Diana Parks Blog

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July 18

There is a tradition on this cruise called “poetry night.” It started from the 90s’ or possibly 80s’ (I can’t honestly remember), as Professor John Delaney started this event on the boat. During this event, everyone is welcome to read a poem, sing a song, or read a story. I was going to be an observer initially, but Malea came to Jessica and me after dinner and asked us to be in a video they’re making. They were making a video about how ROPOS bumped into Escargot. It was very funny how they tried to put Canadian accent in ROPOS guys’ lines. They made ROPOS with a cardboard box and attached the tether on the ceiling. It felt like going back to the days when I was in middle school when I made video projects with minimal supplies. We drew lemons and waves on paper with crayons.

Poetry night started with a poem Deb’s sister made for her. It was very sweet of her sister to make a poem for her journey of the deep ocean. There were many other haikus, poems, and stories about the ocean. I wish I prepared a poem before the event. We sat in the library and celebrated the last night of the cruise with poems. The poetry night lasted for about an hour. After the poetry night, we watched Billy Elliot in the movie room.
For the last 24 hours, the waves were very strong. I could hear the waves crashing onto the boat, and the boat was rocking very much. Luckily, I didn’t get seasick- now I got used to walking on a rocking boat. This morning when I was taking a shower I was thinking, “I’d probably hold onto something in a shower even when I get back to land.” I’m happy to get back to shore, but I will definitely miss this cruise so much.

July 16

Today was the day! We had a ROPOS Tour & weather talk for our daily student meeting. Skip told us why it is important to understand the weather while we’re at sea. It seems to be the first thing you want to check while you’re at sea, but he said there were cruises that they just went out to the sea and dealt with the weather they were given. I was really surprised that there were so many weather websites you can check even when you’re out at sea. I’ve never been out at sea for days, so I never really cared about it. There are buoys on the open ocean, and they have their individual websites which include history of the weather nearby them. One of the websites Skip showed us had wind currents moving in real time on the computer screen.

After the weather talk, we had ROPOS tour. It was very cool to see it right in front of me rather than operating deep down the ocean. I’ve never gotten close to the ROPOS before; I was scared if I would get in trouble if I was around it (I’m sure this is not the case though. Everyone’s very encouraging & nice on this ship). Since I watch its dives and take pictures of its operation during watch, ROPOS feels very special to me. Even though I’ve been watching the dives for about two weeks, I didn’t know anything about its technology and how it works at all. I can’t really say that I know how it operates completely, but I got to ask what I was curious about. The most interesting thing was the HD camera. I’ve been so impressed with how the video is so clean under the ocean. The Zeus camera had a very big lens. It was about a feet across, and it was made in San Diego just for underwater recording purpose.  I hope to see more ROPOS dives before I get off at Newport soon. I’m sure I’ll have greater appreciation towards its operation.

July 15

I can’t believe it’s already day 12 at sea. It feels like it was much shorter than twelve days. Khadijah and I didn’t have watch this morning. It’s been about 3 days since we didn’t have watch. I enjoy sleeping in, but I also miss watch and the sunrise during watch. Sunrise starts around 5:40ish every day. It’s really neat to watch sunrise because there isn’t anything in the view- no buildings, mountains, but vast ocean. There are usually clouds, but they usually create beautiful sunrise view.

Many of the students including me helped Lauren and Rick’s MOSQUITO project. I don’t know what it stands for, but it’s a tool that measures flow rate of the seawater into the sediments. From that, they can measure the flux of seawater and seep fluids. Our main job was labeling the vials and cutting the coils. The coils have seawater in them, and we had to cut the coils into 45 cm length. Lauren measured the salinity of the seawater in every 45 cm of seawater. As it reaches salinity of 0 (freshwater), all the water samples are collected because the freshwater was injected in the coil before it was deployed.

My job was holding the coil right after it gets cut. Since it’s a plastic coil, as soon as you cut it, it bounces around. Then, next two students had to transfer it to a tiny container using a small pump, and salinity was measured. Since the seawater had sulfate, the entire bio lab smelled terrible. But once we got used to it, we couldn’t smell anything. The bio lab usually gets cold, but since there was an assembly line of six students, it got pretty warm. I sometimes like doing simple repetitive works that doesn’t require thinking; I enjoyed this work for about the first couple of hours. At one point, my right hand started to get cramps. But this is worth it, I’m happy because I could help.

July 14

I spent most of my day finishing up the script for the video project I’m working on. It’s mostly reading articles, digesting them, and writing it in a easily understandable way. It took me some time to understand the material, but I’m glad that I finished reading all the articles. Other than making the video, I sat in the ROPOS control room and watched the dive.

ROPOS dove over the pinnacle nearby Southern Hydrate Ridge. There were a lot of animals in this area. There were hag fish, crabs, and red fish that I don’t know the name of. I was excited to see the snails on top of the yellow egg stalks since I saw the pictures of them from last year. However, there were dead shells on the seafloor; none of the snails were alive. I wonder what happened during the time between last year and this year.

I helped Julie with titrating dissolved oxygen sample. As I mentioned in the previous blog post, the auto titrator is so great that I could finish 12 samples in less than an hour. Now I remember the procedure for the titration, and I feel comfortable doing it by myself. This is such nice progress! I’ve done a couple of DO (dissolved oxygen) titrations before this cruise, and now I’ve done a tone of them. Something to keep in mind when you’re working in the chem lab/bio lab in Thompson: do not dump a lot of water into the sink. The water pipe is very narrow, so it overflowed and we made a water puddle. At least we know it now, and we won’t make the same mistake next time.

July 13

My day began with CTD cast. It was a beautiful sunny weather. Now I’m getting familiar with the procedure and how to handle the Niskin bottles. We sampled seawater at every 20 m from depth 220 m. We collected water samples for dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and pH. It’s amazing how much we can understand the ocean with a bottle of seawater. When we were waiting for the second CTD cast, I noticed there were fine white grains on my legs (I was wearing shorts). I asked Julie if it was salt, and it surely was salt. All the time I’ve been at beaches, I got both salt and sand on my skin, but this time, only salt was on my skin. It was cool to see what evaporation left on my skin. I was also very surprised how much salt there was in a few drops of seawater. I didn’t get so wet from collecting the samples; it was just a few splashes. It also evaporated so quickly too – about 10 minutes. Well, since there wasn’t a lot of water, it is very understandable the water evaporates quickly, but still it was cool to see it.

I’ve been surprised with all the tools used to get data from the ocean. I dropped a very long, thin copper string into the bottom of the ocean. From that, we can understand how sound velocity and temperature change with depth. Then, we can understand the depths of the seafloor from the surface and further we can map the seafloor with sonar data. There was an underwater eruption April 24th this year at Axial Seamount, and this new seafloor map will help us understand where the eruption occurred. Some of us marked where we think the eruption was, and hopefully we’ll see who is closest to the eruption site.

I thought today’s blog post was going to be about ROPOS tour, but unfortunately we didn’t have one today. Instead, Deb talked about the processes of underwater volcanoes and Lost City in the Atlantic Ocean. It was very helpful to understand what we have been observing with ROPOS, and for my video project too. It was like a nice review of what I learned in Deb’s ocean 121 class last winter. Those of you who haven’t taken this class, I highly recommend taking it. It made me want to know more about the hydrothermal vents in the ocean (Plus, the course is not hard to get a good grade on).  Even though Deb’s talk was about 2 hours long, it felt like a lot shorter, and it was very inspirational.

July 12

I enjoy having guest speakers in our student meeting. As you might have noticed, there are a lot of awesome people on Thompson with different backgrounds. It’s very interesting to hear their life stories. Today, we had Ken, a.k.a. T-Pain in our student meeting. He talked about how he got to where he is now. He works on the network technology required for the Cabled Observatory at the UW. Among all the cool stories he told us, the most memorable one (personally for me) was about his first 2 month-long cruise, where he didn’t know anyone and hadn’t spent one single night at sea. He simply joined the cruise after he heard about it from his friend. Now as I write about it, I wonder what made him join the cruise. He still thinks that was one of the hardest decisions he had to make. This definitely proves that you have to gain experience to see what you want to do as a career. What a cliché expression, but so true! What if he didn’t decide to go to the cruise? His life might have been very different from now. I wonder what my life will be like in ten years. Will this cruise affect my future career path?

Then we had Dana in our second meeting. Dana showed us the pictures she took when she went scuba diving. Those pictures were the coolest pictures I’ve seen in my entire life. There were fish that had patterns and colors (green, blue, yellow all combined) as if they were water colored on canvas. There were giant clams (3-4 feet), anemones (2-3 feet), and beautiful jellyfish. I’ve never wanted to scuba dive in my entire life ever since I nearly drowned when I was six years old (This is a long story and it was traumatic). Now I don’t know if I should do scuba diving. All the pictures Dana showed us were so amazing that I wanted to change my determined mind.

It’s very surprising how time flies when I’m out at sea. More than half of our journey is completed. We’re heading to Hydrate Ridge tomorrow. We’re having a ROPOS tour when we’re transiting to the site. Spoiler alert: next blog post will be about ROPOS tour!

July 11

I spent most of my day in ROPOS control room. I enjoyed watching a spider crab sitting on a 17m tall vent called El Guapo (which means the handsome one). The spider crab had long legs, and I was very impressed with how it climbed up to the tall vent. The vent was covered with palm worms densely.  It’s incredible how they survive deep down in the ocean. It’s also cool that I get to see them moving around in real time. We’re floating on top of the site where it’s all happening too! It’s always interesting to observe in the ROPOS control room because we don’t know what kind of animals we’ll get to see in every dive.

For today’s student meeting, we had a tour of the Thompson's engine room. It was very loud in the engine room, so we had to wear ear plugs. The Thompson has three large engines and three small engines. A small engine provides 1000 horse power, and it is usually used for lights on this boat. The engines make 600 volt AC power, and this spins the propellers. 4000 gallons of diesel fuel is used every day. R/V Thompson is very expensive to operate.

Later today, I observed how a bucket and being in the open ocean could entertain college students. We tied a bucket onto the boat, and tried to catch jellyfish floating on the water. Our first trial failed because we couldn’t control the bucket well enough in the breaking waves. So we wrapped the rope around the bucket and put duck tape on it. This turned out to be successful, and we caught four jelly fish. I thought their whole body would be transparent (because they look like that from the boat), but actually only the top part was transparent, and the bottom part was dark blue (the color of the sea water). I enjoyed watching my colleagues getting excited about catching jellyfish. I couldn’t stop laughing and my cheeks started to hurt from laughing so hard. There are so many fun creative things you can do in the open ocean, and we’re so down to do those things.

July 10

Axial Seamount

At Axial Seamount, there lies
Xtreme environment.
Incredible organisms
Are getting energy from chemosynthesis.
Life exists without sunlight.

Smokers, oh black smokers
Emit hot sea water.
Acidic and located above
Magma chamber
On spreading zones.
Unforgettable experience,
New things to learn every day.
Thanks Visions ’15 for having me here.

-Written in ROPOS Control room, looking at tubeworms and vent fluids.

July 9

My sleep schedule got adjusted to my watch that starts at 4 a.m. I usually go to bed at 7 p.m., and get up at three in the morning. It’s very interesting to see how everyone’s sleep schedule is different on Thompson. For example, someone would say “good morning” at 3 o’clock. Probably because they stayed up late working on their projects then went to bed later in the morning. Everyone’s watch schedule is different-meaning that when they sleep is different, so you may not see certain people very often.

If you’re worried about not being able to wake up on time for something, you can leave a note like “Wake up Diana when descending for dive 1837.” Then someone will kindly wake you up on time. You simply write this on “the board of lies.” I found this name very funny when I saw it for the first time. It is called “the board of lies” because all the plans of the day we write on this board are easy to be changed.

What makes me laugh the most are actually the pictures of people posted on the door of the main lab. I enjoy the drawings (or doodles) on the photos. Deb draws very creative pictures on people’s photos. Orla has crazy green hair and piercings in her ears, and Lauren has crazy red hair and sharp teeth. Whenever I walk by the door, I check if there are any new drawings. If there is a new one, it makes my day.

In our last dive during our watch, we saw a very strange sea cucumber. We took a good picture of it too. It had tiny little legs, and first, it grossed me out (honestly). But I couldn’t stop looking at it because it was really cool and strange at the same time. During the dive, ROPOS went to the Mushroom vent, Inferno, and Hell. We looked at fluids coming out of the vent, many tubeworms and bacteria mats. It was incredible how they survive in extremely hot temperatures and how dense they cover the vents. My mind was blown – I could stare at them for hours- and actually that’s what we did in the ROPOS room most of the day.

July 8

We arrived at Axial around nine in the morning. This was when I got out of my watch and finished a shower. I thought we stopped for fixing ROPOS or taking CTD samples, but we were on site. We did a CTD cast, and almost all of the students participated in this process. This time I put on a pair of work boots and rain jacket, so my clothes didn’t get wet at all.

I held onto the ropes when we cast the CTD. Lauren showed me how to tie the knots that holds onto the boat. I was able to make it, but I could never remember how to do it again. Then Jesse showed me how to do it with a story of a rabbit. So the lose end is the “rabbit”, and the other end is the “tree.” I made a “hole” with the rope, and the “rabbit” came out from under the hole. Then the rabbit (the lose end) climbed around the “tree,” and went back into the hole. I know this doesn’t make sense when I write it, but it is much easier when you watch someone make it.

Later during the day, I watched all of the student project videos from last year. I wanted to see some examples of outreach videos. The videos were very nice – they gave me ideas of what tone I should set, how much information I should put, etc. Now I know how much effort it takes to make a video, I feel somewhat stressed with the amount of time I have left on this cruise. Time flies while you’re at sea. It’s been five days already, and I have ten days left at sea.  It’ll be much easier to get footage for my video while I’m on this boat than at land. Hopefully I’ll make some progress while I’m here at sea.

July 7

Every day from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., students on Thompson head upstairs to the library. We have student meetings there, and we usually talk about our projects. There are many interesting student projects on Leg 1- research and making biology catalogue, outreach videos, and a children’s book. I’m going to make a video about the relationship between hydrothermal vents and astrobiology. When I first watched student videos from last year, I thought they were amazing; it was hard to believe students made them. But I also thought making a three to four minute long video would be very easy.

The first step of making a video is brainstorming the structure of the video. I had hard time deciding what to include and focus on in the video. Now we’re in the process of researching the information that goes into the video. There are many things to be done ahead of us. We have to write a script, decide what videos/images we’re going to use and find them, find background music, narrate it, putting all together, and finally, edit it. I might have skipped a bunch of tiny little things we have to get done-simply because I’m not there yet, I don’t know them. But the point of listing all these is to let you know that even a short video takes a lot of time to make it. It is definitely not easy work.

In order to help us in this process, Ed gave us a presentation about what he does and tips when making a video. ROPOS videos take a large amount of data, and he showed us the document to fill out to get parts of the huge video files. He gave us a lot of good tips when making a video, and the most important tips he told us were “done is good” and “undone is bad.” We laughed because of the sass he emphasized when he was saying that. Overall I enjoyed the meeting very much, and I hope we have cool guest speakers like Ed in our future meetings. Today’s meeting made me feel excited about making a video; but also, it made me realize how much effort it takes to make a video.

July 6

I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning for my first watch. During the watch, I take pictures of important things ROPOS does like attaching or detaching cables. I also record DVDs while ROPOS operates on the seafloor. What I enjoy most during watches is taking pictures of animals in the deep sea. I saw a starfish that was sitting on the Junction Box, and some jellyfish while ascending/descending. After taking pictures, I make comments on them using IRLS, the integrated logging system for ROPOS. The most challenging part about my watch was learning about the names of each part of the moorings, and what they do under water.  Fortunately, everyone in the control room wwas very helpful and happy to answer my questions.

After the watch, I observed the CTD coming out of the water, and the live data as it collected them. Everyday I’m so amazed by how each machine collects data so accurately even far down under the water. We collected water samples for analyzing CO2, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll. The seawater was very cold; it nearly froze my hands, and my clothes got wet from collecting seawater samples. Then we did titrations for dissolved oxygen. I added reagents to each seawater sample, and it turned dark blue when I added starch. All of us enjoyed doing the titrations using the automatic titration tool; it dispenses exact amount of solution when I press a button. In my general chemistry courses, I’ve always used burets for titrations, and it was easy to over-titrate solutions. Thanks to this cool automatic dispensing titration tool, we were able to finish about 15 water samples in an hour. I also got to learn how to use the tools to collect/analyze water samples today. I enjoyed learning new things with my hands under an informal setting. I can ask any questions, and I didn’t have to be stressed about time crunch or being graded. Every day on Thompson is a great day to learn new things.

July 5

Here’s one Trivia question for you. This is something most people on their first cruise are afraid of. You don’t know when exactly it would come, or how bad it would be. People scare you with horrible stories about this. Can you guess what this is?The answer is seasickness. If you got it right, good job.

I didn’t worry about getting seasick until people on the Thompson talked about it. Since I consider myself a dull person, I didn’t think it could be a major issue. However, I was somewhat afraid of embarrassing myself if I got seasick- my face would turn green, and I might even throw up. Regardless of my concern, I’ve been feeling fine on the ship-except for last night.

I hardly wake up during the night since I’m a heavy sleeper. But last night, I woke up because the boat’s motion felt so different from day 1. When I was lying on the bed, I thought the weather outside was very stormy. I could feel the waves passing by underneath the boat. The boat was constantly making big irregular motions. I thought it could be an emergency soon. I was almost ready to grab the life vest, but I was afraid of stepping down from my cozy top bunk bed. Then I started to feel dizzy, and my stomach felt weird as if I swallowed live snails. Luckily, I didn’t throw up. I had a sip of water, then I tried to go back to sleep. It was very unusual for me to spend some time waiting to fall asleep. I kept asking myself, ‘am I gonna be able to sleep at all tonight?’ That was the last thing I remember thinking that night, because I fell asleep right after that. When I woke up for the second time, the motion of the boat felt more stable to me – or maybe the waves were the same, and I got used to it. I started to think of it as a cradle, and even an easy ride for little children in amusement parks. I finally found a way of enjoying it.

I might have sound very weird in today’s journal, but the purpose of writing about my concern/short experience with seasickness is to let you know that it’s not as bad as you might imagine. Probably I shouldn’t brag on myself not getting seasick, because we have a long journey ahead of us.

July 4: I woke up from hearing a loud bell and announcement in the R/V Thompson this morning. I couldn’t catch the words because I was half asleep when I heard it, but maybe it said we were leaving the dock- this was very exciting for me! This is my first research cruise that lasts longer than a day.  To be honest, I was half- excited, half-nervous about this cruise. I was excited to learn new things, but on the other hand, I was afraid of getting seasick, or even the ship sinking from an accident (I know this is not what I have to worry about too much, but my crazy imagination kept myself entertained).

After getting breakfast on the ship, I stood outside of the boat to watch us going through the locks. One of my favorite places I love to visit in Seattle is the Ballard Locks, and I couldn’t believe we’re going through them. I’ve only been the observer of the people on the boats going through the locks, but this time it was different- I was one of them. The water level went down after the gates “locked” us in, then we were able to get further out into the Sound. I enjoyed the bridge going up when we were heading to the locks. All the cars on the bridge stopped for us to pass, and I simply felt amazed.

The first official thing we did on the Thompson was a safety meeting. Hopefully, we never get to use the survival tools including the suit I had to try on. It was really hard to put on, and all of us looked like giant orange starfish. I had to put on the suit twice, because the first one was too big for me. Both times were struggle for me, however, I cannot deny that the suit was actually very comfortable. I could rely on the suit if I had to escape from the boat in emergency.

There were so many things that happened during day one, and I could talk about tiny little things that I enjoyed on this ship for hours – or even days. But I should save those for later. The first day of the cruise definitely made me feel more excited about our upcoming journey, and get an understanding of how normal days would look like on Thompson.