Bing Yu Lees Blog Leg 2

July 8, 2018

It’s a transit day, 16 hours back to Slope Base. Without busy watches, the main lab became less quiet – filled with noises, which I think mostly from us, the students. Personally, I think it is not easy to see all of us at the same time, given that we all had different watches, but we all gathered today to have a group picture at the fantail of the ship, with ROV Jason in the background.

This reminded me of the end of the first leg when we had a group picture on the front deck. Halfheartedly, I started counting days left at sea. Only 3 more days?!

When Brison interviewed me today about my experience at sea, I had a mixed feeling of sadness and relief. So much that I have learned, the experience has become part of me that I will definitely miss all the moments I have spent on the ship, with these amazing scientists, engineers and crew. On the other hand, bits of relief grow in me as I started missing home, especially when I was asked about what I miss the most from the life on dry land – those days that I get to cook for myself and call my family anytime I want…

Emotion aside, Katie and I had some progress on our project today – we got the interviews done! Looking at the footage of images and videos we have in hand right now, we probably have more than enough resources to make videos about the newly installed pressure sensors and tiltmeter at the Axial Seamount. With that being said, it’s time for us to dive into video editing, which is probably the most challenging part, but I am up for the challenge!

July 7, 2018

Routine starts to creep in as days go by – Wake up at 11 pm, check the dive board in the main lab, grab a cup of coffee and fill my stomach with some food, take the midnight-to-4-pm watch in the control van, back to sleep again, wake up for lunch at 11 am, take watch again from 12 pm to 4 pm, dinner at 5 pm, write blogs, and then nap again…This routine on the ship has totally changed my perspective about life on a research vessel. On the ship, I lost count of days. If it weren’t for the daily blog, probably dates would end up the same too. The ship operates 24-7. No matter what time I was up, I always see someone working, on the deck or in the main lab. The best time to see most of the members on the ship is probably during lunch or dinner time, when stomachs call for food.

On the ship, there’s always new stories to learn, from crews, engineers and scientists. The stories could be about anything: life, hazards, safety, experiences, science, the ROV, families, travels, health, ongoing news etc. What I like the most about them? Probably the way they pop into my knowledge, which happens through random conversations most of the time. Sometimes, I am surprised, when little things like making knots become significant parts of the day.

It’s July 7th, my 16th day on the R/V Roger Revelle. And I am honored to say that I am still enjoying it!

July 5, 2018

It an unusually-packed night in the control van. Seats were almost fully filled, by audience of scientists and engineers who couldn’t wait to witness the beauty of El Guapo. At the same time, sitting in the van at 2.30 am, I was feeling so grateful that I was able to be part of the luckiest groups of humans on Earth.

The El Guapo hydrothermal chimney is unbelievably magnificent. It is majestic, mesmeric, spectacular and splendid…I could list so many adjectives to describe it, but they could never flawlessly describe this miraculous feature in front of my eyes. The El Guapo tower, at least 16 m tall, was crowned the tallest and largest chimney in the International District vent site. Going up to the peak from the bottom, we are seeing changes in the animal community living on the hydrothermal vent, with greenish-brown limpets dominating the middle segment while white tube worms with red plumes dominate the upper segment. Amid the crowd of limpets and tube worms, purplish-red scale worms are probably the winner, in terms of resistance to varying temperature throughout the chimney, as they were caught crawling throughout the whole chimney.

At that moment, I felt blessed, to be a participant on this cruise, to be a geology-oceanography undergraduate studying at the University of Washington. Failing to hold myself from the excitement, I immediately shared the images I took in the control van on one of my social medias. Not too long after, my phone was vibrating, with notifications of questions from my mom and teacher asking me about the weird feature I just posted, and my life on the ship. More to that was my teacher’s request to share those pictures with her fellow students. All of a sudden, I was triggered, with the urge to share my passion for the ocean with more people on the other side of the world. My teacher’s request was definitely out of my expectation, as well as the burning desire in me wanting to share what I just experienced on the R/V Roger Revelle. It’s unbelievable!

“Isn’t that what we want to see?” said Deb as I told her about my teacher’s response.

It’s an emotional day of mine. Emotions of excitement, desire and gratitude.

July 4, 2018

Today is a lucky day. I had a geology lesson, an informal one, in the control van during my watch. Then, during the day, I had another unexpected lesson, about maritime tech, out on the deck.

I was fortunate that the replacement of the CAMHD at a black smoker, the Mushroom, happened during my watch. Alongside experts in the control van, I witnessed this active hydrothermal vent being documented with our 4k camera. It was amazing, to be able to view such an incredible feature up close (well, virtually). I was mesmerized, by the exuberant life living under the shield of the Mushroom – purple protists, white filamentous bacteria, brownish-red tube worms, white clams etc. Surrounding the Mushroom throughout the Ashes Vent field is a meadow of basaltic rocks of various textures. Under the guidance of Deb Kelley, I have learned to differentiate these rocks. Lobate flows have an intermediate morphology between a sheet flow and pillow basalts. Its elongated rounded texture is a result of its medium flow speed. Hackly sheet flow, or broken sheet flow, on the other hand, has a rough surface texture with volcanic glass filling the cracks. Then, amidst the field of rough basalt, there are spots of flat and smooth ground that were originally lava lakes. I couldn’t describe how excited I was as Deb was pointing out these volcanic features during the dive. And I was so grateful that I was there as it replenishes my motivation and inspiration as an aspiring marine geologist.

Geology lesson aside, it was also stirring to be able to eyewitness the temperature of vent fluid being measured on the spot, with the manipulator of ROV Jason holding the temperature probe over the vent fluid. I was able to follow the temperature shown on the screen, which increases until a maximum point, then fluctuates with time, which perfectly describes my excitement throughout the dives. Different vent produces fluids of different temperature range. While a small vent coming out of the basalt produces fluid as warm as 36°C, the Virgin, an anhydrite chimney, produces vent fluid of over 240°C. What’s more surprising is the red tube worm that is actually living near this 240°C-hot fluid at the bottom of the ocean!

During the day, seeing Glen sitting in the library doing his casual read, Katie G and I went up to him to ask if he could show us the instrument that he is going to deploy at the Axial Seamount, a Self-Calibrated Pressure Recorder (SCPRA). Glen is super friendly, and he told us a lot about his instruments including the physic principals behind it, and how it could be used to benefit the science community as well as the general public. One very important lesson from him is to appreciate the maritime technology surrounding us on the ship, those that I may have always overlooked. Out on the deck, each little gadget has its own history regardless of how tiny or seemingly futile it looks: a tin coating, a monkey-face knot, a screw hole on the deck or a plastic O ring (for screws) etc. To be honest, I was stunned, as Glen was telling us about how important each little part could play on an instrument. Although I have spent almost 12 days on the ship, I had never come to acknowledge the importance of the maritime technology on the ship. Conversing with Glen has taught me to appreciate details behind a screen. To put it another way, an item may be recognized because of its function. Yet, it is also important to realize that the item would never work perfectly without the excellent work done by the small pieces that make up the item.

July 3, 2018

My watches began officially today. Due to fewer students on the ship than the last Leg, we are doing “4 on 8 off” this time – 8 hours watch per day. I thought I am lucky as I was given similar schedule as the last, which allow me to preserve my body clock without too much alteration.

The dive at the 200-m site at Axial Base did not turn out as planned – the connector from the Shallow Profiler Assembly (SPA) would not mate with the socket on the EOM cage, which is located ~15 m below the SPA. Sitting the in the control van, I was amazed by the perseverance of the crews to solve the problem after trials of failures. It was also frustrating, especially thinking about how much loss could be caused by this problem. After hours of discussion went by, decision was made to prioritize the rest of the missions.

The second watch of the day was more pleasant mainly because of my own interest. Pillow basalts were spotted throughout the ASHES vent field! As a geology-oceanography undergraduate, being able to see one of the freshest (youngest) rocks on Earth means a lot to me especially when the rocks I am seeing everyday are mostly old weathered rocks from millions of years ago. Not to mention these pillow basalts are different from the ones I have seen on land. While they still preserve nice and clean pillow texture, they are carpeted by greenish-yellow microbial mat, giving the water a scent of mystery.

After the watch, there came our time to clean the science pod that was just recovered couple of hours ago. The science pod, about 1.5 times my height, was covered by blanket of seaweeds. Together with Katie G, Brison and Eve, we tried to brush off as much of the dried seaweeds as possible. Somehow, this turned out to be a fun experience as I was able to climb up high while I am on the deck in the middle of the ocean! What an experience! In fact, the ocean is as calm as a lake today, therefore I was able to remain safe and steady while standing on the ladder.

July 2, 2018

Heading out to the ocean again. Watching the new members onboard putting up the survival suit has reminded me of how nervous I was the first time I came out with R/V Roger Revelle. Yes, it feels different this time – I have become a lot calmer and more familiar with the operations on the ship.

300 miles offshore to Axial Seamount requires about 21 hours transit time. Thanks to the long transit, we had more time to adjust to seasick. It hit me worse this time than the last, and I actually threw up once after lunch, but I have been feeling better since we arrived at the Axial Base.

Things have become different this time as I am no longer new. Together with Katie and Eve, we tried our best to provide as much tips to our new mates as possible especially about how operations work in the control van, on the deck, in the dining hall etc. To me, it’s a learning process, especially on how to communicate what I have learned to others, which is an important skill to have in any working environment. Besides that, I have become more confident, not just on the things I have been doing, but also to ask questions, offer assistance and talk to people.

It has been different being on the ship the second time, but it’s been a good one as it has allowed me to learn things with a different perspective…

June 30, 2018

It was a sad, but exciting day. Sad, because I had to say goodbye to my mates from the first leg. Exciting, because it’s the beginning of the second leg.

The first leg had been a memorable one. In just 7 days, I have learned so much, from sitting in the control van looking at all the big screens, to observing how the crew works together on the deck, then talking to experts from different fields. It was an eye-opening experience, learning about different sea life that I have never seen before, listening to stories that always drop my jaw wide open, and embracing the ocean like I have never done before. The days at sea were not as bad as I thought it would be, but stirring as there are always discoveries, learnings and surprises, which could come as simple as just a new game like Cribbage, or as complicated as conversation about how geothermometry could work with the water samples collected from Southern Hydrate Ridge. Here I am back at the port, seeing my mates off from the first leg, I feel really grateful for all of them as I thought my experience wouldn’t be the same without any single one of them. So much I have learned from them, and so much more I have to learn and discover. 

Welcoming the new mates coming for the second leg, I have made up my mind to make more efforts to make this experience a more significant one. Again, it was the first day I met Amy, Brison and Riah, but I felt like I have been continuously learning new things just from talking to them. They are pumped with enthusiasm, reminding me of the eagerness to constantly keep my door open to new things! Besides my new mates we have new scientists onboard! Plus, we are going to head to a different site, the Axial Seamount!

So much excitement for the coming cruise, and I am looking forward for the upcoming adventure!