Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2012
Mission Information

Tuesday: May 22, 2012
Log Day 8

Randy Rudd
GRNMS Team Ocean

Randy Rudd filling tanks

Randy Rudd filling tanks.
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

It is all about tanks. It is a cylinder; it is 26.06 inches tall and 7.25 inches in diameter. It is made of aluminum and has a special valve attached to the top of it. It holds 77.4 cubic feet of a breathable gas when it is filled to 3000 lbs. per square inch of pressure. It is our scuba cylinder and it is what keeps the diving operations here on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster going. Attached to our trusted companion is our regulator and buoyancy compensator. Without that "tank" though, there would be no diving.

All of us on the science team have our various skills and responsibilities. What I am skilled at is diving. Being here on this cruise gives me the opportunity to put my skills to work for the "science" of this cruise. More about my diving on another blog.

Randy Rudd loading tanks onto small boat for dive operations

Randy Rudd loading tanks onto small boat for transprot to dive sites
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

One of my responsibilities is to maintain the usability of those "tanks". In order for the tank to be of use to us, it has to be filled with what we breathe. That is my job. The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster has a complete system for maintaining "air" fills. We have a compressor system in the Auxiliary Machinery Space and four groups of very large cylinders called "banks" that are filled by the compressor system. The system can fill tanks with regular "air", what we all breathe on land, or it can be adjusted to produce a breathing gas called nitrox. Nitrox is "air" that has had some of the nitrogen removed, leaving an increased percentage of oxygen. During this cruise, we are breathing a gas mixture of 36% oxygen and 64% nitrogen. The benefit of this is longer time on the bottom and shorter time between dives, thus we are able to accomplish more tasks.

Nemo McKay (l) reviews dive operations plan with divers Randy Rudd, Kelly Gleason, and Michelle Johnston

"Nemo" McKay (l) reviews dive operations plan with divers Randy Rudd, Kelly Gleason, and Michelle Johnston.
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

Each morning (and sometimes the night before), divers select the tanks they will use during the morning dive. They are required to analyze the oxygen content of the tanks they select and label those tanks with their name and O2 content. All of the divers use dive computers and the O2 number is programmed into the computer to show them how much time they can stay on the sea floor before they must ascend.

Divers Randy Rudd, Michelle Johnson, and Kelly Gleason depart for dive operations

Divers Randy Rudd, Michelle Johnson, and Kelly Gleason depart for dive operations.
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

By lunch time all divers return from morning dive ops and so do - All Those Empty Tanks! After lunch the divers select the tanks they need for the afternoon dives, analyze and label them and load them in the launches. I have to anticipate how many tanks will be needed. If we do not have enough full tanks, I grab a quick lunch and "go to work" filling enough tanks to get us through the afternoon dives. At the end of the afternoon dives, the divers return, with more Empty Tanks!

So, after dinner, my "work" continues. I fire up the compressor, hook up the fill "whips" (hoses that are connected to the tanks), open our first bank, and begin to fill all those tanks, six tanks at a time, until they are all full. Now the cycle begins again - tanks go out, tanks come back empty, and tanks get filled.

Thanks to my two Team Ocean Volunteer partners, Keith Borden and Mike Mullenix, the time filling tanks went much easier and faster. Sadly, they departed the ship on Friday, so it is just me, filling All Those Tanks, day after day. (until I can draft an assistant!)


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