Send your questions about the research being done in the Gulf
of Papua, life aboard the R/V Melville or about Papua New Guinea
along with your age and where you're writing from to:FlyRiverS2S@rv-melville.ucsd.edu
We look forward to hearing from you!
Is the sediment that you are studying in the Fly River similar to the Glacier Silt in the Yukon River?
Jeanne Boyle, High School Counselor/Teacher, Fairbanks, Alaska
Sediment can be described according to grain size being divided into sand, silt, and clay components. Nevertheless, the grain size does not
have any connotation about the sediment composition. We have fine sand, silt and clay being supplied to the Gulf of Papua by the Fly River and other
river systems draining into the region and the grain size has some overlap with grain size distribution being delivered by the Yukon River. The Fly
River has a long coastal plain that effectively traps the course-grained sediments (e.g., sands and gravels) and thus the overall grain size of the
sediment supplied by the Fly River should be finer than the Yukon River. Furthermore, the composition of the sediment should be different as the two
respective river systems erode different mountain terrains and source rocks. The sediment in the Fly River system, being located in the wet, hot tropics,
would experience more chemical erosion than the sediments in the Yukon drainage, which would predominantly reflect mechanical erosion associated with cold,
What do you do for exercise?
There is a gym on board and machines like a rowing machine, a Nordic track, Stairmaster (located down in the machine shop) and a weight room. I was
good about exercising the first 3 or 4 weeks, but the last couple I've been getting my exercise by lifting and working with heavy cores, going up and
down the steps to the room, to the computer lab and to the laundry facility!
What was the best treat or meal that you have had on the ship?
I'd have to say my birthday cake, it was truly delicious...oh and perhaps even better was fresh tuna; caught from the ship and served as sashimi (raw)
it was fantastic and definitely fresh!
What kind of sea life have you seen?
We've seen sea snakes that are a bit eerie when they look at you with their beady eyes glowing from the lights of the ship at night, we've seen dolphins,
one night there was a mad feeding frenzy that lasted an hour or more with about 30 dolphins and hundreds of fish flying and leaping away from the hungry
dolphins, we've seen trumpet fish, flying fish, a few sharks, black tip I believe, lots of stink bugs, dragonflies, several birds that have accidentally
flown into the ship at night and come up a bit dazed and confused, but alright. We've seen tuna and Spanish or King Mackerel...I think that's about it.
Do you go swimming off the boat (or in a pool)?
Policy keeps us from swimming off the ship, but as the ship is fairly high off the surface of the water, it doesn't seem like the best idea. There is however a
small pool on the O1 deck. It is not like any you have seen before, but instead is a wooden box, approximately 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. The crew built
it and painted it a lovely blue and white; there is also a dandy fish painted on the bottom! We use filtered sea water, that fills the pool and there are even
jets and thanks to the engineers onboard, we can make it like a hot tub by using excess heat created by the generators down in the engine room!
What do you do for fun? Do you have TV, games, or a karaoke machine?
Well...there's no karaoke machine on board, but we have two TV's which doesn't show TV shows, but we can watch DVD movies...they have over 400 to chose from.
We read and have played a lot of cards, one game in particular called "Madness" which is similar to UNO only with crazier rules. We also try to catch the sunset
or sunrise, go to the pool occasionally, but for the most part we are working while we are awake!
Have you made any stops at Papua ports? What was most memorable about that?
We arrived in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (check out the journal entry for January 26) and then we returned to Port Moresby and spent a few days at dock before
leaving again on the 17th. It was an interesting place, memorable things include the smell throughout the city of burning trash fires...though it didn't smell bad,
and it smelled like a campfire really. Also, lots of people in or on the streets, beetle nut juice, which is a distinct brick red, color and stains the streets and
the teeth of many people we saw. I also had the opportunity to go diving which was my first real dive on a coral reef and very memorable.
Have you met any pirates?
I have yet to see a pirate ship...though we stay on the lookout! In fact we have drills that teach those onboard how to defend ourselves should pirates attack.
The science party looks themselves in a designated room on the ship and some crew members will be armed with fire hoses should a pirate attempt to board the
Melville and the crew is assigned throughout the ship to help defend the ship from anyone who might board. We may have seen some potential pirates. There was a
small boat that suddenly appeared one night when the group was working on deck (coring work took place from 8 pm to 8 am in the cooler hours of the day). The boat
appeared out of nowhere and the Papuans onboard were asking for fuel or oil from the Melville...some of the crew came running down with lights and the searchlight
came on. Also, the crew was prepared to grab fire hoses in case the people on the boat tried to board our ship. The Melville then had the coring group stop working
so we could steam to a different area of the Gulf!
What do you do with all that dirt?
That's a great question! We actually call it "sediment" and it is preserved in PVC core liners which we cut and label, and then store in refrigerated containers
on deck. These will be shipped to a facility at Oregon State University where a team will go this summer to have a "core cutting party". Here they will cut the
cores of sediment in half, run them through a core logger that has a series of sensors that I discussed in one of the early journals (February 22) and then one half
of the core will be put in the archives, and the other half will be used to study the stratigraphy of the Gulf of Papua.
Is there a snack bar on the ship?
The "snack bar" you ask about is slightly different on a ship. Our crew and the science party are welcome to eat in the galley; price is included with the expenses
of the ship paid by the grant that allows scientists to do research here. There is snack food like popcorn, candy bars, peanuts a soda machine and even a deep
freezer with ice cream bars for all to enjoy, any time day or night.
Why is the Ship named the R/V Melville?
This ship is a research vessel (R/V) called the R/V Melville. The R/V Melville is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) as a
multi-purpose oceanographic research vessel. The Melville was built in Bay City, Michigan on the Great Lakes and first launched on July 10, 1968. It was named for
George Wallace Melville, a pioneer arctic explorer, an engineer and Rear Admiral in the US Navy from the mid to late 1800's through 1912.