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Field Notes
Jonathan Blair

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

One morning Greg Stemm, Odyssey Marine Exploration's director, woke me up at 2 a.m. to tell me it was my turn to take pictures with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV). So from a sound sleep (and I hadn't been getting much in the last few days), I made my way down to the Online Room, sat down, and tried to figure out where I was. We had been trying to make a mosaic of the shipwreck site, and I suddenly got an idea that I could make a good photograph of the gold discovery if I used the mosaic technique. I was so tired that I actually wrote down the idea so I wouldn't forget it later. Well, the first photograph I made of the gold coin site was actually made up of eight separate digital images that Gerhard Seiffert, Odyssey's data manager, stitched together in Adobe Photoshop to make one wonderful, seamless image. The next morning when the rest of the team woke up, they had their gold on board, big as life in a glittering image. It felt great to see them so pleased, and it made my lack of sleep worthwhile.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

Spending months offshore aboard a ship in the middle of the Gulf Stream can lead to some heavy weather experiences. One night in December I woke up to discover an intense storm moving in. Lightning was drilling into the water all around us, and as I looked out my cabin window I could see waves higher than the ship. I broke out my life preserver and used it as a wedge under the side of the mattress to keep myself from falling out of bed. The Odyssey would go up on a wave and then dive down into the trough and start shaking. Then up again, down again, shudder. It was like living in a blender with the switch turned on.

The next morning I learned that the captain had forbidden anyone to go up on deck. Wind speed had gotten up to 80 miles an hour (130 kilometers an hour). Waves swept over the bridge. And author Priit Vesilind had slept through the whole storm. "All I felt was a gentle rocking," was Priit's version of events.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

It's dark underwater at 1,700 feet (500 meters). We often use electronic flash to catch a photo. And these are not your camera store flash units; to light shipwrecks underwater, you need very big strobe lights and lots of current to run them.

One night we hooked up our flash units to the ROV to take some photos. Down we went and everything was working fine until, all of a sudden, the strobe went out. We brought it up to see what was wrong. When the ROV landed on the deck, dripping with water, one of our flash units caught fire. It was a strange sight. I wasn't used to having a piece of underwater equipment burst into flames.