Ahoy! I've had a very enjoyable first three days getting used to life at sea aboard the Okeanos Explorer.  I've gained a new appreciation for what it means to lead the life of a mariner and be a seafloor mapper.

As we sailed out of Guam's Apra Harbor, we spent the first half of day 1 conducting safety drills, which included fire, man overboard, abandon ship, and security. Man overboard was an interesting drill because everyone has to go outside and point to the victim no matter what direction the ship turned. A smaller boat was launched to go get the person, and that boat's driver uses everyone's pointing hands on the main ship to show him where to go. For the abandon ship drill, you have to don your life jacket, grab your survival suit, and meet at your designated life boat. We also tried on our survival suits to make sure they fit. Here's a photo of me wearing mine. You can see why people often call these "Gumby" suits. The purpose of the security drill was to prepare us for the event of a physical security breach like a pirate attack. I can't tell you what we did because that would reveal our secrets to the bad guys.

The other big thing that happened on the first day was the change of command ceremony. Commander Pica, who had captained the Okeanos since its commissioning in 2008, was succeeded by Commander Kamphaus, another highly competent NOAA Corps Commander. They had a brief ceremony on the ship's bow with Guam still in the background. Then, two crewmembers ferried Pica ashore in a small boat.  Typically, commands last about 2 years in the NOAA Corps.

Bon voyage!  I'm off to go explore the seafloor!

Tomorrow I'll get on a plane bound for Guam where I'll rendezvous with the NOAA Okeanos Explorer and catch a ride back to Hawaii on the ship.  The trans-Pacific journey will last 14 days, during which time my job will be to help map the seafloor.  We will travel a 6100 km (3800 mi) great circle path from Guam to Oahu, crossing the Mariana Trench, the abyssal plain, seamounts and ridge systems.  In the process, I'll experience life on the vessel firsthand and report on it here on my blog.

Click for a wider view.  You can follow the actual position of the ship in real time here or  here.

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