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Impressions from the ChikyuAugust 2, 2012

I went for a walk on the helicopter deck and core cutting area this evening with co-chief scientist Fumio Inagaki, and European geochemist Clemens Glombitza. It was a warm, foggy night. We were completely taken by the magnitude of the operations on the Chikyu. The moon pool, a hole-like open area in the middle of the ship, where the drill and drill pipe pass through on their way under the seafloor, has the dimensions of a decent-sized swimming pool. The cranes on deck are the size of ones in container ports, and look like they can reach to the top of the drill tower at 130 m. Everything on deck looks too large to be true - almost fake - until the next monstrous robot or crane moves the next pipe with ease and speed. One then realizes that it is ones own minuteness and inability to grasp things much larger than one is used to seeing that give rise to the delusion of falsehood.

In a few days, the drilling operators are expecting to lift the blow-out-preventer (BOP) - a huge valve that weighs 380 tons and will be lowered to the borehole at the bottom of the seafloor. The fact that it serves to prevent potentially catastrophic releases of gas from the seabed is another reminder that drilling into the subseafloor is a serious, and extremely advanced technological endeavor, even though it at times looks like plastic toys in action.

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