July 17, 2018
A thank you
Our last dives passed uneventfully, but successfully.
I want to make this last blog a long thank you. Every person on the Roger Revelle were/are incredibly welcoming and often hilarious, even when I was sea-sick I still felt at home aboard the ship. The science team was/is incredible, I learned so much about oceanography and even tho I was not from the UW campus I felt as though I was a part of the team. Leland, Elizabeth, Prof. Julie, Spencer, Matthew, Ashley, Eve, and the two Katie's– I hope you read this blog so you all know how great I have thought y'all were/are! A big thanks to Prof. Dax for pushing me to apply, and to any Queens College administration that are reading this, I could not have done this without the support I was given!!
July 16, 2018
In the JASON van everyone wears their winter best. The rumor going around the ship is that the extreme air conditioning in the control van is due to the advanced age of many of the JASON pilots and engineers. The idea probably being to preserve their body and mind, to extend the number of dive seasons in their lives.
The chill in the van might surprise after you first catch a glimpse of its housing sitting on deck. The plain exterior did not hint at how well furnished the inside would be. I expected that two shipping containers stitched together, packed with scientists, and kept exposed to the sun on the ships bow would be like stepping into an oven. Hot as an oven is far from the truth, the dive control vans are kept well chilled to provide ideal operating conditions for the electronics inside or so I think. The far wall, adjacent to where the JASON navigators and pilots sit, was covered in monitors that show a live feed from the JASON cameras, as well as navigation screens. Behind the pilots chairs was a high table with three computers for the science party use. On our dive we used them to capture video and high definition photography from the JASON cameras, and document dives moment by moment.
On my dive watch inside the JASON van the stated mission goal was to connect the OEM cable that we had laid earlier in the leg to a junction box already on the seafloor. The connection would later provide power to the shallow profiler, which now sits on top of the mooring platform at a depth around 200 meters. At 579 meters depth the seafloor is not the most dynamic environment to your eye. This is especially true when the JASON rov bumps across the seafloor, with a slight scrape the rov kicks a cloud of mud up that fills the water with a slurry that prevents the pilots from navigating with their eyes. To complete the mission the pilots must wait however long the current takes to sweep the cloud away. Imagine, mud balls you throw in a stream or in the tide on a beach take moments to be washed away, but on the seafloor the current has much less energy. Sometimes the flow of the current will clear stirred-up sediments in moments, but when the current is at its weakest the wait could be much longer.
Today, we waited only a few moments before the pilot was able work through the murk to bring the manipulator arms forward. He snapped the arms forward and unplugged the cord that we would later bring to the OEM cable. It's often a waiting game in the JASON van, but it's pretty easy to be patient and chill– when you are in a fridge.
July 15, 2018
One Leg at a Time
The science parties morning started at 0500. The plan that was laid out for us was that we would launch the first leg of a two legged mooring today, and then tomorrow we would launch the second leg of the mooring as well as the mooring platform and shallow profiler. The launching took most the day. The group of undergraduate students broke in to partners and each set of partners stood a short watch. Our watches mostly consisted of documenting the maneuvers of each component of the mooring leg as it was sent over the back deck. One partner was stationed up in one of the upper decks with a video camera taking a birds-eye-view recording of the action, and the second student was tasked with running around the deck taking digital stills of the finer maneuvers and techniques. The main operation consisted of multiple small launches of components on one line of fiber-optic cable, and a separate on a braided cord made from Kevlar. The cord was to take most of the tension as the fiber-optic cable could be damaged in the positioning of the components. The entire operation had the feeling of being in an operating theatre. The deck was full of engineers, ship techs, and students observing the action, with a flock of seabirds comfortably floating behind the ship's stern, all eyes on the decks action. Two or three main engineers were in action or standing watch, with one orchestrating the entire operation. The stakes were high, the action had to be precise and methodical…
To the observers the action went off smoothly.
July 14, 2018
A Day in Transit
We stayed in port until the deck was loaded, and the equipment was staged for deployment. In addition to the JASON dives our leg featured a two-legged mooring deployment. The mooring deployment was billed as a "massive engineering endeavor with installation of a 2- legged, state-of-the-art mooring that includes a 12 ft across, 7,000 lb platform that will reside 200 m beneath the surface."
I couldn't say it any better myself– but this meant the deck was packed to the gills with equipment, the JASON ROV, and two massive winches. Before getting off, most of the undergraduate student science party was engaged in small shop-engineering tasks. We zip-tied this, taped firm that, wrenched a nut there (later, we would all be giddy seeing our handiwork on the ocean floor through JASONS dive cameras.) This was most of our cohorts first time at sea and ginger snaps were distributed early as a tried-and-true home medicine that could help staunch the waves of sea-sickness that would pass through us.
When we embarked the wind was blowing cold and hard, but our little cohort was excited to soon be out at sea. The view of the bay as we pulled out was obscured by a haze in the air around the beaches, but sailing under the Yaquinna Bay Bridge helped mark the ships exit from the bay. Along the near coast the action of the sea is rough but is made worse by the waves rebounding off the shore line. After a few hours of transit I was unable to leave the deck for fear of losing my lunch in a lab space. Staring out at the horizon helped to ease any sea sickness, but the moment I would step inside into the mess or the main lab I could feel a tide of something rising up in my stomach. The ships crew prescribed bread and water to help, but I found that being outside, and giving the knots in my stomach time to unwind was more helpful for me.