First Night

By Iris Clyne

Sep. 26, 1998. Last night’s sleep on the open ocean was a lullaby. Except for a few pounders against the hull once in a while (I’m guessing that’s when we traversed the edge of Alenuihaha), the seas gently rocked us into a deep slumber. Ahhh, to awaken to the beautiful deep blue ocean at South Point and still have mild seas.

You can’t imagine the amount of preparation that goes into an expedition like this. There are 12 computers set up in the main lab. Some are to run mathematical analyses, generate maps and models, and some I’m not sure quite what they do yet. As we prepare to reach our final destination, everyone is making sure their programs will work with the data they will obtain. Technical glitches later could result in lost time and money.

Basically, the idea is to get every inch of this ridge mapped in such a great detail that scientists can then begin to figure out how and why volcanoes form the way they do. Because Kilaeau has been erupting for almost 16 years and it’s an easy volcano to study because of its location and type, so it can be used as a model for understanding many other volcanic formations.

We’re making our first run over the axis of Puna Ridge and dropping in transponders to bounce signals off. It has taken 5 hours to drop 10 transponders in just the right location. We’re halfway there and it’s dark. But the bright lights on deck keep the crew and scientists working until it’s all done. Even then we keep on moving. Next we’ll be making a U-turn and running back down the transect line to survey each transponder and make sure we know exactly where they are. Then comes the fun part, sending in the submersibles to take measurements!

Aloha ahiahi kakou