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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

JOIDES Resolution, The World's Most Important Research Vessel

I've been vague about what the JR is and why I am on it.  The JOIDES Resolution is a drilling ship that for nearly thirty years has traveled to every corner of the world's oceans doing scientific research.  It is the flagship of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, a consortium of about 16 member nations, funded by national government research dollars (e.g. your tax dollars!), that undertakes basic scientific research that requires drilling capability in the deep sea.  You could think of it as the oceanographic equivalent of the International Space Station.  Through recovery and analysis of deep ocean sediments and rocks, the JR has made possible fundamental discoveries in plate tectonics, Earth's climate history, the deep biosphere (did you know organisms live in rock miles below the ocean floor?), earthquake hazards, mineral resources, etc. etc.

A typical cruise length for the JR is two months (the boat can spend 75 days at sea without reprovisioning).  A party of about two dozen scientists will come on ship (having applied from institutions around the world) and undertake their expedition, aided by about 100 additional people who work on the ship (drillers, deckhands, caterers, lab techs, engineers, mates, etc).  This particular week is one of those extremely rare moments when the ship is underway without every spare bunk being gobbled up by a scientist----a between-expedition transit from the Pacfic to Atlantic.  The ship's operators kindly allowed four of us to tag along, a science writer (my dad, Chet Raymo), a journalist (Amy Mayer), and an artist (Wendy Jacob).  I've spent four months at sea on this ship in the past, am very involved in the program, and pitched/organized the idea.  I have little idea what these three talented people will produce from this experience, but rest assured I will link to it here when it happens.

The JR is an incredible international treasure for the world of science but, as she spends nearly her entire life at sea, few people have heard of her.   Soooo...if you want a little more insight into some of the science that has resulted from deep sea drilling you can shoot over to my dad's blog Science Musings.  Here you can see some more of this impressive stop, the engine room.....

 The engine room controls seven 16 cylinder diesel engines for a total of 5200 horsepower.  The control panel in first pic runs the propellers, drill floor, lights, AC, water distillation, etc., namely the entire ship.

The engine room is a thing of beauty.  Seriously, Martha Stewart would approve (is that color Turkey Hill sage???)----look at that tool rack!  What I can't convey is heat so great the handrails are hot to the touch and noise so loud that one can only communicate with hand signals.

The derrick you saw before....we can drill holes many kilometers deep into the Earth's crust in the deepest parts of the ocean with a shipboard dynamic positioning system that can keep ship on station (within a few meter circle) for months at a time.  

The only pool on this ship....the moon pool goes through the center of ship below the derrick.

 Over 15 kilometers of drill pipe is onboard.

 The rig floor with the trap door over the moon pool closed.  Tomorrow, the Bridge and Galley.  (Still looking for the craft room  ;-)