21 Aug 2014
Last night, I had watch from 2000-2400. While on watch I write the log for the ROV dive which is like writing the closed captioning for a video. The dive was to be a quick operation to recover a navigational beacon and conduct a calibration test on the seafloor. However it quickly turned into one of the best dives I have ever seen due to the surprisingly diverse and abundant biology. The first unique organism was a tiny red squid floating in the water column. I assumed it would avoid our bright lights but instead it changed its pigmentation from red to clear. While it was clear, we zoomed in close enough to observe its delicate internal organs. I was baffled that we captured such fine details of an organism which would normally flee from our presence. The squid gently floated away and we continued with our dive. Later, the ROV driver paused on the seafloor to watch a hagfish in spite of many people expressing unenthusiastic remarks of observing a very common and boring organism. The hagfish was simply rooting along on the seafloor which wasn’t exciting. Everyone was grumbling with disapproving tones but stopped when a sablefish was observed in the distance. All of a sudden, the sablefish bolted towards the hagfish with its mouth wide open. We all stared at the monitors as we silently cheered for the sablefish to attack. The sablefish tricked us all by abruptly stopping and simply sitting on the seafloor beside the hagfish. We waited for another minute, realized that nothing interesting was going to happen, and moved on. We continued seeing exciting organisms such as cat sharks, snail fish, soft corals, decorator crabs, and beautiful ctenophores. As the ROV zoomed just above the seafloor, we saw an odd shape in the distance. It looked like a mound of rough sand however when we moved closer we realized it was an octopus. It slowly became increasingly red, ballooned with extra water, and finally jetted off into the distance.
18 Aug 2014
The students regularly gather at 1400 in the library to hear lectures from the unique people aboard the vessel. Typically we have scientists or engineers discuss the work we are conducting on the cabled observatory. Today we had a unique special guest, Dana Africa who is an AB (which stands for able-bodied seamen), sharing her dive photos with us. It was one of the most memorable and inspiring guests we have had yet. I stared slack-jawed as each photo appeared on the screen, better than the last. In Thailand, fish were perfectly camouflaged behind a background of textured and colorful corals. In Papua New Guinea, Dr. Seuss-like nudibranchs slid between lush sponges and vibrant tunicates. Dana’s enthusiasm and passion was expressed as each new image would bring a smile to her face or story to share. She had pictures of tiny purple pygmy seahorses delicately latched to fan corals and a pregnant whale shark gliding above with her daughter captured moving up for a closer look. Each image left me in awe of the beauty and diverse life present on Earth. The striking images upwelled a sense of adventure and creativity in me. I suddenly had the urge to jump out of my seat, pack a backpack, and run to the airport to explore some new country by myself. In reality it was dinnertime and I was hungry, so I will have to leave my traveling dreams for another day. Who knows, maybe a world adventure trip is in my future after graduation.
14 Aug 2014
As a second year student on the VISIONS expedition, I am surprised by how easily I return to livingaboard a vessel. Many faces of the crew and science party remain the same, which is a welcome familiarity. Also, I have a better knowledge of the ship layout, ROV logging protocol, and daily life at sea. However, I am still surprised at how the length of a day feels while living on a research vessel. Even as a returning student there is so much to learn and observe that at dinner you find yourself discussing events from ‘yesterday’ that in reality had occurred that morning. At the same time sleep goes by in a flash, meal times sneak up on you, and project deadlines come too quickly. Living aboard a research vessel is an amazing experience and a joy to be apart of. This expedition has already been defined by many successful instrument deployments, news of being able to plug into the primary infrastructure, and contagious enthusiasm. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing expedition for a second year and excited to see what will happen next.