Carlos Arcilas Blog

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August 1, 2017

Today I have been taken back to chemistry 101 with Julie Nelson. Well, I took Chemistry part 1 and 2, three years ago so I was thinking that I had lost everything about the subject, but this was not the case at all. I remembered almost everything when our chemist shipmate was explaining some chemical reactions and lab procedures. I guess it’s right when they say, “ A lesson well learned is never forgotten”. We were employing the Winkler procedure to determine the dissolved oxygen in samples that were taken at various depths using the CTD instrument. This method uses an automated titration system. Wait, I now remember that I have done this before. The only thing is that it was a way more difficult task because of the cheap instruments we had to use back at my university’s labs. It was really amazing how we could see the correlation of depth and dissolved oxygen concentration at practice and not just by theory.

I love how Julie has the patience for all of our questions. Sometimes you are just afraid to ask because the fear that they will think you are dumb or you are “supposed to know this”.  But, it is not the case here since almost everyone is willing to explain and help. Realizing that we only have 6 days left gets me anxious. Well, I will make the most of the remaining days.

July 31, 2017

So today it was one of the most incredible days in my entire life. As usual I got to do my watch shift at 0400 in the Jason control van. The mission for the Jason crew was to deploy and rearrange the location of some instrument. Some of them were the hydrophone and a Junction Box. It is very interesting how these J-boxes have the potential to receive and pass 375 V (volts) to other specialized equipment. They definitely play a crucial role in the Cabled Array.

As the day passed by we were headed to Axial Caldera in a 2-hour transit. Just thinking that we were positioned above an underwater volcano just makes me feel speechless. There the ROV Jason had a naked dive for almost 6 hours and took all of us on an underwater tour across the International District Hydrothermal Field. Here, we could see Jason exploring some hydrothermal vent systems. Some of the sites we could see in the Jason Control Van were El Gordo, Tiny Towers, Escargo, 9 mm Chimneys, Pagoda, El Guapo, Village Point, and Skadi. As we immersed in this hidden world we could appreciate some rare deep-sea creatures, bacterial communities that are constantly reducing sulfured compounds, and some geological structures that looked like sunken cities, they were just incredible. As the tour continued Deborah was educating us about hydrothermal vents, lava flow, and basalt pillars. At this moment I could not be more excited. Since I had seen many expeditions online, being able to view this happening, was a dream come true.

So, the dive ended and we all got dinner. After this, I took the best nap in the floor of the starboard of the ship hearing the waves and feeling the breeze. I woke up and watched the sunset with shipmates Eve and Hanis. Because of all these events, I call this one of the best days of my timeline on Earth.

July 30, 2017

This morning was the beginning of a very busy day. I began my watch shift and first we did a CTD cast at least at 2600 meters. We got to collect chlorophyll, salinity, oxygen, and nutrient samples from the CTD. Later I went into the Jason control van and my duty was taking snap shots of the crucial steps of the dive and also controlling the live stream that shows what’s being done here. It was almost an 8-hour dive from the ROV Jason. Later that day the engineers and scientists had a problem with one of the science pods that periodically surfaces from 200 meters to just below the surface of the ocean. The mission for the dive was recovering the winched science pod, that included cutting the cable that holds attaches it to the winch. The instrument package surfaced and the ship went to recover it. First I thought it would be a difficult chore, but then I was told that the instrument package could be located with GPS. The fun part of this was that when they recovered it, all of the students went on deck to clean it. The smell of the decaying animals that had adhered to it was pretty intense, but it was all laughs and a unique experience. Well, you don’t get to clean a multi million dollar instrument every day.

Becasue the instruments were covered in sea life, we removed some of them. There were sea urchins, feather stars, anemones and also some crustaceans. This was just a small glimpse of the diversity you can find below the surface waters, at the mysterious depths of the vast ocean. From here on out only good things are showing up and all the work is just turning to be very interesting and exciting. I can’t wait for the adventures that tomorrow will hold.

July 29, 2017

So today I did my first watch. Woke up for the 0004 watch and went for a cup of coffee and headed straight to the Jason control van. Since they already gave us (the students) a tour, I was kind of familiarized with the screens and equipment. My job this morning consisted of taking snap shots of an active live stream that at the moment was showing Jason deploying a Junction Box, and a hydrophone that records acoustic waves. While performing this mission, the ROV had some particular encounters with some marine species. Some of the species I can name were: an ugly fish (that’s what they call this rare species), octopus, many deep-water fishes, and also some sea cucumbers. I have been always interested in marine organisms and it is awesome how you can see the many differences of deep-water species versus shallow water species from the Caribbean that I know well.

At the moment I felt like it couldn’t get any better until the boat needed to change its position for the recover of the J-Box and the captain announced that this feat could not be done because of the sudden appearance of dolphins in the area.  My shipmate Willem and I went for a 5-minute break to go watch these marine mammals. Once at the ships bow, we actually saw lots of Dall’s porpoises that are endemic to the North Pacific waters. For me it was just magnificent to be able to see these creatures that once were the most hunted and killed cetacean species in the world just by by-catch. These new experiences complemented with a beautiful sunrise were just as awesome as the may sound. Like the usual, we ate delicious food and later we helped on deck with some chores. Then we departed to Axial Seamount in a 19-hour transit. From here and on we will continue this adventure.

July 28, 2017

My first two days on the ship have been a conglomerate of emotions. I could say that I have fulfilled my dream since I always wanted to be in a place like this. Yes, It is my first time on a research vessel and everything is way better than I could have ever imagined. The shipmates are spectacular and I’m getting to know different people every day that has passed. Also, the food has exceeded my expectations, but that may be just the magic and touch of the cooks.  One thing that is always happening here is the incredible amount of work that everyone is doing and believe me, you can just feel it in the air. I realized that labor was always in play when I got announced of my daily watch at 4 am. That may sound like a little hard task, but it’s just a perfect time to work since it is a little bit more silent and calm around the ship.

All the equipment and instruments that are being utilized for the Cabled Array are very impressive in pictures. But being able to see all of them on deck just leaves me in awe since they are pretty huge and also heavy. I got the chance to see almost all of the ship labs and control rooms and the Jason control van makes you feel like you are on space. Although, for me this is way much better than being in space, although that may be just a matter of perspective. Now that time is passing by I’m getting to understand a lot of things and one of those is that I have not “completed a dream”. Nevertheless, this is just the beginning of it and that is thrilling.