Posted by: Mark Tohulka
Mission Day 4:
After the hectic events of Thursday’s broadcast, the day is focused on the science. I go out collecting data with Ashley, which goes pretty well, though the visibility is still poor. At one point, I stop to tie off the reel and when I turn, she is almost out of view already, then stops to look back while I catch up. I am reminded of how easily you could lose your dive buddy in poor visibility waters, and make extra sure to communicate well and stay close. Unfortunately, I have a bit of stomach problem and need to come in and sit the afternoon dive out to be sure it is nothing serious or that could compromise safety. The afternoon is spent in telephone conferences with classrooms from Florida to Ohio and Oregon. It was fun talking with students and their teachers as they watched the webcam. Hopefully, tomorrow brings more diving.
Mission Day 5:
The rest has done me some good: I feel better and I am cleared to dive today, partnering with Jeremiah. We set out in search of blue parrotfish to balance the distribution of data, and do well. After the dive a quick shower, and we get ready for our second live broadcast. We are all getting better with experience, and it goes smoothly. It is fun to respond to the questions sent via the website and the chat interface, and James gets more time to talk about the science goals and progress of the mission. After it ends, we get some down time, then go out for our afternoon dive.
The visibility has worsened, and frustrated by the lack of target fish to observe, we spend some time looking around the exterior of the habitat. After being in the water so long, the Aquarius is a true artificial reef, with lavish growth of soft corals and anemones wherever they have been allowed to settle. The technicians spend much of their day cleaning the outside, removing the growth of organisms from the valves and controls that must stay exposed and operable. The rest of the structure is rich with life, and as night approaches, it teems with gathering fish. The snappers and grunts hang closely together, as the huge goliath groupers move from the daytime spots to slowly, methodically cruise the exteriors of the habitat in search of an unwary fish for a meal. Each night, we delight at watching them pass by the viewports like living zeppelins floating about the structure.
MAST Academy\ Aquarius Aquanaut