Marine Lebrec Blog

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21 Aug 2014

It’s quite extraordinary how in such a small amount of time at sea, so much can be accomplished. We have only had a few delays caused by the weather, but other than that we will have finished everything that was needed to be done on this leg. Today, we are retrieving a temporary mooring and doing another ROPOS dive later this evening. Apparently, we will even have about 30 hours of ‘free time’ when we are done with our last ROPOS dive, meaning that the crew can either work on mosaicking (mapping of the sea floor), practicing to undo a cabled profiler, work on CTD casts, or survey methane bubble plumes. This seems like a difficult logistical decision, considering John must choose which solution would be the most beneficial, without spending too much time and doing unnecessary work.

Last night’s dive was absolutely amazing! We saw a Cuckatoo squid, a very odd transparent creature that I had never heard of at all. We also got great footage of a Great Pacific Octopus. I am in awe by how much deep sea biology there is out here, considering the extremely low oxygen concentrations! I very much appreciated Mike’s lecture yesterday about deep sea biology since that is my focus on this expedition. Some of the creatures he showed are so alien to us and are so efficient at surviving in the most extreme conditions. This VISIONS project has definitely persuaded me to continue in the marine biology field.

19 Aug 2014

The past few days have been both very busy but nonetheless extremely fun. I am finding out that time management is crucial on this expedition; I can’t believe we have been at sea for nearly one week and only have a few days until we are back on shore! When I am at school at UW, work is generally assigned with a set due date, so time management is fairly reasonable since I am able to plan ahead. On this cruise however, the schedule is constantly changing due to weather and technical alterations on some of the instruments, so it can be difficult at times to mentally schedule everything I need to do and when I will have time to finish them. Between dives and watches, as well as lectures, meetings, CTD casts, finding time to relax and sleep, and working on my two projects, finding a good amount of time to be productive can be challenging. Being an excellent procrastinator at times, I think learning how to manage my day in this type of working environment is helping me a lot.

Dana Africa showed us her underwater diving photography yesterday from the Galapagos and several other amazing dive spots which absolutely blew me away! I feel so eager to go diving again soon, especially since I will be studying in New Zealand in a few months where I am sure I will get to see some amazing marine biology. Interacting with the crew on board is allowing me to hear some remarkable stories. Skip (the weather master) has taught me a lot about global wind circulation and I am hoping that he has the time to give the students a lecture.

In the past few days, we have been taking water samples from CTD casts in order to measure dissolved oxygen concentrations, and we will also be using these samples to find the amount of methane at different depths in the water column, which is all coming from methane plumes on the sea floor. The weather yesterday was very windy, but it looks like today is a bit calmer conditions are we are currently doing a ROPOS dive.

15 Aug 2014

John Delaney’s lecture two days ago was very inspiring as someone just starting in the ocean sciences field. I was especially intrigued by his discussion on science being a form of art and creativity. Having been in a structuralized, traditional education system my whole life, I haven’t had much exposure to the idea of art and science working together. In a Vonnegut novel I recently finished, there is an Einstein quote that I distinctly remember: “physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world”. In all math and science classes I have ever taken, I have been taught that there is only one way to solve a problem, and without knowing this single process, the answer can’t be achieved and the student has essentially ‘failed’. I think it’s extremely important for more professors like John to express to students that scientific questions can be answered in a variety of ways, as long as the process and solution is valid. This insight is definitely something that I will make sure to remember throughout my academic and professional career.

I have spent most of my time watching dive videos from this past year, and looking through biology clips that have been archived from last summer’s cruises. Time on the cruise is flying by and it is a bit scary considering I want to get through every dive video from this year, learn how to use Final Cut, edit the videos, work on descriptions for some species, and work on a video project with Charles. Despite all the time I have spent in front of a computer screen though, I was able to set up my hammock on the bow of the ship and listen to music during the few hours of sunshine.

It is quite amazing the different kinds of people that I have interacted with on this cruise. I’ve learned so much in the past few days, ranging from methane plumes on the sea floor, hydrothermal systems in Crater Lake, video editing techniques, extraterrestrial oceans, and of course the OOI project and how it works.  

13 Aug 2014

I have spent most of the day getting a sense of what project I want to focus on during these next 11 days. With the limited data as well as time that we have on board, completing a scientific project would be a bit difficult. Because I am so interested in the biology of the water, I want to spend most of this voyage looking at the biota in the deep sea of this region. The past few legs have documented the species captured by the ROPOS cameras by using still-shot images of the creatures along with brief descriptions of the animals. I noticed that a few very short videos were made of some species from the ROPOS footage. I hope to look through past dives to gather footage for most of the animals that have been identified. The goal is to have an online database with descriptions, pictures, and short (15 second) videos of the animals seen in the benthic environment. I imagine that the biota along the continental shelf will be much different than at the very deep sites around Axial. I am very much looking forward to interacting with some biologists on board in order to gain some knowledge about the biology. I sent out an email to a student that was a part of this project during past legs in hopes of figuring out exactly how I need to document these species so that I can get started as soon as possible.

Life on board has so far been very different from the last time I was on the Thompson last summer for a few days. This trip is definitely a lot more hectic which makes sense considering the importance of this immense project and the amount of time (and money) that has been put into this. We spotted a small whale earlier today, as well as two little sharks that were right next to the ship! The weather has been very calm, making the first ROPOS descent fairly easy.

I am very excited to be in the control room tomorrow morning to see how the controlling of ROPOS works and to learn a lot more about the OOI goals for this leg. I also can’t wait for some good weather and more beautiful scenery!!