Monday, January 5, 2015

The expedition to... find scaffolding

Benchtop of programmed
instruments, ready for 
Three days into our expedition, everything is right on track and spirits are high! But we aren't exactly on the tropical paradise trip that you might expect. Every morning, hordes of tourists flock to the local dive outfits and tour buses. Not us though; we have our own fun doing science.

Over the next few days, we will deploy instruments on the reef to measure temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, oxygen, water pressure, and velocity. That's a lot of instruments! And each instrument has a very specific role in the experiments that we have designed. That means that every instrument has to be carefully tested in the lab, and then programmed for deployment. Nevermind the hours hunkered inside behind a computer screen programming, once all the instruments are carefully assembled, and ready to go in the ocean, it's totally worth it.
The hunt for scaffolding

Programming completed for the day, Pat and I set out to find scaffolding. We are going to build a 4-story scaffolding tower out on the reef. Some of our instruments weigh over 300 pounds! The easiest way to get these off the boat and into the water, is to use a scaffolding tower like an elevator - with a hoist point at the top, we can lift the instruments off the boat, service them on the scaffolding, and lower them down into the ocean. Don't worry, we've done this before in Taiwan, and it worked beautifully.
WWII ruins

Tracking down just the right scaffolding for the job was a bit harder than we anticipated. We ended up searching around a whole lot of Palau. A few wild goose chases, wrong turns, and questionable directions, and we actually drove about 60 miles around these small islands. On the plus side, some of the wrong turns ended up being really interesting: we found some WWII ruins and a traditional dugout canoe.

Dugout canoe
At the end of the day, success! A pile of scaffolding, and a benchtop covered with programmed instruments. Katie, Andrea, and Bill arrive tonight, and we have a few more instruments to set up before we head out to the reef.
Pat and his scaffolding

- Tom DeCarlo

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