Lauren Kowalskis Blog V15

My sense of time is completely skewed aboard this vessel. Because operations are 24 hours everyday of the week, there is no distinction between days of the week. Like for instance, today is Sunday, but did my mind think it was Sunday? Nope, it was Tuesday in my brain. As much as this is an annoyance, it really doesn’t matter that I don’t know what day it is, just as long as I know what operations are happening during my day, I am good.
This morning I supervised a watch session for the new students who had not had watch yet. I just made sure they had an understanding of what they were supposed to be logging. Also during that dive, we saw a decent-sized octopus chilling on the old zooplankton sonar. This dive we were deploying a new zooplankton sonar, so we needed to recover the old one; the octopus thus enjoyed a fun 80 m ascent to the surface of the water up until he decided he wanted to go back home. Mitch supposedly got a picture of him before he slithered off the instrument and back down the water column.

I have become an official CTD aid it seems on this leg. I have helped deploy, recover, and sample the CTD. It can be a boring job and a fun job at the same time. It definitely wakes you up when you have 4 °C water running over your hand while you are sampling. Let’s just say that the water is extremely cold! But I like to joke about how warm it is.

Malea and I interviewed Ken today, one of the marine technicians. Ken is a personable guy, which is why I think what he had to say in his interview has the potential to inspire others ☺ Well that is what Malea and I hope for.

Also Malea made me a presidential campaign poster. Enjoy.

August 1

I cannot believe it’s August. It has almost been a month since I started out at sea; granted I have had about four days on land when we sailed into port, but I have still been living on this ship for a month. Earlier in the cruise I began taking this life style for granted; I just accepted that I was a scientist out at sea and what I was doing was what needed to be done. But now, I am being to take a step back and really appreciate and feel grateful for this opportunity.  I am quite a fortunate student and sometimes I forget that. What reminded me today were some interviews myself and Malea (who’s back on board for this last leg) did with an engineer and one of the crew. Hearing what they had to say about their lives and how much they love their job and how much they care about the ocean made me feel grateful that I also have this opportunity to collaborate with professionals from all different backgrounds with all different life stories and all different experiences to share with a student like me.

Malea and I are working on an interview video project to portray life at sea, and the passion behind those who work at sea. We had had questions prepared for a week and a half, but today we performed our first two interviews and, although it seemed like a daunting feat at first, I think they went quite well; plus we were able to learn more about the people we work with. A person’s life story shapes who they are today and learning about a person’s past can help you understand, respect, and admire said person.

There was a weather hold all day up until now (2030) so not much science was going on today as we were waiting to deploy more instruments at the Endurance Shelf Array. The weather wasn’t terrible today, however, the swells were large and frequent; but now  the frequency decreased or the swell decreased and we were able to deploy ROPOS with an instrument package underneath it.

Also in my free time I am crocheting a little coaster (that’s what I have decided my creation will be). One of the scientists on board had some yarn and some needles with her, and I haven’t crocheted in a while so I thought ‘why not’.  It’s definitely not the best creation but I’d say it’s pretty darn good for me.

July 31

Leg 3 commences. The new students seem really cool; I’m excited for a new adventure with new faces.

Our transit to our first site from Newport was about less than an hour away since we were heading to the Endurance Array site on the shelf. ROPOS then hopped in to pull up a surface-piercing profiler from this site. As we were recovering it, the swells were increasing as well as the wind speed, so a weather hold was called on all ROPOS dives. If the swells are too big, and the wind is too strong, it compromises ROPOS’s operations and safety.

Because of this weather hold, students and the science party watched 2010: The Year We Made Contact. Now I have not seen 2001: Space Odyssey, so the premise for this movie was a bit hazy. And to make understanding this movie even easier for myself, I fell asleep during the most important scenes. If anyone were to ask me what the movie what was about, I couldn’t tell ‘em.

I then joined Josh, the third mate, and Frank, one of the crew up on the bridge.  We were still under the weather hold, so they were just holding the station up there. We talked for a bit, the bridge is really cool at night, plus it was a clear night and the moon was full.

Before I went to bed, I started reading a book one of the engineers let me borrow about the whaling ship the Essex. I only read a few pages before I fell asleep but I’m excited to continue it; I’ve never heard of the story before and it involves cannibalism. I would say it’s quite intriguing.

July 26

Tomorrow we will be doing a deep CTD cast to help calibrate the sensors on the mooring. This obviously means that all students must decorate Styrofoam cups that will be attached to the CTD and will become mini Styrofoam cups ☺.  Many cups have been decorated, however, said activity was not a distraction to us (some people might scoff at us for decorating cups, but it is worth it). One of the other students Tracie is such a talented artist that crew and science party alike are requesting that she decorate cups for them!

So today Deb gave us a talk about marine volcanism and Axial’s volcanic history. It was then that I decided: I really like volcanoes. I cannot describe to you why, maybe its because it is a system rooted deep within our planet, or because of the power it displays. I don’t know, but I do know that I am going to pursue marine volcanism and learn more about it to see if that is in fact my passion.

July 24

Okay so here is the breakdown for today:
• Project
• Nap
• Project
• Whales
• Bridge
• Krista & pH

This morning I got up for 8 am, which is wicked early for past Lauren. I worked more on my project, however, many a times I caused the program to crash. Apparently viewing lots of data points in 3-D makes my computer go berserk, so I have reluctantly decided to no longer explore the 3-D option of this program for the data’s sake.

I then took a marvelous nap on the bow; I was watching and feeling the waves and then I closed my eyes for a second. A second led way to a minute and I then laid down on the bow seat and napped for a solid 20 minutes. It was wicked sunny outside and I quite possibly got sunburned on my arm, but that’s okay because I’ll tan over soon.

After the deep profiler was installed today, we did a CTD to take calibration samples. I didn’t help deploy or recover the CTD, but I did help collect samples and showed some of the new students (who are not oceanography majors and have not seen/used a CTD before) how to collect samples. While we were collecting the samples we saw a group of maybe three whales just of the starboard side. We saw their spouts and their backs/dorsal fins.

I then decided to print out a paper I typed up. The simple act of printing one piece of paper turned into a huge ordeal. So apparently the default printer on the computer in the computer lab, is not any one of the printers in the computer lab. Kearstin aided me in the manhunt for my paper (as we decided that was more fun than printing another copy of my paper). We looked all around and couldn’t find it until we eventually gave in and were just about to print another copy and discovered that default printer my paper was sent to was in the chartroom…in the bridge. So Kearstin and I travelled up to the bridge to retrieve my paper and ended up staying up there for close to an hour just talking with the crew on watch.

My last action of the day was showing Krista how to do pH sampling with the spectrophotometer on board. And in conclusion…this is my thoughtful reflection for the day: I did a handful of things today, but one thing I noticed was that everything about ship life was normal to me. My bunk feels like home. My body recognizes meal times. I am the one in charge of what I do each day; I decide if I want to help out, if I want to work on my project, or if I just want to enjoy the sea and ship life. This lifestyle is becoming my second nature and I am loving every minute of it. (In my mind this was explained more eloquently, but I don’t always a way with words…sorry!)

July 23

This morning Brendan showed me how to process and clean up midwater column data. This skill is important for looking for/mapping bubble plumes. This is also a skill that I will need when I go back to work in August. As long as I have the program readily available, it seems user friendly enough to navigate with some guidance.

Simultaneously this morning, the engineers and the crew started recovering a deep profiler from the Endurance Offshore Array. They recovered the float and started spooling up the cable. When the actual profiler was recovered, I headed out to take pictures of the recovery operations on the fantail. As time consuming as it is to take pictures of this operation specifically, I do enjoy it because I am thrust into the process of recovering this highly intelligent instrument. I don’t physically help, but I am physically with the people who are actually helping and I feel like I am a part of something bigger than just taking pictures of people doing work. Also I have found out that I thoroughly love taking pictures; it’s pretty exciting that with a click of a button I am recording emotion that sometimes is gone in the blink of an eye.

After playing around with Kingdom some more and just exploring the many intricacies of it rather than trying to have it all figured out…. I made some serious progress. I can now view my data in 3-D, and I have a whole other dive mapped (this dive was significantly larger to import than the first). And I have played around with the actual data to make it readable (aka make it look like the chirp data figures in published papers). So I’m super happy with that. I just have to keep chugging along with the long data imports from the hard drive to the program; I have yet to find an efficient way.

So the reason Brendan was showing me how to use the midwater column program was because he was using it this morning to process bubble plume data from a new seep site. Using data from 2014 and 2015 we saw that there were two specific areas where there were bubble plumes (these areas were pretty much consistent when the two data sets were compared with each other). As this site is new, we dove on it tonight and found the most intriguing landscape I have witnessed. Its hummocks were often and steep, it was covered with dense bacterial mats, a large population density of anemone, expanses of clam beds, a whole new garden of Neptunea and some creatures we have not seen before. These creatures aren’t weird per se, we just haven’t spotted them before at Hydrate Ridge. (Hydrate Ridge would be the most comparable location we have to this new site – Brendan is still deciding on a name for his discovery – as it is also a seep site.)

Today was pretty successful if I do say so myself.

July 22

Today I ate breakfast…that ruined the rest of my day. You see I have not been eating breakfast, I wake up after its over, so my body has become accustomed to eating two meals a day (with some snacks of course). So by the time lunch came and past my body started shutting down because it thought lunch was dinner, and breakfast was lunch. My body became really confused, but I was happy to learn that there was eggplant parm for dinner (one of my favorite Italian dishes). So I guess eating breakfast wasn’t all that bad, but I could do without the bodily confusion during the middle of the day.

I also ended taking pictures for the first of two deep-water mooring predeployments. It was a slow process near the end due to efforts to relieve tension on the tail end of the cable. The slowness, however, was entirely necessary to ensure that no mistakes were made, as deploying this mooring was a tricky operation. After that Brendan taught Katie and I how to use Fledermaus to explore bathymetry data from surveys. Katie and I are pretty much experts now. (Not really, but don’t tell anyone else that ☺)

In regards to my chirp data, I found a cool paper that could possibly help me interpret my chirp data. So then, I read said paper. And it touched on using chirp data at methane seep sites along the West Coast, which is applicable to my data.

Last on my agenda for today, I showed Tracie and Joe how to prep the CTD for deployment. We aren’t taking that many samples so they’re going to do the majority of the sample collecting since this is their first time using this instrument. Okay I lied; the last thing on my agenda for today is to read a book I started a few days ago.

Shout out to my Auntie Jackie and Uncle Rich: I learned how to play cribbage. So you know what that means!

July 21

 It was the first day back out at sea today. Just as we were leaving the jetty, one of the engineers spotted a whale. I didn’t believe him at first because we were so close to shore, and because when he pointed it out I didn’t see it; but lo and behold twas a whale, and it was super cool!
I don’t usually feel sea sick, but as soon as we left the confines of the calm jetty, my stomach felt weird. I didn’t feel nauseous per se but I felt weird. And I continued to feel that way until I took pre deployment pics of HPIES an instrument that measures the average current velocity of the water column via the magnetic field created by the moving polar water particles. I think I felt better because we were actually on site and I was outside and not on my computer in the main lab.

My first watch of this leg was the shortest one yet. As soon as all the lemons were on the umbilical for ROPOS, they saw they had a communication error with one of their valve packs, and recovered ROPOS to fix it sooner rather than later. Later in the evening I went out on the bow with Krista and Alex to check out the sunset and was greeted with the most beautiful sunset I have seen in a very long time. I won’t even describe it because you’ll see the picture ☺

Also shout out to my fam! Love you guys and I’m so grateful you are supportive of my dreams!!

July 17

Day 14 of my voluntary captivity.

I’ve been wicked busy lately, mostly because of the Mosquito. We recovered the one Mosquito and Osmo sampler on the first dive at Soutehrn Hydrate Ridge; once on board Rick and I prepped the instruments for subsampling by breaking them down and recording initial measurements. The next day a bunch of other students helped out and it took two days but we tackled the Mosquito with all of its subsampling and parafilming. (Parafilming is a measure against evaporation).

I stayed awake for a late night ROPOS dive to take pictures of it going in the water, but as soon as I put on a work vest and hardhat, Sue, one of the crew asked if I was going to help with lemons. So I got to assist in attaching lemons to ROPOS’s umbilical. Each ‘lemon’ is a lemon shaped syntactic foam that is about 35-40lbs out of water and is neutrally buoyant in water.

One morning we were about to do a deep water CTD cast, and Orest asked me if I wanted to run it. Running it consists of communicating with the winch operator letting know what depths we need to go to and at what speed we want the CTD moving through the water column. This was pretty exciting for me because I never had this opportunity before.

Katie and I stayed up one night to help Brendan with a sonar survey/learn the process of doing a sonar survey. Sleep is a very relative concept on this ship, so we stayed up all night and finally went to bed at 7am. Katie worked off of a half hour nap and I worked off of no sleep. I was pretty tired that morning, so when I stumbled upon crayons and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coloring book, you bet I colored a page in that. Besides the delusion, Katie and I did learn a bunch about surveying and hopefully we could run one under the guidance of Brendan in the upcoming legs of the cruise.

Pretty much all of us students one night went up to the bow to go stargazing; there wasn’t enough room on the bow seat so Malea and I laid on the deck right in front of the seat. We were in our own little world down there, and we saw a bunch of shooting stars, and then we saw this really bright flashing thing shooting across the sky. Not going to lie, we had no idea what it was. We knew what satellites look like when they fly across the sky,  and this kind of looked like that but not really. So when we got back inside we asked everybody if satellites flashed/blinked, and everybody said they didn’t think so. So here I am trying to suppress my thoughts that it was a UFO, and nobody is assuring me it wasn’t. However, I did some researching on the most reliable Internet and there were plenty of pages that popped up on my Google search that said due to some satellites rotation and the sun’s angle, it can appear as if the satellites are flashing as they move across the sky.

At Southern Hydrate RIdge, Deb mentioned that there was no physical evidence (e.g. bacterial mat development) explaining why the snails picked that specific location for the large Neptunea garden, but that perhaps it was a function of hydrogen sulfide concentrations.  I suggested that we take push core samples there. So when we visited the garden we took a push core in and outside of the fields. Rick and I analyzed them and found the perfect modeler’s clay at the base of the push cores and we fashioned mini clay balls to keep from the core.

July 8

This morning I saw a whole bunch of vents!!!!! Last year on the cruise, I didn’t get a chance to see any vents because I was on the leg that did work around Southern Hydrate Ridge, not Axia Seamountl. It was amazing to see the diverse community created by these vents that eject wicked hot fluid into the water column. I took a bunch of pictures of the vents from the screen where ROPOS’ Zeus camera streams. The quality of taking a picture from a screen is quite limited but it was worth it.

The ocean for the past few days has been the most enchanting blue I have ever seen. No picture I have taken has accurately captured the color, but you must believe me when I say it was enchanting.

I helped breakdown an osmo sampler from the ASHES vent field today. There was some corrosion on the metal parts of it and what ever did the corroding made the metal look like a sponge on small parts of it.

Currently, I am working on 4 hours of sleep. Which is a lot more than many other people on the ship. Work on a ship is nonstop around the clock; it does not stop for anyone. That means that sleep can be put on the back burner.

July 7

The program I need for my data processing now works! It’s the minor victories in life, but now I am working on how to open the data in the program ☺ one step at a time. I have the manual to the program so I am going to have to study that intensely to figure it out. Also in preparation for my data processing I am reading some papers involving hydrate and chirp data, and I am taking copious notes.

I helped out with deploying and recovering the CTD rosette, as well as helped collected samples that will in turn help calibrate other sensors.  My favorite part of helping out with the CTD is prepping it for the next cast because that means I get to climb on it to cock the niskin bottles. Probably the most exciting biology siting so far happened today! We saw Dall’s porpoises! They are black with a distinctive white belly. Two of them got close to the boat. They were such beautiful creatures and they were surprisingly agile.

July 6

The night of the Fourth, I did end up watching some fireworks from the bow of the ship around the Port Angeles area. It was wicked windy so myself and a few other students tried to position ourselves so we could watch the fireworks while still remaining warm. It was weird, though, the fireworks looked so low to ground, but I guess it seemed that way because we were so far away.

I helped Rick set up an osmo sampler, not a Mosquito.  There are two of these osmo samplers, one was already built when we boarded back in Seattle. One is going to sample subbottom fluid at Hydrate Ridge, and the other is going to sample warm diffuse fluid at the ASHES hydrothermal vent field at Axial.

Two nights ago, there were big waves which made it difficult to sleep. But apparently the waves weren’t actually that big despite my personal opinion. So because of that I took a marvelous nap during the day. Currently, the bane to my existence is the program Kingdom that I am supposed to use to analyze chirp data (data collected from a sonar with varying frequencies). Without that program working, I can’t analyze the data. So I’m crossing my fingers that I have a technological epiphany.

July 4

So today is July 4th, I usually spend Independence Day with the family having a barbeque and lighting off some fireworks, however, today I spent the day aboard the R/V Thompson preparing for a 5-week venture to the ocean depths. Despite the veer from the norm, I thoroughly enjoyed my Fourth of July and my first day kicking off Visions’15.

Since today was the first day I made sure I woke up in time for breakfast. I watched the Thompson steam away from UW, saw drawbridge after drawbridge, and said a quick hello to my dad and stepmom at the Ballard Locks. Once into the Sound we were on station for a number of hours performing tests for ROPOS to make sure it was running smoothly.

After that we were all treated to a celebratory deck top BBQ for the fourth. I’m crossing my fingers that I get to see some fireworks tonight, that will truly make today the Fourth of July. I am excited to embark on this cruise, and to experience what’s yet to come.