Splash Down + 12 Days
Again today we had computer problems that threatened to bring our planned science activities to a halt. We had to replan on the fly. We substituted the University of Nebraska mini surgical robot in for the EEG experiment and Tim and Nicole went outside to work on Waterlab.
Later in the day Dave and I conducted an evaluation of the utility of using the ROV to conduct a detailed grid search. The ROV in conjunction with the diver tracking system allowed us to ensure that we covered the intended search pattern but the ROV umbilical presented us with a big challenge to avoid becoming fouled on the reef.
At dusk Dave, Tim, Nicole, and I departed Aquarius on a night dive. It is very interesting that at some point in the mission, leaving the habitat no longer felt like going on a scuba dive. It now simply feels like we are going outside. The four of us proceeded East from Aquarius just as the undersea world was getting dark. We traversed far enough away from Aquarius to escape the glow of the habitat lights. Nicole and I proceeded down one sand finger off the reef and Dave and Tim proceeded down another about 10 yards away. We all settled down into our sand patch observation spots 70 feet below the surface, turned out our lights and watched in total amazement as the undersea world came to life. It was probably the most awe inspiring sight I have ever seen. With a full Moon overhead the lights of bioluminescent plankton started to shine all around us. It was as if we were surrounded by thousands of blue stars. Anything we moved through the water created swirls of blue lights as we displaced the plankton. It was incredible to watch each other as each kick of a fin or each move of a hand created an incredible light show. It was a very surrealistic experience. I saw many new creatures that I have not seen in the daytime. There were different species of fish and the life on the reef became more animated. All in all we spent 2 hours on the reef.
As we traversed back to the habitat the view reminded me of flying at high altitude toward a city at night. At first the horizon started to glow from the lights of our "undersea city", as we got closer we started to see more and more detail and then we were able to make out individual lights. We spent some time exploring the night time world around our habitat and visiting with some of our neighbors. The four of us also popped up to the main lock view port and Ross took a picture of us outside.
After returning inside the habitat and getting out of our gear we all sat down around the galley table and shared our impressions of the experience over a round of hot chocolates. We did not get back into the main lock until after 11:00pm. It has been a long but memorable day. I am looking forward to my first Easter on the bottom of the ocean.