By Caitlin Adams, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Web Coordinator
September 19, 2017
Since our expedition began on September 12, the DEEP SEARCH team has spent nearly an equal number of days at sea and onshore. After four successful, science-filled days at sea, we had to head into port in Morehead City, North Carolina, to avoid Hurricane Jose. Now that Jose is slowly moving north, we finally have enough of a safe weather window to head back out today!
With Hurricane Maria intensifying in the Caribbean, we’ll never be fully clear of the weather, but we’re doing the best we can to make science happen while we still can. The Pisces crew worked quickly this morning to get us out for an 0900 departure. It’s a nearly straight steam south to our next site, Stetson Bank (Site 10). We’ll arrive on station overnight, and then, once daylight breaks, it will be time for action.
The Pisces engineering crew will lower the centerboard from the ship’s hull back into its active position. The centerboard is raised when the ship is transiting to maximize speed. This will allow us to run a quick hour-long transect of ship-based multibeam mapping to collect missing seafloor data near the site. After that, we’ll be deploying Sentry for its third day-long dive.
The Pisces will continue to track the Sentry overnight, as it will remain in the water until early Thursday morning. After a speedy recovery, Pisces crew members will raise the centerboard back to its maintenance position and immediately begin the transit north to avoid the weather that’s coming with Hurricane Maria.
Our path after that still remains uncertain. We’ll head into the Chesapeake Bay this weekend to avoid this latest hurricane, but we’re not yet certain how much remaining science time we’ll have once it passes. Our cruise is slated to end on September 28, and the Pisces is a busy ship—she has another mission to complete right after ours, as does the Sentry.
Unfortunately, we are learning one of the biggest truths of ocean-going research right now: you just can’t control the weather. We always knew hurricane season was a risky time to work in the South Atlantic, but we certainly didn’t anticipate a hurricane season quite this strong!