The sea is much calmer today with a bright sun and white puffy clouds. Its hot and humid as we cut across the warm water of the Gulf Stream. The water is the deepest blue I've even seen. It looks like blue tempera paint. In some places the sea is dotted with clumps of floating seaweed, fugitives from the Sargasso Sea riding north on the great current.

The ship remains quiet but the silence belies the meetings and planning that are taking place. Even so, I'm told that the lack of apparent activity is not typical. At three weeks, this is a very short leg for the Resolution, which will remain at the site for only five days. And the week long transit to and from the site is longer than usual. Legs typically last eight weeks with most of the time spent drilling with short moves between sites. On those voyages, Gene Pollard, the drilling operations manager tells me, the ship is a beehive of activity. "This leg is getting off to a slow start because of the unusually long transit to the site," he admits. "Usually the work is nearly continuous from the time we leave port," he says.

Gene Pollard
GENE POLLARD

But the wait is almost over. "Tomorrow," he says, "we begin to move metal." These preparations will go on non-stop until we reach the site. From then on, there will be no rest. The ship will begin lowering the drill pipe almost immediately. Pollard is the ship's timekeeper. He keeps schedules that describe each operation down to the most minute detail. A schedule that documents each step of the leg, no matter how, tiny is updated constantly; actual times replace the planned time as the log proceeds.

For now, though, some of the scientists are clearly enjoying the respite. At dinner I ask Michael Fuller, a paleomagnetist from the University of Hawaii's Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Paleontology what he did all day. He grins and says he completed a great deal of work. "This ship is kind of like a scientific monastery," he explains. "They feed you, they do your laundry for you. All you have to is work. And the phone doesn't ring--you don't even have to answer your email if you don't want to."

Fuller isn't exaggerating. The Resolution is hardly a floating hotel but it is spotlessly clean and very, very efficient. The paint is fresh; the floors are waxed. No matter when you get up in the morning, by the time you can walk to the galley to get a cup of coffee, your bed will be made with fresh linen and fresh towels. Leave your assigned laundry bag outside the door and the clothes are returned, folded, within hours. Some researchers, I'm told, board with only two pairs of jeans and couple of shirts. It's hard to image the drilling floor awash in drilling mud and water.

But the real attraction of Resolution is its laboratories. The labs are located one on top of another from the very bottom deck to the top of the ship. Hence the laboratory area is known as the "lab stack." These include labs for downhole measurements; core handling, sampling, and description; physical properties; paleomagnetism; paleontology; thin-section preparation; chemistry; X-ray analysis; and photography. Cores are stored in refrigerators in the lower two levels. In addition, an underway geophysics lab is located aft, beneath the helipad. All of these facilities are more modern and better equipped than all but a handful of the best on shore. And, if you run into a problem, "here there is always someone to help," says Fuller.