BLACK SEA 2000
Hello from R/V NORTHERN HORIZON, at the dock in Sinop, Turkey!
I left Istanbul for Sinop this morning after watching the sunrise over the Bosporus. My hotel there has a rooftop terrace, so I climbed up the spiral staircase during the morning call to prayer at 5:40 local time. I am so jetlagged that I didn't sleep a wink after midnight last night, so I figured it was a good opportunity to enjoy early morning Istanbul. It was a sight: the six minarets of the Blue Mosque were lit up behind me, and a towering anvil-shaped thunderhead crackled with lightning to the east. Ships and their tugboats passed through the narrow strait, weaving through the dozens of vessels waiting in the Sea of Marmara. It was breezy and cool enough so that I shivered every once in a while even though I was wearing a sweatshirt. I watched for about 25 minutes, hoping the light would come up enough to get some pictures. It didn't in time, so I left for the airport.
I got safely into Sinop just after lunchtime today (Thursday) after a short flight from Istanbul and long but trouble-free minibus ride from Samsun. There were eight of us in the van: Martin Bowen, the WHOI ROV pilot who flew Jason Jr. down the grand staircase of Titanic; PJ, a WHOI DSL technical and practical wizard; Steve Gegg, a WHOI navigator / scientist; Priit Vesilund from National Geographic Magazine, and three VIPs. The bus ride takes a little more than three hours with a chai stop in the middle. We made good time along the coastal plain, then after the tea break climbed through the hairpin turns of the rugged hills that ring the Sinop peninsula. With today's mostly sunny skies, the Black Sea looked more tropical than I've ever seen it: blue water offshore, with turquoise hues inshore. When we were only halfway into our ride we could see Boz Tepe, Sinop's extinct volcano, across the bay.
Once in town, all of our Sinopian friends poured out to greet us. After exchanging handshakes and hugs with them, Martin and I skirted the locked customs gate and out the pier to the ship. Dr. Ballard was there to greet us. He always seems to have something exciting to report when we cross the fantail, getting us caught up in the fever of the cruise. Naturally, the National Geographic film crew shot the whole reception and interposed their microphone boom between us. Dr. Ballard immediately shanghaied Martin to help iron out issues with the vehicles. Cathy Offinger sent me back to town to shepherd the VIPs to lunch and arrange to transport the luggage to the ship.
Martin Bowen (WHOI DSL) and Brendan Foley (MIT DeepArch) on deck of R/V Northern Horizon
We had a big meal at one of the floating restaurants in the harbor. Our Turkish friends, the VIPs, and several of the team members all sat down to standard Sinop fare. Today (and every day) the specials were tomato soup; a salad of greens, hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives, and onions; fried cheese; stuffed peppers; and goat cheese. The main course was a choice of the ubiquitous shish. I had the safe bet, chicken.
Our group boarded the ship with a howling northwest wind at our backs. To the north of the Sinop peninsula, the sea is humped up pretty good. It is rough enough out there so that the tankers and freighters passing through the area have all scuttled into the lee of Boz Tepe. Looks like I'll have to get my sealegs quickly, or be miserable for the next 24 hours while we bounce around. The forecast is for the wind to diminish tomorrow, and we have things to do at the dock in the morning anyway. Hopefully the sea will have flattened a bit before we head offshore. It won't stay calm for long, I am sure. This region is very windy in the fall (and summer...).
I managed to rack out for about four hours after dinner tonight, while the crew that has been aboard since Malta (two weeks ago) enjoyed a short liberty on shore. I haven't seen any of them since I got up, so I expect they had a few beers in town and then headed for their bunks as soon as they got back aboard.
It looks like a news blackout will be imposed once we get offshore and start to investigate targets, so I won't be able to report any discoveries. However, preparations have been made for video tapes to be whisked to National Geographic headquarters the minute we have good images from the seafloor.
That's all for now - I will try to dash off updates as the cruise progresses.
R/V NORTHERN HORIZON
Black Sea Deep Water Archaeology Project 2000