We were asked by our neighbours to join them for trivia pub night at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub in Falmouth. So that’s just what we did; however, getting to the pub approximately 4.5 km away without a car at 8pm in the dark is a little difficult. Our main mode of transportation around here is our own two feet or our bikes. Biking in the dark, however, is a wee bit sketchy especially when our bike don’t have lights. Thankfully our neighbours lent us two lights to use between the three of us to make ourselves more visible…yet they weren’t really adequate for biking when the sky is clouded over and the moon is no where to been seen. After much fanfare and many potholes later, we eventually reached the pub. It ended up being quite a fun night with loud music, a live DJ and trivia questions that stumped the majority of us. If only we had remembered the Jabberwocky, maybe then we could’ve gained on the leaders! We ended the night, however, with a respectable score placing us in the middle of the pack. The bike ride home was a little more manageable as the terrain was familiar, and we knew what was coming around the next bend. The only thing I would do differently if I was to do this night again would be to buy a bike light (or two!).
This week we were also given a tour of the WHOI docks in Woods Hole. Our guide was named Hovey; he is a retired employee who worked at WHOI for 30 years. You could tell that he really had a passion for what he was talking about. He showed us several research vessels that were at the WHOI docks. He described them as oversized pickup trucks that float. They have a cab, a bed and then a crane attached to either an A frame or H frame. The bed can be filled up with research equipment and the crane can lower equipment into the depths of the ocean. There are different types of cables attached to the equipment depending on the weight of the load. They range from a few intertwined cables to many with some having a copper centre or fibreglass strands. The cables with copper or fibreglass have the ability to carry electrical currents, so the scientists can control the research equipment at the bottom of the ocean while remaining on the boat–3 miles above on the ocean surface! Each boat keeps around six miles of cable on board! (That’s around 10km of cable for the non-American readers). The cables are wound on gigantic spools which look like they would belong on part of a sewing machine if they were shrunk down to size.
Hovey also showed us the Nereus which is a remotely operated vehicle as well as a pod from the ALVIN (which is a human occupied vehicle). The pod is a specially constructed sphere with three small porthole windows with glass 3 inches thick. Three people can fit inside the sphere: a pilot and two research scientists. Hovey was actually one of the scientists who had the honour of diving inside ALVIN. He said that seeing undiscovered species 3 miles down into the ocean was a feeling he would never forget. It’s as if you are entering a whole new world. He said that the dive was so enjoyable that you forgot about your need to go to the bathroom. Since each dive lasts six to ten hours and there are no bathrooms inside the sphere, you don’t really have any choice but to ignore nature’s calling.
Even though the ALVIN is the world’s oldest research submersible, it remains state of the art due to the engineering advancements such as its robotic arm that was installed. The claims to fame for the ALVIN include locating a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966, discovering the first hydrothermal vents in the 1970s, and exploring the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.
The tour also took us to see James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenger. He recently donated it to WHOI in March of this year. This submersible has room for only one man inside a pod similar to the one on the ALVIN. James Cameron, producer of the movie Titanic, piloted the Challenger to the deepest part of the ocean–the Marianas Trench. Apparently when he was inside the pod, his knees were positioned against his chest. You have to be dedicated to stay in that position for seven or more hours! WHOI’s submersibles allow them to explore 98% of the ocean floor! It’s such an overwhelming thought to think that people travel four miles down into the ocean depths in these small vehicles. It definitely puts life into perspective when thinking about the vastness of the ocean!