Stalking El Niño: Part Two
Brown team members in the science lab aboard the Knorr: Professor Tim Herbert (white shirt with black design) and graduate students Jeffrey Salacup (partially hidden by Herbert) and Rocio Caballero (standing, far right). Credit: Caitlin Chazen

Aboard the Knorr: Seasickness and a million years of sediment

Graduate student Caitlin Chazen blogs directly from the eastern equatorial Pacific, where she and other Brown geologists are digging deep below the ocean floor for clues about climate change.
By Caitlin Chazen  |  April 6, 2009  |  Email to a friend

(Read Part One)

Sea Sickness

MARCH 28, 2009: ABOARD THE R/V KNORR  –  About 12 hours ago I learned how it felt to be seasick. I boarded the Knorr with a cocky assurance that I simply did not get seasick. My stomach seems to disagree.

One of the scientists on board the ship offered me some sound advice: “When you get seasick, you have three options – take meds, sleep, or cry.” He went on to say that in his experience none of these options work particularly well. There is an upside, though. When you begin to feel better, the world seems more wonderful than ever before.  Even though the seas are remarkably calm I feel strangely accomplished for surviving my first episode of seasickness.

The Knorr’s A-frame rig (at rear) supports the long corer.: The Knorr’s A-frame rig (at rear) supports the long corer. Long Core

MARCH 30, 2009: ABOARD THE R/V KNORR  –  Today we recovered our first long core. The long corer is a massive chain of interlocking barrels that extends the full length of the ship. To accommodate the strain of the corer, the supporting A-frame of the Knorr had to be completely rebuilt. A massive winch system sits on the backside of the ship, but the real meat of the system, I am told, is the rope. The long core system employs a synthetic rope designed not to stretch under loads of up to 160 tons. This allows us to recover remarkably long sections without disturbing the sediment. We are only the second scientific party to use it.

Before deploying the long core we dropped a gravity core, the idea being that if something goes wrong it’s better to break a 15-foot piece of PVC pipe than a world-class coring rig. When the long core is dropped, the shipboard science lab is transformed into a crazy science-engineer pressure cooker. A high-pitched pinger rings in the background as the technical team shouts orders back and forth. They need to determine how far the core head is from the bottom so they know when to pull the trigger.

Once the corer was lifted to the surface, hydraulic arms pulled the core to vertical and hoisted it onto the deck. We managed to recover 35 meters of sediment extending back a million years.