Stephen Bray

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A Graneledone Octopus ignores ROPOS at El Guapo hydrothermal vent on Axial Seamount’s caldera.  Photo credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; Dive R1723; V14

July 17, 2019:

What is this blog number five? Sure, why not I’m sticking with it. Anyways, today was pretty busy overall so taking some time off during the transit is a nice break. Even with the busy day, it actually started out slow after breakfast so I had some time to kill.

I haven’t really been able to work on my project this cruise since I need to download more software that I can’t get out here. Because of this, I decided I would spend some time outside and do some reading. I get really cramped in the ship after a while and love to find any reason to be on the deck. There’s this cool spot on the tip of the bow of the ship that is perfect for sitting down with a good book and with decent weather I thought why not. Since finals week I haven’t really been able to finish the novel I had been reading so it was cool to pick it back up again.

After some lunch I got to listen to a great talk by Mike from the science party about deep ocean history and biology. What a wild place, seriously. At one point we were talking about a squid that had tentacles tens of meters long. There was another fish that had its eyes inside its clear skull –  why does that even exist and how did that happen. Crazy to imagine the evolutionary process on that thing.

This meeting took all the way up until my shift started at 2:00 and I had to run over to the Jason Van to finish up the last dive at Axial. It was a pretty standard dive and I was only there to catch the last 30 minutes or so before I had to run over to prep the CTD. This launch went much better than the one I did a few days ago and was much smoother. I actually knew what rope to grab this time! This was a 2600 m CTD so I had enough time to grab dinner before running back down to recover it. After which we were able to successfully get it on the deck and prep it for sampling on all the bottles. There’s definitely some trick to doing it that I managed to start to figure out by the end.

After finishing all the deck work my shift was over and now I sit here as we transit back to Slope Base. That means we are officially past half way on the trip everyone! Its still all smiles though since we’re not done yet! See ya’ll next time.

July 16, 2019:

Tube worms growing beneath a high temperature ‘chimlet’ on the Inferno black smoker edifice. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V19.

Blog number four coming hot off the presses here on the Atlantis. To be frank I spent most of the day today in the blue metal box that holds the Jason command center, so talking about the weather outside is going to be pretty nonexistent.

Anyways, last night I stayed up a bit later than usual because of the beautiful night so I decided that I would sleep in for a little longer today and wake up at 8:00. I ate a quick breakfast and took a slight walk around the boat before deciding to head into the Jason van to watch the initial decent into ASHES vent field.

At around 1540 m deep, this was also a long dive, but the reward at the end was so much greater. This was the first vent field that we have visited on the trip and also the first one that I have ever seen with my own eyes. After finally reaching the bottom, within minutes of driving away from the undervator, it was possible to see some fantastic vent structures. The life that lived on these rock monoliths looked staggeringly beautiful reflecting the lights of Jason. The tubeworms were a vibrant red color and grew in abundance all over the vents. Alright that’s enough of creative writing for the day I swear.

The new HD camera installed at the Mushroom vent undergoing its first test – lights on. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI; V19.

The dive was long today since we had a lot of items to either install or recover so I only got to work on one during my shift. Either way it was a great dive and we got some amazing 4k footage out. This is seriously some Planet Earth level stuff and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to see it. I’ll leave you with this cool fact though, did you know that there are three levels of twilight? Shoutout to Kellen for the info and if that’s totally not true then blame him. Peace out.

July 15, 2019

Brittle stars abound on the sedimented-seafloor at the base of Axial Seamount. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V19

Lucky day number 3 and we’re back at it again with another blog post. So far today has been the best day on the cruise to date. The water was so still out there and in combination with the clouds it looked like a painting. I’ll get to that later though and start with my day waking up at 7:15 like usual. For some reason I’m completely blanking on what I ate for breakfast, but I know it was pretty good. Still amazes me that I can remember totally useless facts about useless things but forget what I had for breakfast. Anyways, after breakfast I was just in time to watch the start of the dive to Axial Base. I have never seen the bottom of the deep ocean live so I thought it would be really amazing to experience it first hand.

One thing that James Cameron does not show you through in his films is how mind numbingly long it takes to get down there. Lets do some math together everyone! The Jason Control Van lets cable out at a rate of 30 meters per minute and Axial Base has a depth of 2600 meters, how long before Stephen starts playing games on his phone? I kid, honestly watching the metal beast sink to the bottom of the sea was a brilliant feat of engineering to witness. Seeing the ocean floor for the first time was breathtaking.

After this I had the privilege of getting a tour of the engine room. Wow that place is loud, but it’s pretty dang cool. Did you know that the engines actually power generators which power the propellers? That’s my cool fact of the day.

I spent a large part of the rest of the day trying to soak in all the amazing weather. Slight breeze, sun out, few clouds in the sky and no worries. The sunset was absolutely fantastic and the colors were amazing. I have seen some great sunsets and colors in California, but there’s something about 360 degree ocean view that really throws it over the top.

June 14, 2019

VISIONS students stand watches in the Jason control van. Credit: K. Rosburg, University of Washington, V19.

Well here we are again everyone back at it for day two. Overall today has been pretty laid back so this will be a fairly short entry. To start it off I woke up at my usual time right before breakfast to grab some food. Most days I would usually just sleep through it, but the food is too good to miss out on. Seriously the food tastes good enough to make me wake up early. That’s some of the highest complements I can give to breakfast.

After that I took over in the Jason Van for about 30 minutes to relieve the log squad so they could eat too. I stood watch during the recovery time so it wasn’t extremely eventful.

On the topic of cool things though, last night while watching the Jason feed I saw a shark swim right up in front of the camera. I managed to get a picture of it on my phone, but the log feed didn’t have access so the specific camera I needed.

A Shallow Profiler ready for deployment during Leg 2. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington.

The last notable thing I did today was do some pressure washing of the recovered Science Pod from yesterday. Amazing how much life grows on the infrastructure over a year – it’s almost unfortunate to have to wash it all off. To be fair though the smell gets worse exponentially after taking it above the surface.

For the rest of today I’ve been doing pretty much nothing. As I’m writing this I’m watching Pirates of the Caribbean, which syncs up perfectly with being on the ship steaming out to Axial. Its like I’m on a third ship watching all the action.

One last thing since I just thought about it, being on a ship is like being on an airplane with mild turbulence except its forever and you’re free to move about the cabin. Till next time folks.

June 13, 2019:

Alright, so today started off with the major bummer of having to take my CSE 341 final bright and early at 8 am. 8:30 to be exact and as an added bonus we set off out of port at 10:00. This led to the extra challenge to the final of having to work on this test while the ship is moving. Honestly though it actually went better than I expected and when I got to the end of the test I had 10 minutes to spare. At this point I had two choices, either ‘hail mary’ and turn it in early to watch us leave port or check my answers. I think you and I both know the one I went with. RIP grades.

On the completion of the final, I got a bit of entertainment for the rest of my morning. The Oregon Coast out of Newport can have some pretty choppy water which, because of some magic, makes the boat go up and down. This leads to the terrible pain of seasickness. For some reason I was lucky enough to be spared (thanks dramamine), but some others were not so lucky. No more details on this one.

Stephen and Ramya are mentored in CTD sampling. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington.

Once it became 2:00, it was my turn to be on watch. Pretty hectic start, but not bad for day one. We started off rigging up and deploying the CTD in the water and taking measurements at 12 different water levels. I was going to help sample but then they deployed the ROV Jason into the water which I had to be on the logs for. I spent the rest of my time in the control van for Jason, which I gotta say is pretty neat. The screens everywhere were displaying all different camera angles, which made me live out childhood dreams of being in a mission control room. I worked on capturing some video and photos which I hoped turned out pretty well since some were in 4k.

I had to stay a bit longer just to help train the relief, but then I got off and am now eating some cake writing this. All said and done it was a pretty good day 1 at sea. Catch y’all next time.