On Board the OSV BOLD: Mobilization

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea

February 24, 2008 – 3 p.m. (Day 16)

About the author: Charles LoBue serves as the chief scientist and diver for the US Virgin Island leg of the OSV BOLD voyage. He is an environmental scientist in EPA Region 2 in New York City.

We arrived at our dock in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas after a steaming all night from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fair cruising conditions during the crossing allowed most of us to get a good night’s sleep. We tied up at 6:30 this morning in the Crown Bay Marina, a popular cruise ship port.

image of three people donning gumby-like suitsToday we begin our acclimation to living and working at sea for the next few weeks on the BOLD. A drill had us all assembled on the upper deck prepared to abandon ship. The ship’s crew briefed us in life boat and emergency procedures, including the emergency exposure suit. They’re called “Gumby suits,” and when you see somebody dressed in one, no explanation is needed for that moniker. Those uninitiated to the pleasures of donning a Gumby suit had the privilege of being our Gumby models.

The morning was fast paced, with a series of meetings to discuss daily operations and scientific strategies. It’s very important that we’re all on the same page when coordinating loading 12 scientists and their equipment our three small boats several times a day in a heaving sea. It’s also important that each dive team is performing all the field assessment procedures in a consistent manner.

In the afternoon, we finally got in the water for our first dives. We deployed two boats to a nearby site to stage a series of rehearsal dives to practice the various survey and observation procedures.

underwater image of two divers studying coral reef

All went well, and the day ended with a one-hour science meeting to discuss the trial runs, and to come to consensus on certain details of documenting the observations. Now we’re ready to observe and measure the condition of these coral reefs around St. Thomas and St. John.