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A deep breath on top of the ChikyuAugust 6, 2012

Today we are exactly one week onboard of the Scientific Deep-Sea Drilling Vessel "Chikyu", which means "Earth" in Japanese. The scientists are getting used to the labyrinth-like interior of the ship and its pace of life. The measurement plan for each expertise group, ranging from microbiology to sedimentology, is as good as ready and we are almost done with setting up the various laboratories we will soon work in. You can definitely feel that everyone is very eager to start this more than 2200 meter below seafloor drilling adventure. A highly advanced technology, called the riser drilling system, will be used for the drilling. However, given the relatively sensitive preparations required for this technology, we are still waiting for every single piece of equipment involved in the system to be fully operational and safety checked. Safety first! The updates are optimistic and we believe we will soon be able to start the work.

In the meantime, the Chikyu knows many ways to surprise us. This afternoon, given the nice weather and the flatness of the sea, Chief HSE (Health, Safety & Environment) officer Dennis Noordijk makes us a favor to bring us on top of the derrick. The derrick is this 120-meter (from sea surface) high tower, which forms the ‘crown’ of the Chikyu (as I’ve been told by the drilling crew).

To get up there, we are using a tiny elevator that can transport four persons at a time. Once up there, it takes about 5 seconds to get used to the height and then you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the ocean, and most importantly the Chikyu itself. From the top of the derrick you can get the best feel of the scale and level of sophistication of the Chikyu. The drilling pipes, riser pipes, blow out preventer, and many other engineering miracles are neatly organized on the deck of the ship.

When you think about it, it is amazing that every single one of these pipes will end up below the seafloor or overlying water column in the two coming months. This afternoon’s trip reinforce one more time my excitement for participating in this expedition!

Microbiologist Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert (Caltech) and myself on top of the derrick.

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