Splashdown!!!!! (10:37 am)
It's still a little hard to believe this day is finally here! This morning we were blessed with a very different sea state than we had during our training week -- it was beautiful! No more than 1-2 foot seas;
as far as we were concerned it was like glass. Was so nice to get suited up without worrying about falling down on the boat before ever getting in the water (thanks to Otto for expertly delivering us to our dive sites all week!). We were all a little tired after spending our weekend busy with the final preps for the mission, but it was easy to see the level of excitement rising as we got closer and closer to splashing down to our new home.
Today we had a bigger crowd on the boat. It was nice to have the group of people with us that had been giving us so much support during the prep for the mission and that will continue to keep things going throughout the mission (big thanks to Marc, Bill, Dan, Kristen, Alex and Trevor for joining us on the boat). And thanks to our new photographer friends from KSC (Scott and Corey) -- we look forward to seeing how good you make us look. It was also nice to have our NSBRI friends, and Ryan and Mike from the NBL, and many other smiling faces at the dock to send us off. We really are thankful to all of you for the enormous amount of support that has gone into making this mission possible.
Otter led us from the boat on our splashdown dive. During this dive we made our first trip to the Kamper fill station. This fill station is pretty cool, because unlike the others it has a clear dome. So while you're at ~90 feet inside this dome filling your tanks you can still see all around you. After this orientation dive we said our goodbyes to Otter (thank you Otter for the most excellent training!!!), and then met back up with Marc and Bill who were waiting to take some crew photos. They took some of us grouped by the gazebo, swimming down together from the habitat, and swimming along the excursion line (very well orchestrated). Marc and Bill -- we love you guys!!
While we were riding out on the boat this morning, our two other crew members Jim and Ross were already busy working in the habitat and expecting our arrival. We greeted them first after our dive in the wet porch. We got out of our wet suits, took a quick shower, dried off, and then Ross and Jim led us through a very informative Habitat briefing. The Habitat is such a cool place -- a lot like I'd envision a submarine, with the hatches separating each area or lock. It's also a very "cool" place --- Jim keeps the temp at about 71 F. Think my standard attire will be a long sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants (my Polish Society of Houston t-shirt selection for the first day is in honor of my Russian language instructor and friend, Waclaw Mucha).
Fortunately they are able to maintain a really comfortable humidity within the living area. We spent some time helping with the stowage of equipment being potted down, and organizing our bunk area. We collected our baseline data for the stress-related experiments (saliva collection and some computer-based exercises).
Tim led the brief for our afternoon orientation dive. On this dive we checked out our comm system on the full face masks (our first greetings to ExPOC -- thanks Susan!) and also did some videotaping out to the NE excursion area. This dive took us to a max depth of 92 ft. From now on due to our saturation limits, we can't go deeper than 95 ft or shallower than 40 ft. These limits will be strictly adhered to throughout the mission.
After this dive we did the same wet porch routine, and then dried off for the night. We each worked some more of our baseline data collection, and continued helping with the stowage. We had our first DPC with the topside team and then our first evening meal together. We had the best table in the house for dinner with a prime view out the galley window. It's dark outside and the lights on the outside of the habitat bring out all the beautiful colors on the many, many fishes swimming outside the window. I have to wonder if they are looking at me with the same wonder as I am looking at them (maybe asking themselves, who are these new people in the Aquarius bowl…?). It's very easy already to get mesmerized by the changing view out the windows. I think I'll be alright with that though!!
Looking forward to my first night's sleep in the bunk room --- tomorrow morning we wake up aquanauts!!!