Cool Tools

Cool Tools

I marvel at the tools that we use every day, and not just those we use here with the WISSARD Project.

I think of how I talked with my students this morning using Skype.  A couple of “clicks” on my laptop computer and there they were, waving to me from thousands of miles away.  Talking with the class made me feel connected to home.  I think about the early polar explorers who went years without seeing their families and friends.  Now, because of technology we can do that instantly.

Technology and science play an important role in our lives, and I am aware of those STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) connections which are part of the WISSARD Project.  This blog post is about “cool tools.”  Large or small, simple or complicated…this project involves tools.  Many tools….so many tools that when I started to catalog them with my camera today, I couldn’t believe all of the examples of science and technology we have at the drill/test site.

Take this instrument for example;  it is one of the tools being tested by the NIU team.  It’s nickname (an acronym of course) is the POP.  That stands for “physical oceanographic package.” That’s a fancy name for a fancy tool that does a whole lot of things at once.  Here it is, being lifted from the NIU container by the large crane.


I was wondering how the crane was being operated.  I couldn’t see anyone at the controls.  Then I noticed that Jeremy had a small remote control panel  hanging from a belt around his waist.  What a cool tool…and so important for lifting the scientific instruments we are using with WISSARD.


In the photo below the two top sections of the POP are being moved onto the drill deck, and would soon be attached to the bottom unit.  The bottom unit has two cameras…one looking to the side and one looking down the borehole.


Rudy and Mike from DOER (the company who made the tool) are attaching the power cables and connecting the bottom unit with the top two segments.


Today the POP was cleaned and wrapped in plastic until it was deployed into the hole.  This helps with clean access drilling.  Mike is guiding it out of the container and he is about to connect it to the crane to lift it up.


The huge hook on the crane is a tool….so are the heavy nylon cords which are flexible but strong enough to hold the tools while they are clipped into this hook.



Here is a video of them moving the crane to position the bottom section of the POP.

Today the POP was moved over the borehole and slowly lowered inside.  As the instrument was lowered, Jill (one of our scientists) carefully cut off the projective plastic.  Notice that she is wearing a tyvek clean white suit, also part of the clean drilling technology.



This shows how the POP tool was carefully lowered into the borehole.

Once the instrument is down in the hole, scientists continually monitor its progress in the command and control container.  Several computer screens are mounted side by side, displaying information that is retrieved by this piece of equipment.  This one device can measure the salinity (saltiness) of the water, determine the level of oxygen in the water, record the temperature of the water, measure the velocity (speed) of the current, determine the size of particles in the water, measure the amount of organic matter in the water, and show the distance that the tool is above the bottom of the sea floor.  ONE tool does all that!  It’s another cool tool.


So that’s a large, complex instrument.  Here are some large simple tools.  Take the tool below for example.  It is a pulley used to help guide the cable attached to the POP and the winch that holds the supply of cable.


What about these wrenches that Justin and I are holding…


Or the wheel and tracks on this tractor..


We have a number of different types of hoses, which are not necessarily tools, although they are used with tools are our site.  These rollers help guide the hose.


The piece below is a sort of shock absorber that is part of the hot water drill system.


The lathe (below) is a tool that can shape or fabricate pieces of metal which can be used for repairing or modifying equipment at the site.


The mill drill is a precise drill press.


The bench grinder and wire wheel can be used for cleaning up and grinding down; for example they might do this on a newly cut piece of pipe.


Using science, technology, and engineering in our lives is essential.  This WISSARD drill and test site makes me realize how many people have come together to make this project happen.  So many tools were gathered and bits and pieces assembled either back in the United States, or on site.

When you look at these tools and pieces of equipment, how might they remind you of ways you used science, technology, or engineering in your life today?

5 responses to “Cool Tools

  1. I love the fact that I always start my day (or relatively speaking) reading your blog. It is a nice way to begin and brings fresh new ideas and knowledge. Of course, you are ready to end your day but at least there are a few hours where we overlap and can ‘chat’. I remember living in Hong Kong and always trying to find the right time to talk with my parents with the 12-14 hours time difference depending upon time of year.

    Keep well.

    LIOB, Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      I love that I can end my day with a positive comment from you! I just posted that blog….two minutes before you commented! Thanks for the support and positive feedback and like you, I always look for ways to learn new things. That’s so important…to never stop learning! Miss you! LIOB Boop

  2. Not a ‘tool’ comment. I tried an email in early December. The question was about the web cam that appears to be mounted north of downtown McM and the buildings in downtown. Here is my question:

    Viewing the pic from the webcam on Arrival Heights, I see a close up that has a large blue building center right and another, more distant shot, with Ob Hill in the background and the pass on the left.

    Nothing else in either pic can I recognize.

    The above was written about 2200 1 Dec (Eastern Time Zone)

    This morning I look at the same close up w/ the large blue bldg and it looks like it is dusk (or later). I recall a full sun about 30 degrees above the horizon as we approach the solstice. Any thoughts as to why the pic is so dark?

    I was U.S. Navy, Summer Support 1973 – 1976. Maintained electronics.

    Is this your first trip south?

    George Parker

    • Hi George,

      Great to hear from you and sorry I didn’t catch that email earlier in the month. This is my 3rd trip south, all part of education and outreach for various science research projects. I’d like to hear more about your time here in the Navy back in 1973-76.

      The web cam photos are variable….sometimes they are zoomed in, and other random times they are zoomed out. The large blue building sticks out with that bright color…it’s the galley, building 155. The view from Arrival Heights often looks dark to me, too. We’ve had two days of solid cloud cover and gray skies, but today it’s bright and sunny again. Yesterday started with a whole lot of swirling snow, but today’s web cam view should be better. I also think the camera is mounted somewhere where it gets shaded…not sure of exactly what it’s mounted on, but often the front part of the web cam image is very dark. I’ll try to check on this.

      Meanwhile, you have a very Merry Christmas and thanks for your work down here a long time ago…to set the stage for what was to come. This place is certainly a unique environment…in scenery and wildlife, social interactions, and science research. If you have any other questions, try emailing me at Or, keep posting on the blog site like this. Have a SUPER day!

  3. really cool and in your videos talk i like to hear your voice i love it when were able to skype i am so exited

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