship.  As the CTD comes up, we await the confirmation from Vern, “Winch, back deck.  I have a visual.” This means the CTD is at the surface, data collection is stopped and the CTD is ready to be brought back on board.  Then we return to the ever important task of killing more dots.

Figure 2. Veronica Holton signals the winch operator during a CTD cast. CTD data help support mutlibeam mapping.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Patty Jordan permalink
    June 15, 2011 2:57 pm

    Are you giving the world a rude hand gesture!!!
    Love you…miss you…what fascinating work. Again I ask, how will this apply to your work for Prairie Village, KS

    God bless,
    Mrs. J.

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