Well hello there. Over the next three months I'm going to be going from Japan to Australia and New Zealand... via 2 months spent on a big boat in the North Pacific. I'm part of the scientific team for IODP Expedition 324, which aims to sample deep basement rocks from a giant underwater volcanic-plateau called 'Shatsky Rise'. Should you be interested, you can follow what I'm up to here...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink…

…well almost.

Two days ago I had my first sober birthday since I was about 13, which was surprisingly good fun.
I hit the big 25 (which felt fairly momentous I have to say) and yet still managed to be the second youngest person on the whole ship. Ah youth.

Everyone was really nice, and they even baked me a cool cake with hearts and everything:

I particularly appreciated the "we love u" that the nice kitchen boys put on there. See, it pays to smile and say thank you from time to time :)

Coincidently, it was also the co-chief (head honcho) Takashi’s birthday too, so here we are enjoying our moment in the sun:

It was also a fun day because we were doing a bit-change for the drilling process (bear with me, the fun part is coming….).

Basically the bit (the sharp thing on the end of the pipe that cuts the rock) needed changing because it had worn out (well you’d be worn out too it you’d been cutting through 250m of basalt for 3 days straight).
So, this necessitated bringing up the whole drill string (that’s 4km of pipe down to the seafloor plus the 250m that’s in the hole), changing the bit for a new one on the ship, reassembling the whole thing and lowering it all the way back down, and then getting it back into the hole.

That’s right; in the total darkness 4 km below you, you have to get the drill bit on the end of your pipe, back into the original 30cm diameter hole on the sea floor.
30cm in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.
Oh and the pipe is really bendy like a straw (even though it’s made of steel), and there are currents pushing the whole thing (including the boat) around.

To put this in context, this is like me giving you a reasonably stiff noodle somewhere in Regent’s Park and asking you to thread it through a polo mint somewhere near London Bridge.

Do you think you could do that?

Well these drilling boys can.
Frankly, I’m in awe.

To be honest, they do have the slight advantage of having a “reentry cone” (like a big funnel) to guide them in when they get close enough and a B+W camera which they lower down to help them see where they're going and to “re-enter the hole” as it's often described (to much tittering).

So here’s a video from the bottom of the ocean….

It's a bit grainy, but you can make out the pipe and the cone. (The pointy thing to the left is just a phenomenally useless compass).

And here, finally, is the fun bit.
Are you still there? No? Oh well, your loss.

The fun bit is we all got to decorate some polystyrene cups with whatever we like (i thought i'd better stick with the "i'm on a boat!" theme), then we tied the bag of cups to the camera they sent down into the abyss and let the phenomenal pressure of the deep crush them!

This is my cup before it was sent down:

and here is it afterwards:

cool huh!

And here’s a selection of other people’s cups with an unmutilated one for scale...

And here is a picture of me looking extremely smug about the whole thing.

Pretty neat birthday present I reckon.
Not often you get something you can put on your shelf that’s been to Hell and back…

Over and out x


  1. i wasn't keeping my hopes up earlier in the post, but that really is an awesome birthday present.

  2. amazing! a very suspenseful post.

    tell those filipino boys we luv u more though! x

  3. Cheers Joe... i think ;)

    Luv u too Mimi! Don't worry the kitchen boys ain't a patch on my London gals x

  4. that was the best post yet. my favourite phrase is 'reasonably stiff noodle'
    we do indeed luv u

  5. Hey Kate, Birthday greetings from Melbourne! Sounds like you are having a wicked time, am muchly enjoying reading about it. It's strange - relatively it seems like you are very close by!

    keep loving the mud!


  6. Hey Helen!
    First and foremost, congrats on passing the Viva!! Job well done. Now you are free from UCL forever mwahaha.
    Hope melbourne is treating you well. Sorry i won't get a chance to pop by on my travels, the lure of NZ was too strong.

    -the (former) mud-lover xx

  7. OK I was going to post a response somewhere on the blog along the lines of "this all blows my mind" and I guess it's a bit sad that it's those cups which actually prompted it... but yeah also CRAZY DEEP SEA FISH.

    Anyway consider my mind blown.