Jurassic Ocean Crust Magnetic Survey: 2011 Expedition in the Pacific

The R/V Thomas G. Thompson left Honolulu on November 5, 2011 heading toward the Western Pacific. This expedition journal was written by cruise participants and uploaded about once per weekday, depending on internet availability.

December 8, 2011: How to Not Sound like a Fool on the R/V Thompson

For those land faring individuals who are not savvy on all things nautical, here is a quick and easy guide to help you along on our vessel. While some of these terms only pertain to the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, most can be used on any of your seafaring adventures. This guide will save you from embarrassment and teasing as you can safely say that the bow is forward and the stern is aft. "Live long and prosper!" ~Dani (Nautical Word Genius)
[PG-rated examples provided by Adrienne and Will]

ABs are always on hand to help. Sometimes they get bored, and then we have a lot more people than necessary for our operations.

Brian and Carlos, ABs (Credit: Will Koeppen)

able seaman, AB (n.)

Persons working around the deck, they are always involved in numerous tasks such as the general upkeep of the ship. They stand watch on the bridge, run winches and lines, and help out with whatever needs to be done.

[Brian, you're an AB. Can you show me how to tie a bowline?]

A-frame (n.)

A hydraulic, crane-like structure that can be lowered and lengthened to hang equipment off the back of the ship. Like the name hints, it looks like a big letter A.

[We're ready with the airguns, A-frame out!]

aft (adj.)

Towards the back of the ship.

[The captain told me to meet him on the aft deck. Since I didn't know where that was, I just walked around the ship until he found me.]

AUV (n.)

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. This means that the AUV-Sentry is swimming out there in the deep waters on its own. It can receive commands from on board but it is not tethered or operated by joystick on a remote control.

[AUV-Sentry , our little yellow chicklet.]

berth (n.)

A.k.a. cabin, bunk, stateroom. Our private living area on the ship… well as private as one can get while having a roommate. The rooms have bunk beds, two closets and chairs, a sink, medicine cabinet, and a shared bathroom with the room next door. There are no windows since our rooms are located in the lower area of the ship and without lights they are quite dark.

[If you need to find me, I'll be in my berth. Knock loudly.]

bight (n.)

The loops of a cable, rope, or streamer that could possibly wrap around your foot and pull you down if you're not paying attention.

[Stay out of the bight!]

bow (n.)

The front end of the ship, where Leo Dicaprio did his famous “I’m the King of the World!” [Have you seen the bioluminescence from the bow yet?]

bowline (n.)

One of the sailor’s most useful knots. It is one of the easiest knots to tie and untie, making it a favorite to use on deck when tying things down.

[Well I can teach you how to tie a one-handed bowline....]

bridge (n.)

A.k.a. pilot house. The control center of the ship and the room with the best view. It is the highest area on the ship and gives close to a 360° view.

[We're 100 meters off our line, who's on the bridge?]

Everyone gets together to fix the seismic streamer. It's a cable party!

It's a cable party (Credit: Will Koeppen)

cable party (n.)

A euphemism for helping the seismic team fix the very large streamer. Cable parties have been formed to repair or remove shark-bitten sections of the streamer, find electronic leaks, as well as to move sections of the streamer to their respective boxes scattered across the decks.

[Hey, are you doing anything? Wanna come to the cable party?]

CHIRP (n.)

The high frequency sonar system that gives us a picture of the ocean floor and the shallow sediments below it. It sounds like a chirp because it emits short burst of sound that covers a range of frequencies, in an up and down pattern.

[After the first week, I stopped hearing the CHIRP altogether.]

cornhole (n.)

The popular shipboard game of throwing bags filled with uncooked corn into a small circular hole, much like a bean bag game.

[There's a cornhole tournament on the bow in 15 minutes.]

deployment (n.)

The act of throwing scientific equipment overboard… and when I say throwing I mean gently lowering it into the water using winches and ropes… unless it’s a sonobuoy.

[I saw the sunrise again while deploying seismic gear.]

flying bridge (n.)

A.k.a. flybridge. The highest platform on the ship, on top of the bridge, where our antennas, satellite receivers, and main mast are located.

[Everyone report to the flying bridge to look for Sentry.]

Standing on the bow looking forward means you're facing into the wind and spray. Unless we're moving backwards.

The bow of the ship, looking forward
(Credit: Will Koeppen)

forward (adj.)

Towards the front of the ship.

[I live in forward science, near the bow thruster.]

galley (n.)

Officially, just the kitchen area of the ship, but many also include the mess in the term.

[I'm going to finish working on this blog in the galley. They have cookies.]

Golden Dragon (n.)

Once a person has crossed the international dateline, also known as the anti-meridian, they must complete a series of tasks to please Neptune and his royal court. If successful, they graduate from a newt to a golden dragon.

[I've crossed the equator ten times, but I'm still not a Golden Dragon.]

green (adj., n.)

The state of being seasick; symptoms include nausea and sprints to the bathroom, sudden paleness, inability to focus on one task for too long, and constant tiredness. Warning: the victim who has become green usually does not appreciate being told that they are green, nor do they like food being swung in front of their face while affected.

[You look a little green. Want some ginger?]

green flash (n.)

No it’s not a superhero…It is a subtle light phenomenon that can occur when the horizon is clear. The flash appears for a split second just as the sun disappears. Many of us have seen a dramatized example of this in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie At World’s End.

[Did you see the green flash? More like a green smudge.]

gym (n.)

Refers to the small room on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson designated for physical fitness activities. In the room there are two working stationary bikes, a broken treadmill, weights, as well as a flat screen TV.

[Going back down to the gym, eh? Yeah, gotta catch up on The Wire.]

head (n.)

A.k.a., the John, the porcelain throne. The toilet.

[Hey, can you unlock our door to the head?]

knot (n.)

A vessel’s rate of speed, defined as one nautical mile per hour.

[According to the captain, eight knots is the perfect speed to fish for tuna.]

Maggie the magnetometer is dragged behind the boat on a long cable.

Maggie prepares to go out (Credit: Will Koeppen)

Maggie (n.)

The nickname for the surface-towed Overhauser magnetometer.

[Roger. Maggie is out of the water and secured.]

mast (n.)

The centermost and tallest structure on the ship. In our case, it does not include a sail, but holds lights and various antennas.

[What!? Why did YOU get to climb the mast?]

MCS (n.)

Multi-Channel Seismics. A seismic system with more than one hydrophone.

[Sam, have you finished processing the MCS data yet?]

mess (n.)

The ship's cafeteria, where many congregate to eat food and be merry. Also site of some epic, late-night Munchkin and Fluxx games.

[I wish they wouldn't store so much chocolate in the mess.]

multibeam bathymetry system (n.)

A hull-mounted sonar system that creates maps of the depth and shape of the seafloor.

[There is a really cool seamount in the multibeam data!]

Munchkin (n.)

The card game that a large group of the science team as well as the Captain are addicted to. “Kill the monsters, steal the treasure, stab your buddy!” Also, a state of being.

[Dang, Will is vicious at munchkin!]

muster (v.)

To gather, for example for a meeting or emergency.

[This is a drill, muster in the main lab.]

nautical mile (n.)

Translates to one mile at sea. It is a unit of length that is about one minute of latitude along any meridian, or about one minute of longitude at the equator. By international agreement it is exactly 1,852 meters, or approximately 6,076 feet.

[What's the conversion from nautical miles to kilometers again?]

Needlegunning is a heavy metallic drone, and it is relentless.

Needlegunning, the most annoying sound in the world? (Credit: Will Koeppen)

needlegunning (v.)

The act of using a needlegun scaler to remove rust or old paint from metal surfaces, i.e., anywhere on the ship. It's really, really loud.

[I can't hear you over the needlegunning. What? Can you say that again? What?]

oiler (n.)

Assistants to the engineers who help keep the ship in running order and stand engineering watches.

[The oilers look pretty clean to me.]

penthouse (n.)

What the chief scientist calls her room. It has windows, a non-bunk bed, a couch, and its own private bathroom.

[There's a couch in my penthouse if you need to take a break.]

pitch (n., v.)

The forward and aft motion of the ship. It gives the passengers the feeling that they are going up and down hills in the water.

[There is some nasty pitch today.]

pizza (n.)

A move in Ping Pong developed by Sam that adds a tremendous amount of spin to the ball; it looks as though you are putting a pizza in the oven. Variations on the pizza move are the pencil pizza and sideways pizza.


port (adj., n.)

The left side of the ship when facing toward the bow.

[Sonobuoy launch off the port side in 15.]

recovery (n.)

The act of retrieving the science equipment from the water that was originally ‘thrown’ overboard.

[It will be at least 45 minutes until they're done with recovery.]

roll (n., v.)

The side-to-side motion of a vessel which causes the watchstander on the wheeled chair to roll across the lab.

[We're taking some big rolls today.]

Sea state is measured from 0 to 9 based on the average wave height.

Sea state: 1 (Credit: Will Koeppen)

sea state (n.)

The behavior of the ocean around us, it is a combination of the swell and waves created by wind, rated on a scale from 0 to 9. It has also been speculated to change for the worse when Tom curses it for making him trip on the deck.

[I get sick when the sea state is only a one.]

shift change (n.)

At the end of the watchstanding shift, the incoming group is briefed by the outgoing group on what went on and what still needs to be done. It takes a few minutes unless wake up calls are needed to rouse absent watchstanders.

[Hey Nick, it's time for shift change.]

sling (n.)

A line that helps relieve the tension on a cable. It is hooked onto a line under stress and takes a portion of the tension that is on the line and distributes it.

[Make sure that sling doesn't get caught on the rail.]

starboard (adj., n.)

The right side of the ship when facing toward the bow.

[Starboard, that's the opposite of port.]

steam (v.)

The act of moving the ship at a fast rate to get to the top of a survey line or to reach a specific area. During bad weather, it can cause more lurching of the ship and an outbreak of the green.

[Maggie's in the water, we're steaming to our next location.]

steel beach (n.)

A.k.a. sky lounge. Located on the third deck of the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, a spot where many come to hang out, relax, and get sun burnt. The infamous "hot tub" as well as the PSOs' stations are located here. It is also occasionally a picnic location and skit stage.

[Where are Will and Adrienne? Did you try the steel beach?]

stem (n.)

The forward most structural member of the ship’s hull.

[Your first task is to measure the ship from stem to stern using this peeled banana.]

The stern of the ship is the back end, or the tail.

The R/V Thompson's stern (Credit: Will Koeppen)

stern (n.)

The back end of the ship.

[When we're going backwards, does that make the stern the bow? No.]

steward (n.)

A general term for any member of a ship’s crew who is involved with the galley. On the Thompson this refers to Sarah, our amazing chef who keeps us all fed with the help of Terrance and Tony.

[Can you ask the steward to stock more Shasta?]

swell (n.)

The long wavelength waves that are not generated by local weather.

[If only we could surf on these swells.]

turkey (n.)

During a game of cornhole, it is the act of sinking all three bags into the hole during your turn. It is also the name for those who have successfully performed a turkey. Current Turkeys – Julia, Lucas, Captain Pat, Dave, Jay, Bridget H, and Rachel.

[One more and I would have gotten a turkey!]

USBL (n.)

Ultra-short Baseline. A transceiver and transponder that is used for locating things underwater. On this cruise, it is used to track Sentry and TowCam.

[The USBL is down. Again.]

yaw (n., v.)

The motion of the ship twisting about its vertical axis, similar to the motions you make to move through a tight crowd.

[Yaw, not to be confused with yah.]

waypoint (n.)

A latitude and longitude that we are moving toward in our survey. A list of waypoints is given to the bridge on a regular basis so they know where the science team wants to go.

[Why is the ship still driving toward the old waypoint?]

winch (n.)

An engine and cable system used to haul in heavy equipment.

[We need a winch operator over here!]