[editor’s note, by Jason] Jon Warrenchuk is currently participating in NOAA’s 2004 Gulf of Alaska Seamount Expedition.
AUGUST 1, 2004: We’re transiting Canadian waters and the British Columbia coast slips by in the distance. There goes the last land we’ll see for several weeks. I’m eager to pass over Bowie Seamount, on the Canada/U.S. border. There should be some seabirds and marine mammals around this shallow seamount. Seamounts are magnets for productivity. Upwelling currents concentrate zooplankton and forage fish and the critters that feed on them.
But I’m even more eager to get inside the Alvin. I’m listed as one of the potential divers, so that means I’ll be going through some specialized training for scientists going down in the sub. There’s an array of media equipment; digital video cameras mounted on the sub with pan and tilt controls that need to be coordinated, high-definition handhelds, digital still cameras, and lighting that needs consideration. There’s lots of knobs and buttons, but most are “no-touchy”. We discuss the air system, and get the most important info: that there’s enough for 3 people for 3 days. The Alvin can dive down to 4500 m beneath the surface, or over 2.5 miles deep. It’s one of a few manned research submersibles in the world that can dive that deep. The pressures at that depth are fantastic, but the Alvin was engineered with this in mind. The 2-inch thick titanium hull can easily withstand this pressure and even repelled an attack by a large blue marlin in 1971. It’s unlikely there’s anything in the Gulf of Alaska with the cojones to tangle with the Alvin, but you never know. Fifteen foot long giant squid have been washed up on the beaches around here before. Giant squid attack… that would be cool… from a scientific standpoint of course.