The R/V Thompson is in the holiday spirit – there are stockings and lights hung in the galley, a Christmas tree in the lounge, and paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, gently blowing in the air conditioning. We are at our last station and will be done analyzing samples within the next 48 hours. There is some extra time before we reach port Friday and that time will be spent mapping unexplored volcanoes north of Tahiti. The ship’s multi beam system sends pulses of sound down to the ocean floor that bounce back to the ship measuring depth. High resolution of multiple beams allows for detailed mapping of the ocean floor.
Yesterday we ceremoniously crossed the international dateline, so…greetings from tomorrow! Moving east to west around the globe, clocks are set back 1 hour for every 15 degrees longitude traveled in order to keep pace with the rotation of the Earth. A full cycle around the globe would amount to 24 hours of lost time, so in order to avoid infinitely re-living the same day, an international date line was established in 1884. The dateline runs along 180 degrees longitude but curves east to accommodate some island nations, far enough east that we crossed over just before reaching our last station. Crossing from east to west adds a one day, so noon on Sunday became noon on Monday (crossing in the opposite direction subtracts one day).
There are long standing maritime traditions for crossing significant geographical boundaries, the most noteworthy are equator and arctic circle crossings. The Imperial Order of the Golden Dragon ceremony commemorates crossing of the international dateline. During the ceremony we all vowed to “finish the superstation of the gold dragon as quickly as possible, and then bravely rush to the island of Tahiti” (there were no objections). We were then each presented with a certificate signed by the Captain and posed for a photo.