Ramya Ravichandran Asha

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View of the Jason Control Van as the vehicle works in the vent field surveying the chimney called ‘Hell’. Credit: Ramya Ravichandran Asha, University of Washington, V19.

June 16, 2019 Day 4 of Sailing:

Today, we went to Hell and back. (I mean the hydrothermal vent named ‘Hell’ of course.)

After eating breakfast, I went in the Jason Control Van and saw several jellyfish as Jason made its descent. Finally, Jason reached the sea floor at a depth of 1,536 meters.

We are currently at the southwest corner of the Axial caldera at a site aptly named ASHES (Axial Seamount Hydrothermal Emissions Study) Vent Field. The volcanic landscape is truly surreal, with cracks in the ocean floor along with large hydrothermal chimneys that jut out like bizarre termite mounds. I learned that when the water appeared to oscillate in places, it was due to the super-heated fluid that was coming out of the cracks and vents in the chimneys.

The names of the chimneys are equally bizarre; from Hell, Inferno and Medusa to Fuzzy Tubeworm Bush, Marshmallow and Mushroom among others. Contrary to the hellish nature of this harsh environment, however, life thrives in abundance. We saw large communities of healthy red tubeworms growing on some of the chimneys and  an octopus cleverly camouflaging itself.

During my shift, we did a survey of a vent named Mushroom by turning off all of Jason’s lights such that only the lights on the newly installed HD camera lit up the chimney. This made Mushroom contrast with the ocean water around it, which appeared pitch black. We also recovered a two tripods with temperature sensors that were deployed last year and a fluid sampler, as well as recovering the HD camera installed in 2018.

Imaging healthy tubeworms on the hydrothermal chimney ‘Inferno’ as viewed Jason Control Van. Credit: Ramya Ravichandran Asha, University of Washington, V19.

In the evening, Paul taught Katie Hill and I how to tie different types of bowline knots in the Main Lab. After he demonstrated tying it over and over again for me, I think I finally succeeded in tying a bowline properly for the first time. He tied the knots on a length of line, gave me a spare length of line to practice with, and told me to let him know if I had any questions. I’m determined to learn how to tie a couple different knots before the cruise ends!

June 15, 2019 Day 3 of Sailing:

After waking up, I went up to the deck and saw that the fog near the horizon seemed to make the sky and sea look like they were blending into each other. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Credit: Ramya Ravichandran Asha, University of Washington, V19

I was in the Jason Control Van for most of the day today either observing dives or actively logging during my shift. In the morning, I observed a dive in which Jason dove 2,600 meters down to the ocean floor. What surprised me most was the sheer number of brittle stars that lived on Axial Base; in fact, there didn’t seem to be a single square foot that wasn’t inhabited by them. I have yet to find out why they seem to prefer this particular environment so much.

At 1300 hours, we went on a tour of the engine room with JT Walsh who is the chief engineer of the ship. It was really interesting to hear about the many different ways in which the ship could be steered from the engine room in case there was an emergency on the bridge. We also saw the area where Alvin laid hibernating under a blue sheet. Alvin was much bigger in real life than I thought it would be.

Credit: Ramya Ravichandran Asha, University of Washington, V19

At 2000 hours, I found myself drawn to the deck by the brightness of the sunlight. The ship’s first engineer even pointed out some whales on the starboard side of the ship to me (unfortunately, he left before I could ask him what his name was). They were so far away that they looked like black dots in the distance but we were happy to have seen them regardless.

Just now at about 2330 hours, a couple of my friends and I were outside huddled together on the bow of the ship hoping to observe some nocturnal phenomena. It was very cold and windy, but we were able to identify some of the constellations above us (Kellen had a stargazing app on his phone). The moon shined above us like a flashlight in the sky, and we saw its light catch on the ocean’s surface like glittering diamonds.

June 14 2019 – Day 2 of Sailing:

Water. Water everywhere.

ROV Jason ready for a dive on the Cabled Array 2019 Expedition Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V19

I was out on the deck this morning after waking up at 0600 and unlike the previous mornings, there was not a single life form to be seen despite which way I turned. However, I knew that the blue waters of the ocean below me were teeming with life.

I noticed that ROV Jason was in the water, and I suddenly realized how unbelievable it was to be able to be a part of the ship’s ecosystem. Jason had been deployed throughout the night yet not once have I ever heard a single person complain about being awake in the middle of the night. Regardless of the path that led them to work on the Atlantis, everyone here truly loves what they are doing, and I find that remarkable. I wish that working on land could inspire the same amount of drive and tenacity, but I understand that it difficult to replicate the camaraderie that employees on a ship experience. For one month, almost everyone here will work, eat, sleep and have fun together in the same ship. Everyone genuinely trusts each other with their lives.

When I went to observe in the Jason Control Van, I saw a platform whose real estate seemed to have been rented out to a crab, a sea anemone, several brittle stars and a lot of green growth.

We held our first student meeting in the library where we discussed our projects and planned to ask people to come to future meetings and speak to us. In addition, we hope to organize tours to the bridge and to the engine room.

During our shift, Stephen and I power washed the Science Pod along with some other instruments as we were in transit to Axial Base. Some dolphins swam beside the ship as we did so. Eventually, the wind picked up so much that I felt like I could lean back and the wind literally “had my back”.

I am currently in the Lounge right now typing this as my fellow friends and Orest watch the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, following a decision made on the first day that we would watch this movie on the ship. A fitting decision indeed, the “theatre” has surround sound to go with special effects such as a floor that rocks like a sailing ship. ūüôā

(If this blog post appears to be simply stating facts, it is because it is a reflection of myself currently. I am drowsy after taking seasickness medication and I feel like I have no feelings with which I should mesh these various points together. Hopefully, I will gain my sea legs soon.)