Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sept 15 Last Day in the Hab..First day back in the sun.

  We played a bit of cards to take advantage of the downtime. I did not know that I was at a disadvantage. Apparently my cards could be seen from the camera behind me. MY wife tested me that she could see them as well as a few others. What was funny is that Frances' mother texted her as well. I am glad France chose to soundly beat me at gin rummy without the aid of a technological spy. No one really wanted to go to bed . So we made the day last as long as possible.  The habitat looked empty as all the experimental equipment was already gone. We only had a small amount of personal gear left. We all took a  few moments to sign the Aquanaut log.



After a long night. Most of us got up at least once to enjoy the solitude of the window throughout the night. I was up atabout 2 am for a few last looks myself before I went back to sleep.


We were all up at 6am to prepare to ascend. While the habitat never moved, through the night they had slowly released the pressure to bring the pressure inside the habitat to surface level. We had a quick breakfast than we began to clean.We had to clean and scrub all the surfaces in the habitat. To ensure nothing would begin growing after we left.

Last meal at the table


Ben cleaning


We watched ROger bribng down our regular scuba gear as we began to realize that this adventure was almost over.
Roger bringing down the scuba gear for the ascent


   At a few minutes to 8 am they brought the pressure in the habitat back down to 50 feet. This was now like a normal dive. We only had about 60 minutes to get our gear on, get out the door, and do a very slow ascent to the boat.

  Once on the boat they brought up our last bit of personal items for us. Just in time for a selfie and a quick text home to say we were on the surface.
The sun felt soo good!

Leaving the Aquarius area. The Life Support Buoy fades into the distance

Aline getting to relax


  We had to hang out at the base for two hours to ensure no one was getting sick. During that time we repacked the sonar and other science gear.  Then we got to go to the house we were staying at. I fell asleep in a real bed pretty quickly for a nice nap.

  Later that night we had a small celebration party with all of the Aquarius crew, and support personnel. They also gave out the very valued Aquanaut certificates. The have been less than 400 people to have stayed saturated for a week like we did. This has been an honor in not only accomplishments, but also in getting to know all these great people. 


This brings an end to this adventure. I can not fly for 48 hours due the the nitrogen still remaining in my body. I will get to go home early Saturday morning to see my family. I have missed my wife and kids very much. I have to thank them for letting me go on this adventure. 

  As of today, We have Skyped or talked by Google Hangout with over 5,000 students! I am so glad that I was part of this mission. It was very hard to say goodbye to Ben, Alian, and Frances. They too have become like family to me. I plan to stay in touch. I also told them I would be more than happy to help process the data we collected and see this project through to the end. 

What the future brings next I don't know, but it will be hard to top this epic mission!











Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday, Sept 13 Last night in the Hab

Alas, the day has come. We have started shutting down operations. We only got to have one short dive today. 8-9:55. We had to be back to start decompression. The dive was kind of short as we just had to collect the specimens. and pot away the tiles we were using.
                               
                                                  We actually had some time to play!

  Ben and Aline decided to have a bare foot race underwater. This was really funny as it looked they were running in slow motion. Frances and I just laughed and stayed out of their way.


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Ben decided to practice some high kicks.


There was also some time for a selfie! as well as a few last poses at the hab.





      I had to take one last look at the beauty around me. I truly love being underwater. This has been a great experience for me. I have met some new friends in not only the scientists Ben Binder, Alain Duran, Frances Fabaugh who answered my endless questions, and all who could outswim me but let me keep up anyway!  Also, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge all the the people that operate Aquarius. I have to take a moment to thank Alieen Soto from FIU who called and offered me the fabulous opportunity. The hab crew Mark (Otter) and Ivana (Roxy) who kept us alive and fed. Also my family and teachers back home who carried my load while I was here. I am forever grateful to all of you for making this possible


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Bottom of the Life Support Buoy 

A school of about 600 hundred fish surrounding the hab

A new favorite..meet the Hog fish!

Hog Fish


    I also got to have another call back to my school. Where I got to let them ask questions about life under here. I am so looking forward to seeing them again. I do miss my family and all my students, as well as, my fellow teachers.

   

   I have gotten used to people being able to watch us all the time on the Internet. I always wanted to be on the show Big Brother! So hey! two big dreams in one experience!

    We sent up most of our clothes and gear. All the sonar is gone and this place looks empty. Plus we are down to our last few pots of coffee!!!!  I guess it is time to get ready to really leave.

    At four o'clock we started decompression procedures.  Decompression is where they lower the pressure in the habitat from 60' depth of pressure to 0' of pressure. They lock the big outer door,,were the potty is.... and shower. and then they slowly bring the pressure up to 0'. We have lay on our bunks and breathe 100% oxygen for an hour. Twenty minutes of O2 than five minutes regular air. This goes in three cycles for an hour total  of O2. This process helps flush out all the nitrogen that has built up in our bodies. The oxygen pushes the nitrogen out though our breathing process. This is a "kickstart" to returning to normal oxygen levels in our bodies.


Aline in bunk

Darth Vader!

We all made it!

    After the hour was over, we got to relax a bit. Our voices had returned to normal. BUT..the smell in here is getting progressively worse. As the air becomes less dense, we are smelling ourselves much "better".... 

And to answer one last question....
No Pokemon Go does not work down here.LOL  but I did try!!!
                                        Man that would have been a lot of Magi Carp!!!!
More tomorrow up in the sunshine!

                                             Aquanauts fro mission 132 Ecology of Fear!

Monday Sept 12, 2016

    I was a bit remiss in blogging last night. I was to enthralled with watching out my favorite window. I really sat there until about 2 this morning watching the sea life. As usual, Some really cool things popped in for a goodbye visit.
This is Burt (a goliath grouper)

and this is Chloe ( a lion fish)

    But back to the beginning of the day! This morning the habitat started to look different. Almost all of of personal clothes and electronics were bagged to go in pressurized containers for transport to the surface. Kind of sad. We got ready for our last full day of diving  of the mission. As we were talking, we realized that we ]really have not seen the sun in a week. Yes we have light down here but we all decided that we kind of missed that big fiery ball. 

      I wanted to get back to the hab on time because I had a special Google Hangout video call with all of my school. But science waits on no one! There was still measurements to take and new bait to put out. So we went out and did science!

Aline measuring vegetation left after the fish had 2 hours to nibble

Ben measuring rugosity levels

Frances measuring  vegetation in the various quadrants of the sample site. 

And you ask what do I gt to do? Well I help as much as possible. Usually carrying equipment and helping Ben measure areas and collecting the sea grass left overs in sample bags.. But most importantly I get to take pictures. Usually, they are so busy working no one records what great work they are accomplishing. Usually I am very tired by the end of six hours diving and working. Remember that these tanks along weigh 120 pounds, plus the equipment! Ben did get a picture of me taking a break sitting on one of the guide ropes at the end of the last dive. I kind of like this picture!


As usual we saw some really cool wildlife on our dives.


A hab creature!



When we finished the morning dive I got to make the video chat I have been waiting to have. The one with my entire school! I also had a very special announcement for one of the teachers. I got to show all my kids terh habitat and what we are doing down here as well as help out Mrs. Schroder. 

video 

Special announcement from a nurse shark!
What was really neat is that Ben soo wanted to be part of it as well. 



   I usually give about 4-5 tours a day to classes through Skype or Google Hangouts. In fact, I have become very friendly with Jesse who is the man running Explore by the Seat of Your Pants.    http://www.exploringbytheseat.com/  Chisholm Elementary scholl is going to get to participate in a lot of virtual field trips to places ..almost.. as exciting as the Aquarius habitat. :) 

    video 
    
 We played with the permit fish that live under the habitat. They are so big, but so fast!

Back in the hab I did get to watch one of my favorite fish. While sharks and manta rays are so cool. I soo love these little trunk fish. This guy was eating at our window. I just HAD to video him. In fact, earlier today when we had some dive time left after a mission, I followed one around for about 15 minutes just watching him.

video


Also outside the window the coral starts to come out. It looks like little flowers right outside my window.


Which brings us full circle to me sitting by myself at 2 AM while everyone is sleeping, watching out my window. I love this seat. I wonder how I can take it home??? I am SURE Burt wants to come! Cn I keep him ??? Pleaseeee?? I promise to take care of him!








  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Night Sept 11, 2016

 
Sept 11, 2016

   We took a moment to remember the importance of 9/11 and remember the many people who lost their lives in the horrible attack that occurred fifteen years ago.


   While things started out on a somber note, the daily routine here is busy and we were soon hard at work. First dives usually occur about 8-10:30ish. During that time we come back to the hab to check in at the two hour mark or Mark(the habmaster) gets on to us!. Also about that time, I usually need some air. Apparently, I suck more air than these guys do. I swear Frances has gills. I claim it is because I carry the heavy stuff...however they don't believe me. I thought I was a great diver, until I met this crew.They are so at home in the water. They really can swim circles around me...literally. :) I don't know if I can ever get to the level of ease they display as they effortlessly swim and play in the water with 120 pound air tanks on their backs.

    Ben showing off his diving prowess

   As with the other days we are still setting up plots to study how much sea grass parrot fish are eating. This takes a lot of prep work even before we go out. Forgetting something and having to make a trip back for it is a pain and eats into our time.  I have learned to make sure we have it all before we go. Even with that, I still find I am occasionally scrounging the seabed for as lost nail or string. The good thing is that if we have to come back, I can air up my tanks again.

opps might have needed that the first trip..


  During the experiment setup, I do get to see some of the wonderful sea life that lives here. I am so amazed that these creatures so far from Oklahoma are so important to not only the ocean ecosystem but the entire Earth's ecosystem. What affects our oceans affects everyone in some form or another. The seas are so part of our life even in landlocked states like mine. Conserving our oceans is a priority not only for their beauty but as a way of ensuring our own future. During this time with these fantastic and devoted marine scientists, I have seen this true devotion to the ocean. I have seen Frances swim down a stray rubber band because she didn't what something to eat it and possibly die. I have watched Aline devote most of his adult life to studying how herbivores eat because he is afraid the ocean plants are fading away. Ben has developed so many marine and technical talents that I can't name them all that all revolve around his desire to preserve the oceans.

   I feel really good knowing that there are people like them in the world.  I am hoping that I can fit in by spreading this desire to help and protect the oceans to not only my students but others as well. Maybe somewhere along the line, I can help spark a new Ben, Aline, or Frances...even in landlocked states like Oklahoma. i do so love my job!

 
Baby eel
Barracuda (GoPro picture from a plot)


Amazing beauty right under our step outside

Sting ray 

I do love these trunk fish... soo cute!!!(Gopro video capture)

  As usual, today we put out more chum. This stuff smells so bad. It is chopped up frozen fish guts and something worse  (I think liquid stink) added into keep it in block form. If it accidently smears on you, you have to rub sand all over your wetsuit to try and get the stretch off before you come back to the hab. Fun! Ben and I had to give each other a sand bath after putting out today's "fish candy". t was all over my arm. It was pretty slimy too.

However, the fish LOVE it. as seen in the pictures below!
Aline watching Chum feeding frenzy about 1 min after placing it


French Angel.. she was pretty mean

Nurse shark

The fish would literally push you out of the way to get to the bag of chum


video

The chum had its desired effect in the area. A nurse shark showed up almost immediately. I could not swim away fast enough. She was right at my feet. It seemed no matter which way I went to get out of her way it was the wrong direction....Then I was trying to remember if I got some chum on me!
video
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While we were setting up the other collection plots. I got to see one of my favorite animals under here..an eagle ray. They are so majestic as they swim (fly) through the ocean.
video

video


   Once more we had to end the day. Unfortunately, each dive brings us back closer to the surface. I had not realized that I had not seen the sun since Thursday. We do see it up through the water but it isn't the same. As I was looking up, I saw they life support buoy. It floats at the surface and sends down electricity, air, and internet. It also serves as a hangout for about 500 fish!

home for now

Well It is almost Monday now, so I need to get some sleep for tomorrow's adventures.