A Very Successful First Two Legs of VISIONS18

VISIONS 18    LEGS 1 & 2     JUNE 23-JULY 12   By Julie Nelson, Grays Harbor College

The VISIONS18 Expedition began with arrival at the UW Ocean Teaching Building parking lot to pick up students who were participating on Leg 1.  We then drove 6 hrs to Newport Oregon where the R/V Revelle was docked.  The drive down was the beginning of a new relationship between the students themselves, and also the members of the science, engineering, and the ship’s crew. 

The Cabled Array is in it’s maintenance and operation phase, so the major focus of VISIONS 18 involves the deployment and recovery of many, many instruments that provide vital information about the ocean.  We were all over the Cabled Array, from the turning of the Benthic Experiment Package (BEP) at the Oregon Offshore Site, to Slope Base to turn components on the Shallow Profiler Mooring, and at the Southern Hydrate Ridge (SHR) methane seep site where a mass spectrometer, digital camera, and a current meter were turned. There were also new installations that occurred during Leg 1 and Leg 2. Novel state-of-the-art SONAR instruments developed by German Scientist were installed onto the Cabled Array at the SHR site during Leg 1 that will give the community an unprecedented 'look' at numerous plumes of methane-rich bubbles that rise hundreds of meters into the water column.

Leg 2 saw the installation of a few new instruments, and some fluid testing.  An SCTA (Self Calibrating Tilt Accelerometer – William Wilock, University of Washington), or “skipper” and SCPR (Self Calibrating Pressure Recorder – Glen Sasagawa and Mark Zumberge, UC San Diego) were installed in Axial’s Central Caldera; these two instruments will provide new views into how the summit of Axial Seamount deforms as melt migrates within the volcano and associated seafloor deformation.  Fluid flow measurements were also performed at Axial on the chimney known as Inferno, where fluids reached nearly 300°C 

Leg 2 students were treated to a trip out to Axial Seamount, and the hydrothermal vent fields. They got to see El Guapo, a hydrothermal vent chimney that is 16 m tall.  It was beautiful.  Plumes of hot hydrothermal vent fluid spewed from the summit of the chimney – looking flames in the dark ocean waters nearly 1 mile beneath the surface. The metal sulfide chimney was covered with tube worms, scale worms, protists, and bacteria capable of metabolizing hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide as their food source.  What an awesome experience.  We are so fortunate to be a part of this wonderful happening that 99.9% of the population will never experience. 

Students were eager to learn about everything!!!  In addition to data and video logging in the Jason Control Van, the student participants helped or participated in as many activities as they could find.  They helped assemble instruments to ready them for deployment.  They scrubbed anemones, barnacles and vegetation from BEPs, cameras, profilers, and J Boxes recovered from the ocean floor.  They participated during the deployment of CTDs, a device that collects water samples throughout the water column.  No task was beneath them.  They also made themselves known to the ship’s crew.  They asked questions about their work and their lives aboard the ship.  The lead engineer Ray Rodriguez, provided a tour of the Engine Room and the students were in awe of the massive engines that run the ship.  Ben Tradd lead the students on a tour of Jason, the ROV that dives down to the sea floor to deploy and recover the instruments, and the Captain, Dave Murline, gave the students a tour of the Bridge!  They were amazed at the technology on the bridge.  They expected mechanical devices that steer and control the ship.  Instead, they were shown that the ship is pretty much controlled by computer, and is almost, but not quite, an autonomous vehicle!!!!

The VISIONS experience changes people’s lives!  It doesn’t only affect the students’ educational future, it affects their personal lives as well.  They work together, eat together, sleep together, and play together, 24-7, for anywhere from 7-15 days, or longer!  These experiences allow the students to form bonds that for many shape the rest of their lives! 

Now onto Leg 3, as we depart for another adventure tomorrow with a new cohort of students.

VISIONS has certainly changed my life. This is the highlight of my career, in the twilight of my career! Thank you, John Delaney for introducing me to VISIONS, and thank you Deb Kelley, for allowing me to continue.