JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Cruise diary

Day 1: Thursday 21 June 2007
Position: 38°42.9N, 9°07.1W:  Lisbon Port (Google Earth reference 38 42’9”N 09 07’1”W) 
Weather: Sunny all day

Tina writes:

"Today Richard and I became the new teachers on the RRS James Cook.  Thursday is a day of meetings and celebration as some Members of Parliament visit the RRS James Cook to see what the most modern UK research vessel is like, and how marine scientists go about their business at sea.

Talking to some of the scientific team who have spent years doing oceanographic surveys, I realise how advanced the ship is.  Only a few years ago it would not have been possible to telephone anyone from on-board let alone use the Internet via a satellite connection. Today I was able to plug my lap-top into the network connection and then receive my emails, use the internet and send information back home.  This is the first time a UK Scientific surveying ship has been able to do this as standard.   So what did they do before? I thought I would find out:

On a number of occasions Dave (ROV Engineer - pictured left) has tried the traditional approach - the ‘Message in a Bottle’.  He has had no success yet but is still hoping.

Pete Mason (ROV Engineer - pictured left) with more than 30 years of experience behind him was able to explain how when he had first joined a ship all he had to communicate with the world was Morse code and telegrams.  This was such a difficult and expensive method of communication that he almost never used it, what was worse, you had to rely on other people to encode your message, so sometimes what arrived was not what you had wanted to send. 

Then short-wave radio was brought in. “You booked your turn on the radio and waited in a queue, listening to the others before you, then when it was your turn you had a very short period of time and absolutely no privacy”. 

The rest of the world was able to hear your transmission and the next boats in the queue had to tune in to get their turn.    Fortunately some privacy came about with the satellite phone, unfortunately these phones frequently dropped the signal, were so expensive that they virtually never used and had to use an aerial that was shaped like a satellite dish and about 1 metre wide. Not exactly the sort of equipment to take into your room to have a private conversation.

Fifteen years ago the first email system came into use.  You had to write your email on a computer save it on to a floppy disc (a thin floppy disc made from a magnetic material about 15cm across used like a CD to save data) and then take the disc to the radio operator who would upload the message then store it until the (single) daily exchange of data started.  The radio operator would then send your email and save any emails you have received onto the floppy disc for you to take away and look at.  More confidential but time consuming.

So tomorrow when I am in the middle of the sea, miles from the nearest coast, not able to use my mobile phone as I am too far away from land to receive a signal, I will be able to sit at my desk, plug my pc into a socket in the wall and connect to the Internet.    I will have instant access to my email, can phone out using a phone on my desk and can browse the Internet. I will be sitting at the leading edge of technology..."

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