Malea Sauls Blog

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In the past twenty-four hours I feel like I have been incredibly productive, probably the most productive I have been in a single day on this ship. I worked from late on the 31st into the early morning hours creating graphics to be used in my hydrothermal vent animation project while simultaneously watching The Legend of 1900, which, in my opinion, was an incredibly amazing movie. ROPOS was on a weather hold when my watch started at  0400, because of large swells, so I decided to go to sleep for a little nap, only to be woken up an hour later with news that we were about to dive. I got up feeling rested and rejuvenated and ready to get logging, however, news soon came that we would continue to wait for weather to get better and wouldn’t be diving until after breakfast at the earliest. Completely awake by 0600, I got to work loading the footage that I rendered yesterday onto my hard drive and organizing my different project files. As more time on this ship passes, organization is turning out to be a complete necessity; if I don’t stay organized now, I know that working on my projects later will be a complete disaster.

After I finished organizing my stuff, I made my way up to the galley for breakfast with a few fellow students, who all disappeared into their cabins to sleep afterwards. Not tired at all, I wandered up to the bridge and spent a good couple of hours talking to Josh, the third mate, and reading a very long, but interesting, paper on the geology in the region to prepare for my mapping project that I will continue throughout the next year. I have found that the bridge has become a peaceful hideaway hangout place for me as it has a very calm and quiet environment, unlike many other places on this ship. After a delicious lunch, I brainstormed a few interview questions with Lauren for our video project and then retired to my bed for another nap. However, as soon as I was comfortable in bed, the fire alarm went off, tearing me from my peaceful state and dragging me up to the main lab to get checked off. As the commotion ended, I went back to my bed and got in about an hour of sleep before our student meeting where we discussed our projects. Directly after the meeting I found myself back in bed taking another short nap until dinner time. Though I got a few hours of sleep in, they were constantly interrupted, so I’m guessing tomorrow I will be incredibly tired and will hopefully get some rest.

After dinner, Lauren and I set out to get some of our interview project completed. We sat on the bow and interviewed Trina, an engineer with UW’s Applied Physics Lab, and learned all about her love for the ocean and her path to get where she is today.  We then went up to the bridge and interviewed Josh about his experiences working as a Mate. The two interviews ended up being very different, but equally awesome. I can’t seem to emphasize enough how incredible people aboard this ship are, I am constantly inspired by their passion for what they do and the motivation they have for science and exploration.

As a nice ending to the day, Kearstin, Lauren and I went down to the engine room and visited with Doug, an engineer. We ended up taking temperature measurements of our mouths with a cool laser temperature monitor thing and having a mini dance party with flashlights.

Though I said I was extremely productive today, after writing it all out, it really doesn’t seem like much. I worked quite a bit on my projects, spent a good amount of time socializing and enjoying the ship life and got in a few hours of sleep here and there, which all added up to what I would call a pretty great day.

So with that I shall finish my blog for the day with a poem about the moon that Kearstin and I wrote last night, I hope you enjoy it!

Ode to the Blue Moon
Oh Blue Moon, how you glimmer and shine,
your reflection whirls with each passing wave.

July 31

After a week and a half on shore, I am so happy to be back on the Thompson! Throughout my time off, I felt like the ocean was calling me. There was nothing as exciting to do on land compared to what I had experienced on Leg 1, so I am thrilled that I get a second opportunity to be aboard this ship for the last part of this excursion!

In the past day I have been trying to get back in the groove of ship life and settling back into the motion of the water. We spent the night docked in Newport, awaiting the morning high tide so we could steam past the jetty. I enjoyed catching up with everyone I met throughout the first leg and getting to know the new people who are joining in for this last segment as we all waited to depart. I am trying to readjust my eating and sleeping schedules to fit with my 0400 – 0800 watch assignment that will begin tonight, but that is proving to be pretty difficult because the early morning is an incredibly awkward time to have to be awake for me.

In my hours awake, I have started researching more into my mapping project and rendering footage to be used in my video project that will show an animation of hydrothermal vent cycling. I am anxious to get working on my video projects, but rendering the files is taking an incredibly long time. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have a good start on the editing process.

July 13

Life at sea written in short, stumpy sentences:
The water is alive.
I like staring at the water.
The water movement is mesmerizing.
There is a lot of water.
The sea is very calm.
I want to jump in.
We are constantly in motion.
Our plans are constantly in motion.
Our bodies are constantly in motion.
We get tired, but don’t sleep.
I am surprisingly alive for not sleeping.
I am surprisingly alive at sea.

July 12

It’s hard for me to blog about this trip, because I find that most everything that I am experiencing can’t be expressed properly in words. The opportunity that I have been given to be aboard this ship is so remarkable and extraordinary, that I feel even trying to capture the essence of it will do it injustice. I feel thankful for this ship and the people on it and the experiences, skills and friends that I am gaining. It is a unique experience as an undergraduate to get time on research vessels, witness what life is like at sea and actually conduct our own research.

I have been spending a lot of time working on my projects, learning from the people around me, and reflecting upon my life.  Even though we have a lot to do, this boat is giving me a lot of time to think as well, which is good, but also scary. The people on this ship are incredibly eminent people. It seems like everyone I talk to has made their life exactly what they want it to be. They enjoy what they do, they have passion for what they do. It’s truly inspiring and makes me wonder if someday I will find that happiness and passion too.

July 9

As more and more time passes, it becomes more and more difficult to write about my time on this boat. I find myself thinking about how I should be blogging, but instead end up helping people with projects, learning about the mission, and getting to know these incredible people. I am trying to live in the moment and soak in all that I can, but taking this minute to reflect on all that has happened these past few days and write it out, solidifies my experience even more. However, for fair warning, so many things are happening every day, there is no way to possibly capture it all in writing.  

First, and most important, I saw sharks! The first swam by the camera while I was on watch and as soon as I saw it, I definitely screamed. I didn’t screech (I don’t think), more of just a “SHARK!” After the fact, I realized that my reaction may not have been the most appropriate for the environment I was in—surrounded by scientists and engineers—but there was no taking it back. The second shark I saw was at the surface, which was definitely cooler than seeing one through the camera. Jessie and I were sitting on the bow of the boat, enjoying the calm ocean and talking about how cool water is, when all of a sudden the shark just showed up and swam around for a while. I wish I could be telling you all about this in person, because those twelve hours that contained two shark sightings might just be the best twelve hours of my life! I have dreamed about seeing sharks (from a safe distance of course) and I finally did! They are so majestically fierce and beautifully mysterious!

Besides sharks, we have also been seeing other amazing views at our current site, ASHES, which is a field of hydrothermal vents. It’s amazing watching the water swirl in heat waves and thinking about the life that survives in such an extreme environment. I like to think that the organisms could sense our presence, but I was told that was very unlikely. I find myself at a loss of words to describe these vents and their astonishing power, so I’ll try to find some photos to add to my next blog for all to see.

In time not spent watching the cameras underwater, I have been helping to filter chlorophyll samples from our CTD casts that will be analyzed back on shore. It’s fun and it’s science, but it’s a little repetitive. Oh, and Diana and I dressed like twins the other day, so we took a twinsie photo!

July 6

Starting at midnight, Kearstin and I had our first, four hour, on watch shift. We, as students, are in charge of taking photos of any and everything that looks cool or alive and logging the events of the dive. We had recently just arrived at Slope Base and were just beginning the dive at the start of our watch. I logged “ROPOS in water” and that remained my only log for my shift. It took them the entire shift, and a bit more, to complete the first descent, because they had to stretch out the new umbilical cord that is attached to the ROPOS vehicle. The middle of the night shift could have been really boring, but we managed to talk to each other and other people in the ROPOS control room the entire four hours, so the time actually passed fairly fast. Not only have I been learning a ton about our mission and oceanography in general, but I have also been loving hearing all of the crew’s stories about being out at sea and learning how different people got to where they are today.

Also, life update: I have discovered/further developed my dream job. Since I was young, the idea of being an underwater photographer/videographer seemed like the coolest job that I could ever have. Though, after multiple people telling me how photography is better left as a hobby, not as a career, I decided to take a more science based approach to life.  However, now I know of Ed’s job! A photographer and videographer with a research and ocean exploration focus, capturing footage on research dives and cruises. I WANT TO DO THAT WITH MY LIFE! For now I’m ignoring the fact that there are very, very, very few jobs that exist like that.


July 5

The story of my day today revolves around one idea: sea sickness. I have yet to actually get sea sick, but the fear is overwhelming, primarily because I am deathly scared of throwing up. So of course, all of last night, as we hit rough water and started bobbing up and down more intensely than we were in the sound, I sat in my bed imagining the worst case scenario of how our boat was in an incredibly horrible storm, we were crashing through HUGE waves and water was going everywhere. To add to the intensity of the night, every few minutes in my room there would be a big bang from somewhere close, so if I was asleep or close to being asleep, I would wake up completely. I imagined some huge piece of equipment sliding across the floor and hitting the side of the boat and waited for the moment when water would come rushing in and take me off to sea, but luckily, that didn’t happen. Of course, the weather was actually fine and nothing bad happened, but when I am sitting in my bunk in a room with no window, hearing the water pass by and large things pounding everywhere (still not sure what that is), my imagination goes crazy. In the very few moments when I realized that I was probably just imagining everything terrible and that we were really okay, I would remember that I brought ear plugs to help me sleep. However, the ear plugs were in my backpack, which was in my locker, which would require me to stand up and for some reason (probably stories from earlier that day), I was convinced in my sleepy state that as soon as I stood up, I would get sea sick. So, I suffered through the night with a wild imagination and fear of moving and as a result, slept most of the day.

I was woken up around 1400 to get a tour of our duty station where we students will have watch. My time for watch is from midnight to 0400, so it’s probably good that I slept all morning. I’m still not quite sure what to expect while on watch, but I will know come tomorrow!

At dinner a few students and I sat next to the lead engineer on the boat and he told us some of his most intense stories from his career. His main story was about a time when he was younger and was travelling on a 900ft cargo vessel and got caught in a storm in the North Atlantic for four days with waves ranging 90-100 ft in size that would crash over half the boat! A few of their engines had broken and they were working around the clock to fix them. The one remaining working engine, he said, could never be turned off, because if it was, the boat would turn and capsize. To top it all off, at one point during that four days a hatch in the bow swung open and two crew members had to run up and close it, timing their running with the waves and holding onto whatever they could so they wouldn’t get swept away. Luckily, they made it out of the storm okay, but he said the cargo containers that were on the ship were crushed like tin foil. So pretty much, my dreams and imagined scenarios from the previous night were actual lived experiences for him! I’m glad that I don’t have to experience that… for this trip at least.

July 4, 2015

Independence Day in America is always a highly festive day. Clothing choices primarily consist of garments colored red, white, and blue, American flags are flown for all to see, and people all over the country flock to local parks or beaches to gaze upon the beauty of fireworks, our nation’s traditional way of showing our pride. Knowing all this and witnessing the huge firework celebrations growing up, I thought that travelling via boat up the Puget Sound would yield an incredible evening full of large fireworks from all the different towns we’d be passing and national anthems. However, this was not what we experienced. Instead, each firework that went off was barely visible, tiny flashes along the coast that were more easily missed than seen. If positivity is to prevail, I guess I’m happy that my Fourth of July turned out this way, because I learned from experience how wide the Puget Sound actually is (yay learning!).

Overall my fourth was pretty laid back. Besides a few general meetings to cover safety and discuss our projects, the whole day was spent relaxing, talking to people, and fearing the night when the sea sickness was probably going to start. We had a nice BBQ dinner (there is a barbeque on board! Who knew?) and some of us students sat on the bow eating and talking as the boat steamed up the sound. It is interesting talking to fellow students on board about their projects and seeing the potential for research of my own. I still have very few ideas about what exactly I want to research, but people are being helpful in brainstorming with me. Hopefully within the next couple of days as we reach our destination, I’ll have a cool project to work on. For right now I’m trying to focus on learning all I can about hydrothermal vents, because they are super rad. Perhaps I’ll produce a video on the biology around the vents or work with another student on a video talking about the first life (believed to have occurred around vents), but at the moment I am still unsure. So for now I’ll keep learning all that I can and bouncing ideas off of people, and hopefully not be getting seasick!