Cole Rogers’ Blog

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We were on a weather hold again today when I woke up for my watch, which persisted into the afternoon.  ROPOS was going to be deploying a BEP and recovering an old one.  Again, with this much weight hanging beneath  ROPOS and on the LARS, the crew is being cautious about the weather conditions during deployment.

I spent the free time I had this afternoon working with the OSU group to clean all the instruments and frame from a previously recovered BEP.  It was a really cool experience and gave me hands-on knowledge about many of the sensors that are on the seafloor.  Many of the instruments were delicately calibrated and we needed to be very careful when removing the layers of dirt and sea worms.  Again, many of the parts were machined from titanium, which is used for its corrosion-resistant properties, as well as its strength which helps it withstand the pressure on the seafloor.  These also needed to be cleaned delicately because scratching the metal may compromise its corrosion-resistance.  All of the screws that were made out of titanium had “Ti” pressed into the heads, and were beautifully machined.  The connectors for the cables were also made of titanium, and apparently most of the cables costs thousands of dollar for a few feet of them.  Some are pressurized with oil to help keep the sea water out.

About the time we got done cleaning the BEP, ROPOS was cleared to dive.   It picked up the new package that was being delivered to the seafloor and descended 581 meters. I watched a lot of the dive from the live feed in the main computer lab and saw a squid as the sub moved down through the water. 

In the afternoon, some of the veteran students organized a small meeting where Doug, one of the ship's engineers, came to talk about his role on the Thompson, his career in engineering, and to share advice about life in general.  He had lots of good ideas about the importance of schooling, experience, and luck; it was a very valuable conversation that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a part of if I hadn't participated in VISIONS'15.

In the evening I helped collect and organize samples from an instrument called CAT, which uses an osmotic pump to sample water seeping through the seafloor.  This particular instrument can run for a year or longer, and when it collected, there is a long thin tube filled with water in chronologial order.  The tube must be cut into 34mm segments, and the water collected.  It is a pretty tedious task, but the the instrument collects unique data over a very long time scale. 

After that, we went out on deck and looked at the night sky.  There were more stars than I've ever seen in my life.  All the lights were off on the bow where we were, and the ship was miles and miles off shore.  It was an amazing experience.

For breakfast the galley served eggs-in-a-nest, breakfast scramble, jo-jo potatoes, and bacon.  For lunch there were amazing lamb and chicken gyros and a bunch of sides and salads.  I had chicken fried steak, Salisbury sauce, and steamed vegetables for dinner.

August 2

Today was a big day for ROPOS.  It went on multiple dives to replace the high-resolution digital still camera, an acoustic hydrophone, and a BEP.  This meant that the team was lowering and lifting significant loads with the ROPOS crane.  In order to stabilize the tether under the stress of these loads, yellow pods of syntactic foam colloquially called “lemons” were attached to the tether at regular intervals.  This helps mitigate some of the energy imparted by waves on the surface while under load.  It also allows the cable to develop a belly due to its own weight, instead of being taut while the ROPOS is deployed.  This gives the team more freedom to maneuver the sub because of the slack in the tether.

We had a student meeting yesterday where we talked about our ideas for projects and volunteered ideas for tours we would like to take, as well as team members we would like to hear from.

I helped the OSU team clean their recovered digital still camera.  It's a pretty cool piece of equipment, mounted on an all titanium frame.  Even the screws are titanium.  It has two sizing lasers that are exactly parallel and 10cm apart in order to help determine the size of the objects that are photographed.   

We are currently in transit to the 600m site where we will be doing more dives, before heading to Victoria to demobilize ROPOS

Keith from the ROPOS team gave us a tour of the sub.  It is a very interesting system, and a lot of thought and engineering has gone into making sure that it is effective and has maximum up-time.  He said that they carry over a million dollars in spare parts for doing repairs as needed while out at sea.  This attention to detail allows them to complete complex and precise operations on the seafloor.  This morning, during the deployment of a new digital still camera, the ROPOS team was able to position the camera along a precise heading, and use the 7-axis arm to plug the cable into a port on the underwater junction box, connecting the camera to the cable array.

I'm starting to get more comfortable with ship life.  Finding my way around is much better, and I'm getting used to the schedule for my watch and meals.  I have also been talking with the crew and scientists more, and have been learning  a lot.  Both the instruments being deployed, and the equipment used to facilitate that deployment are very amazing feats of engineering.   I love hearing about the technical challenges that need to be overcome when building instruments that can survive the conditions on the seafloor, mainly the salinity and the pressure.  And occasionally fishermen.

Time is flying by, and I am really going to miss the R/V Thompson and the people here when the cruise is over.

August 1

I have a 0400-0800 watch shift on the cruise.  Since 1830 yesterday we have been on a weather hold because conditions weren't conducive to launching ROPOS.  The dive that is taking place at this station involves hauling significant weight with the ROPOS, so the team would like the weather to be as calm as possible.  Provided the dive proceeds as scheduled this morning, I'll be working with Malea to complete logs and take photos using IRLS and the DSC.

I was able to catch breakfast at the tail end of my watch; they served breakfast burritos, fried potatoes, and fruit salad.  I've been taking naps for a couple hours here and there every time I feel tired, usually between breakfast and lunch, and then again after dinner.  Because of my watch schedule and the meal schedule it's hard to time a full eight hour night. 

As of 1200 hours, we are still in a weather hold, as the swells are too large for the ROPOS crew to feel comfortable beginning a dive.  Lunch was served at 1130 consisting of toasted sandwiches, fish and chips, salad, and macaroni and cheese.

July 31

I have a 0400-0800 watch shift on the cruise.  Since 1830 yesterday we have been on a weather hold because conditions weren't conducive to launching ROPOS.  The dive that is taking place at this station involves hauling significant weight with the ROPOS, so the team would like the weather to be as calm as possible.  Provided the dive proceeds as scheduled this morning, I'll be working with Malea to complete logs and take photos using IRLS and the DSC.

I was able to catch breakfast at the tail end of my watch; they served breakfast burritos, fried potatoes, and fruit salad.   I've been taking naps for a couple hours here and there every time I feel tired, usually between breakfast and lunch, and then again after dinner.  Because of my watch schedule and the meal schedule it's hard to time a full eight hour night. 

As of 1200 hours, we are still in a weather hold, as the swells are too large for the ROPOS crew to feel comfortable beginning a dive.  Lunch was served at 1130 consisting of toasted sandwiches, fish and chips, salad, and macaroni and cheese.

So the ship really bucks when we're transiting.  For the 21+ readers, it feels almost exactly like being intoxicated, which is really lovely in the short term.  I am not especially prone to sea- or motion-sickness, but I'm taking a Dramamine.  As tempting as it is to tough everything out, it pales in comparison to the temptation of not throwing up.  Our transit today is expected to be approximately two hours, where we will be conducting a mission, the timing of which is dependent on the swell and weather conditions when we get there.  After spending last night on the moored R/V Thompson, the science team had a safety meeting where we explored the escape routes, and practiced slithering into our rubber survival suits.

The food situation on-board is really stellar.  For breakfast this morning, there were scrambled eggs, baked eggs, bacon, french toast, breakfast potatoes, and fruit salad.  There is also a fridge that has leftovers in it to eat when a meal isn't being served, as well as a snack counter full of chips and other munchies.  As may be expected on a research vessel, there is unlimited coffee 24/7.

After arriving at the first site, the CTD rosette was deployed to retrieve sensor data on the conductivity, temperature, and depth, as well as water samples from the water column, which are then analyzed  on-shore to better understand variables such as salinity and dissolved gas content.

Meanwhile, the OSU camera was prepped for deployment by the ROV ROPOS.  The ROV was used at this station to retrieve a surface-piercing profiler, which hasn't been functioning.  The ROPOS crew used the robotic arms to wrap straps around the profiler and prepare it for ascent.  It was pretty amazing how dexterous the arms are; the left one has a double wrist, as well as the ability to rotate it's hand around the axis of the arm.  Watching the three ROPOS crew members (one for each arm and one to position the ROPOS itself) work and communicate reminded me of the control room footage that JPL streamed during the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. 

The students will take four hour watches in the ROPOS control room during the missions.  We work in pairs to collect images from the digital still camera mounted on ROPOS, and also to keep a written log of the mission in a system called IRLS (Integrated Real-Time Logging System).  These will allow better cataloging and frames of reference for ROPOS video and mission data.

For lunch there were turkey Reuben sandwiches.  Dinner was grilled mahi, roast beef, spaghetti and bolognaise sauce, with cheesecake dessert.