Katie Gonzalez’s Blogs Leg 4

July 29 & 30, 2018

During my shift in the control van yesterday we placed five thermal arrays around the COVIS site by mushroom and Inferno. The arrays had logging thermistors placed down the body of the instrument, this was to collect data from different heights/distances from the diffuse flow of the vent that it is positioned over. What stood out to me was their shape. I had expected the devices to look similar to the other probes, nodes, and instruments that we have deployed before: all contained in either titanium or some heavy plastic. Instead, the loggers had the appearance of a marker or highlighter, or perhaps to the younger at heart, a Nerf Gun bullet.

The logging thermistors could only withstand up to 50° C, and after array 3 had been placed over a vent that had a temperature of 147° C the bottom logger was damaged. A closer inspection of it showed warping and burn marks at the tip. The final decision was made to keep it where it was since the loggers above it would still function and collect data.

While down by Inferno we saw a lot of fuzzy tube worm bushes. When JASON would touch down on the seafloor near one them, if the propeller happened to be close to it, it would be tossed around. The scene looked reminiscent of a tumble weed crossing the desert, or a cotton candy ball caught in the wind. We got some great close up video and HD grabs of the tube worm bushes as we used the temperature probe near them. While waiting for the temperature probe to give a consistent reading, Yash and I played a variant of The Price is Right. We would give our best guess as to what the final read out would be, and whomever was closest to the number, without going over, would win.
After our shift we followed the smell of grill smoke to the Captain and Ray preparing to cook stakes for dinner. Ray had the greatest idea I had heard all day: toasting marshmallows over the grill! I ran inside and asked Richard if we could use any marshmallows, after a pause and some consideration he gave me directions to locate a bag of them in the ship stores and a handful of skewers. I returned triumphant to the “party” and Yash and I enjoyed some delicious toasted marshmallows while watching Captain Dave and Ray cook steaks and squid.
During our second shift we collected some basalt rocks from the seafloor. We managed to get a round piece about the size of a softball, and a large piece from an even larger sheet. The sheet stuck out from the floor like a gigantic tortilla chip. I watched in anticipation as JASON’s manipulator grabbed ahold of the rock and broke the glorious piece off. I was pumping my fists in the air with excitement and watching as JASON took it back to the undervator, holding it as if about to take a bite from a sandwich. We got a call from the bridge with someone cheering for our success, whoever called had been watching and was just as excited as we were about the basalt.

Today’s first shift was all about locating the lost undervator from 2017. The entirety of my shift was spent looking for it south of it’s last known position in the water. The idea was that the current would have carried it south while it freefell, instead it was found north of that position during the shift right after mine. I was in the main lab when it was spotted and everyone in the room started making a commotion all at once and got out of their seats heading toward the large TV screen saying “they found it, the lost city!”

When the undervator came on deck I was surprised to see how well everything held up. The pilots were worried that we were going to find it in an undervator shaped collapse in the basalt, but it was upright and looking pretty. There was corrosion on the undervator itself, but the CAMHD and current meter were in tip-top condition. The whole package looked ready for launch, with the cable still neatly wrapped around the horns and the instruments strapped down nicely.

During my second shift we were projected to go to El Guapo, but we had to recover instead because the MISO temperature probe wasn’t on JASON. It must have been overlooked before launch and we made it all the way down and halfway done with the dive before we realized it. With us now recovering, we adjusted the plan to go to Axial base to unplug a mooring connector. After doing that we will transit to Slope Base to take a look at the deep profiler we deployed earlier.

Even though we didn’t get to go to El Guapo, I experienced something EXTREMELY AMAZING! Korey let me maneuver JASON’s starboard manipulator. After showing me how to control the slave (the manipulator) with the master (the manipulator’s control), I was allowed to move the arm and do a series of tasks: open and close the claw, move the elbow and wrist, turn the arm port and starboard, and touch the basket. It was so incredible I thought I had to be dreaming at first, but once I sat in the comfy cushioned pilot seat and held the control I knew it was really happening. A mix of anxiety and extreme awe washed over me and I felt my arms get weak in the rush I felt as I waved with JASON’s arm and spun the wrist around. When I was done Korey said I had stored the arm away so well that he didn’t have to make any adjustments to it.

Afterwards I was so insanely giddy I had to scream into my blanket just to vent some of the intense excitement I had bottled up in me! Later in the galley after sharing my experience with Joe he made a joke that the scream would come out if I squeezed the blanket. Hours later after my 10 minutes of fame and I’m still ecstatic!

July 27 & 28, 2018

Yesterday’s dive took us to old stomping grounds: Inferno and Mushroom, the beautiful hydrothermal vents that we had visited during leg 2. After getting a 360-video survey to make a photo mosaic of them, the Captain came in and warned us of the weather. There wind was between 28 and 30 knots, so JASON had to come back up before going to Hell or Phoenix (other hydrothermal vents). We then headed back to Axial base to recover the deep profiler, its CPU needed to be fixed so that it could crawl on the cable again.

Today’s dive included deploying COVIS at Inferno. The procedure for this instrument was a bit unusual from the other instruments we’ve deployed this cruise. It required the ship and JASON’s winches to transfer COVIS to JASON. First COVIS was launched over the side of the ship with the ship’s crane, then JASON was launched over the side with the floatation package attached under it. Then a hook was used to detach the line from the ship’s winch to JASON’s winch. The cables on the winches had to have their tensions matched so that no jerking would occur when performing the switch.

The position from which I recorded the deployment gave me a close, yet safe, encounter with the ship’s crane. I was standing on the bridge level between the port and starboard windows of the bridge and could see almost the entire operation on deck. I was able to film the most important parts: JASON and COVIS being launched, the hook coming onto the scene and waving around, and most spectacularly, the cranes. From where I stood the ship’s crane had to pass by in front of me about 3 meters away to be lowered into the crutch (the area on deck that the crane remains when not in use). It felt like I was looking into the face of a brachiosaurus moving from one tree to another while feeding. Trina was the one leading it with the line, and it was almost as if I got a look at the mechanics under the illusion of the dinosaurs from The Arena Spectacular: Walking With Dinosaurs. With Trina, the dino keeper, leading her beloved companion backstage after the show on the deck. Similar to a scene from the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer, which I plan on seeing once I’m on land again.

After lunch there was a final fire drill. This time we got to climb through an escape hatch. Trina was the first to volunteer to go through the hatch. She struggled a bit trying to open the hatch, and I would soon find out just how heavy it was. I didn’t get a good look at who opened it, either Trina gathered her strength and saved us all from the imaginary eminent death, or someone from the level above opened it for her. When it was my turn Josh closed the hatch before I got through the hole! I could have tried harder to open it, and I should have for the adrenaline rush from the fake sense of urgency provided by the fire drill, but I had a cut on my had that shot pain when I grabbed hard around the door latch (The cut happened last night when leaving my room. I absentmindedly threw my hand across the light switch on my way out of the door and sliced it on the edge of the metal box encasing the switch.) At that moment in time, had it been a real fire, one of two likely outcomes would have occurred: I would have pushed through the pain and opened the hatch on my own, or I would have died had no one come to rescue me. The lesson I learned from this experience: put in all your effort when escaping from a fire.

The first COVIS dive was completed before my 0000-0400 shift. I had prepared for it by taking a two-hour nap before 2200, only to find out that JASON was already ascending and was recovered around 2330. Between 2200 and 0000 I took another look through the microscope at water samples from my flow tank and the sample I took from the CTD back at Endurance Array. I didn’t see anything from either water samples in the many slides I looked at, and I’m now worried that the seawater source I’m using for my flow tank may not have anything living in it. Carmen, the ResTech from legs 1 and 2, said that the water should have “stuff” in it, so I may just be having terrible luck. I’ll keep looking at samples when I can during the rest of the week in between my other projects.

After looking at the slides I took a break and stepped outside to enjoy some of the night air. I saw Josh playing the guitar and sat for a listen. I had apparently been a shadow slipping through the dark, because he was startled by my arrival from seemingly nowhere. I politely clapped after his song, to show there were no hard feelings from the fire drill earlier. Listening to the sounds come from the guitar reminded me of the amazing things that humans can experience, given that they can hear. The simple act of strumming the strings moved the air around it at a frequency that sounded pleasant to me. Occasionally I like to think of something mundane and really delve into what’s making the outcome possible. While enjoying the sick riffs and sweet twangs, I found myself pondering the physics behind the music.

Eve and I should have an interview soon with Skip about the shallow profiler for our video. The target audience for the video will be the general public, as opposed to the in-depth, explanatory engineering video for reference use. It was brought to our attention that Mathew and Spencer had already taken that task upon themselves as a student project during leg 3. This was confirmed at a student meeting that neither Eve or I could attend since we were in the control van during our shift.

It will be good to have videos with different target audiences for the instrument, one from an engineer’s point of view, and another for the general public to understand. It’s my dream to see the interactive oceans website filled with videos, abstracts, photos, and all other forms of media and literature from students and their projects, to really give a great overview of what these cruises are all about and how they change our lives. There’s so much potential, and there could be better publicity for the website itself. Making the website better known to the public and K-12 schools would be awesome!

July 25 & 26, 2018

Yesterday was pretty routine with another CTD cast. After collecting the samples, (myself and the other students) titrated the oxygen samples. I switched between the roles of titrating and documenting the samples. During titrations the captain had announced that there were porpoises and a whale visible from the bridge. After getting to a point where we pause titrations and go look for the sea life, they had already gone.

While visiting the bridge I learned of a storm happening in New Zealand that was causing southerly swells to appear on the WaMos monitor. Captain Dave had been seeing the swell the night before and could track its progression using the radar-based wave and surface current monitoring system. By getting the backscatter from the radar, the waves become visible. It is interesting to see how many things on this vessel use radar and backscattering to image something, and I wonder how technology will advance to provide us with more detailed imagery in science.

Near the end of titrations, we needed more milli-q water to rinse the bottles with, so I ventured into the hydro lab where a milli-q water filter station was. Upon entering the room and going to the station one thing was clear: there was no pressure. It couldn’t be run without any pressure, so Josh Manger had to get it working. It turned out that the pressure could only be directed one way at a time, so it had to be temporarily switched to go to the hydro lab for the milli-q.

Today, dive 1091 took place during my shift. The goal was to recover and replace the deep profiler’s crawler, but JASON was experiencing some floatation problems. The dive had been attempted three times before, but the dive was restarted each time JASON was unbalanced. It had to be brought back on deck to have some weight added to its aft so it would be properly balanced. Leonid Germonovich had put his Styrofoam cup on the porch of JASON, and during my shift I could see it shrink as it went down!

After dinner another two CTD casts happened, this time the niskins were only fired on CTD cast 16. I got to take a turn in firing them and communicating with the winch operator. It was a bit frightening at first, the thought of firing on accident or too soon, as well as using the proper code when speaking with the winch operator. I became less nervous after the first couple of times firing the bottles and speaking to the winch room, practice makes perfect.

While in the computer lab during the CTD cast, Julie asked Josh the question that had been on our minds for a while now: why is someone needed to watch the CTD during the first 100 m? Our guess had been that if something were to go wrong, it might be more likely to occur during the first 100 m of the cast. Josh had wondered the same thing and had even emailed his supervisor in the past asking for the answer. To the best of his knowledge, the rule exists because it was possible to ram the CTD into the crane if not closely watched when recovering. Now there are precautions built on the cranes to prevent this from happening, but the rule still remains and was never clarified to be when recovering and not deploying, it simply states in the first 100 m.

July 23 & 24, 2018

Things are picking up as we are ahead of schedule recently. It makes me happy knowing that things ae going according to plan, if not even better. Yesterday we were able to shave four hours off the original dive plan because the crawler we were going to recover was already right below the float ball. I’m looking forward to the last dive of this leg. I hope that there’s a celebration at the end for completing the Visions’ 18 cruise, it seems like something worth celebrating!

Another net tow has gotten me more involved. It was my turn to record the line angle and pay out at intervals of five minutes. Using that information Wu Jung is able to calculate the depth that the net was at. By collecting samples and comparing them to the backscatter shown from the ADCP we have currently placed, she is building up the zooplankton database in this location.

I later preserved the specimen samples with formaldehyde. Sodium bicarbonate was used as a buffer to prevent the specimen from decomposing too much, it also lessens the amount of color they lose, making it easier to identify them. I had heard that Leland will be the one who gets to count everything in the jars, I just know he’s going to be excited for that, and I’m excited for him too!

After Dinner it was time for another CTD cast and sample collecting. I know the drill through and through, so I’m able to lead the students now in collecting the samples. Earlier that morning the gang and I decorated our Styrofoam cups and had planned to take them down on the CTD at the 600 m endurance array site. Sadly, it went down before anyone could put their cup on it. Our plan now is to get them shrunk at the 2900 m Axial site.

Tonight, I was able to see my wish come true, as Yash and I finally had a dive during our night shift. Another successful dive and we’ve plugged the deep profiler in. I had been looking forward to seeing what the night crowd was like, and now I see that it is very quiet at diving times and rowdy when in transit. Tomorrow we will have a 16ish hour transit to Axial, and then we’re off and running again.

July 22, 2018

During my shift I was able to help on deck by tying the line off to the stand that held the mooring float. Chris Craig showed me the proper technique to wrapping the rope around the cleat (a hook on the deck of the ship). By using my foot to hold down the loop, I avoid getting my fingers pinched off when tension occurs. I felt like I was really apart of the team that makes the cabled array possible. I couldn't hold back the huge grin on my face for Yash to take a serious photo of me during the deck op.

Julie gave me a great idea that I’m surprised I haven’t thought of on my own. She suggested that I interview Trina about being the only woman field engineer on the ship. Getting to hear her experiences, words of advice, and inspiration to other women sounds awesome! I hope I’ll be able to take something away from my interview with her and learn from it.

After lunch we had a very informative student meeting that Captain Dave stood in on. I love that he seems genuinely interested in what the students are doing. I’ve learned more about the other students since the meeting, including a briefing on their backgrounds and interests. I really enjoy making new connections with people and learning about them, it’s one of my favorite things to do here.

Before and after dinner I did some more highlight videos. But only dives through J2-1059 were uploaded to Final Cut Pro, so that means I still have to catch up to our current dive, J2-1087. I’m glad I’ve shown Eve how to do the videos, now she can help me catch up. I think she mentioned that Mitch got a second computer to run the program as well, so now we should be able to do the videos at the same time.

At night before having a midnight snack I so lovingly call “second dinner”, Yash has told me about his experience on the Ronald H. Brown, a sister ship to the Roger R. Revelle. He was warned about the potential dangers of sailing from South Africa to India, and even did a pirate drill on the ship. He shared with me a few honorable mentions from his week spent in South Africa previous to leaving on that cruise. Hearing people’s traveling stories really excites me and makes me crave going on my own adventures while traveling.

July 21, 2018

Recovering the deep profiler seems a lot simpler than when we deployed the two-legged mooring during leg 3. But the huge winch was still used to accomplish this task. Watching as the cable switched between slack and high tension gave me a bit of an uneasy feeling as I stood next to the A-frame getting pictures. The block pulley would wobble from side to side with the line as the waves would create slack and tension. It must have been stressful for Chris Craig, who was operating the winch, to time it accordingly to the waves.

While on shift with Yash Meghare, I learned some great life advice. I will now only ever ask for either marine themed socks, hummus, or cash for every holiday. His philosophy is genius, because if given cash, you can buy more socks and hummus! For the duration of this cruise I’ve seen at least one student from each leg with beautiful socks, sporting octopuses, sharks, and more. I’m now aware that I’m not in with the fashion trend and plan to remedy this soon.

After dinner Wu Jung asked for some help from the students to do a plankton tow. I had never seen a plankton tow before and was surprised by the way it looked. I had expected it to be attached to a long pole that we would all hold overboard, but it was three nets attached to a metal frame filled with lead, and we used the crane to hold it overboard. I was pleasantly surprised to see Captain Dave getting involved with the science side of our cruise by helping deploy the nets and being knowledgeable on the subject. I have come to understand that he’s just that cool of a guy!

After pulling up the nets Wu Jung put the samples in formaldehyde to preserve them and I was able to look at some under the microscope. In the samples there were many krill, jellies, and even a baby squid! Under the microscope I was able to see an amphipod and a ctenophore. I could see the ctenophore’s cilia and inside of its stomach, as well as the veins and hairs of the amphipod. It was definitely fun to have the other students gather around the microscope, asking to look and offering their help. Romina was very knowledgeable on the organisms. Eve says I should try to minor or get a second major in marine biology, since it gets me so jazzed, and I’m thinking I might. I wonder what will happen in the next three years!