By Edwin Schiele
October 14, 1998. This morning I gazed at the vibrant colors on the sonar screen for perhaps the last time. We were mapping a crossing line close to shore that took us over the top of a seamount. Towing the DSL 120 across the ridge rather than down the axis is challenging. The slopes are far steeper so the flyers must remain alert. Tonight we finish the final crossing line then complete some last lines along the ridge axis. Tomorrow morning, the DSL group will pull the DSL 120 on board for the final time and prepare the ARGO II for its first descent. Ill then have a whole new suite of watch duties that will involve multiple monitors.
In many respects, 36 days on a research ship is not a lot of time. Puna Ridge is big. We cant possibly examine all that we want to, so we must choose carefully. Our time must be carefully partitionedtwo days for transit between here and Honolulu, twenty days for sonar mapping, seven days for ARGO II, and seven days for wax coring and dredging. Wax core samples are also collected whenever the vehicles are on deck for maintenance. Then factor in the time it takes to lay down and collect the transponders and our margins become pretty small.
But in other respects, 36 days on board a research ship is a very long time. There are no days off. Everybody works long hours. We often have to remind ourselves that we are in a beautiful part of the world and that we should step outside to smell the ocean, watch the sunset, or gaze at the stars.
Inside the ship, there are other things to distract us. The movie collection rivals that of any video store. There is the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the legend of the Nutter Butter Elf to tantalize us. (See Debbie Smiths daily flash.) And finally, there is the Inaugural Puna Ridge Open. Fifteen scientists, crew, and educators (plus one science writer) battling for ping pong supremacy and the right to proclaim themselves champion of the submarine extension of Kilaueas East Rift Zone.
For years I prepared myself in my familys basement, honing my serves, spins, and corner shots to the point where I could defeat most who opposed me. That, however, was 15 years ago. Since then, everybody else has caught up. Last night I succumbed to Laura Kong, who displayed a nifty cut serve and a devastating forehand slam, in three scintillating matches. The scores were 2119, 1921, and 2119.
Most of the other matches were equally well contested. Stay tuned to this web page for the crowning of the champion. Youll see it here first.