The most important place on the ship isn’t la passerelle (the bridge). It’s not le pont principal (the main deck), not even the Science HQ. It’s a tiny room in the ROV lab with a single porthole, a few temperature sensors lying here and there on the shelves… and an espresso machine.
Work on the boat is divided into 3 shifts (les quarts): The 8-to-12, the 12-to-4, and the 4-to-8. Yes, we mean both daytime and nightime. And that is where the espresso machine comes in handy. For a modest 0.30€, scientists, technicians and crew can get their caffeine fix anytime, and manage to function at any time of the day / night. So far the scientists are behind in overall espresso counts, but they’ll keep trying to catch up, and it’s a tight race between front-runners.
Typically, we launch the ROV (Victor) for a night dive in the early evening. It takes it two hours to reach the bottom of the ocean, where it stays all night exploring and collecting samples. Our longest trip along the seafloor so far has lasted about 12 hours. We recover it the next morning. The AUV (Abyss) is on a similar schedule, with 16 hour dives (plus the time it spends waiting to be recovered at the surface). During the day we collect more rocks by dredging the seafloor.
Of course there is no such thing as a typical day. We often need to make last-minute adjustments to the original schedule to account for delays or unexpected mechanical problems. The goal is to always maximize the time acquiring new data and samples, which requires us to stay alert… and caffeinated.