July 31, 2018
I woke up several hours before my shift at midnight to find ourselves at Axial slope station. The point here was to collect a basket with THSPH instrument. In the moment of writing down this blog I wrote it so confidently, but within two seconds I realized I had no clue what THSPH even meant. So, I went on the internet and searched for THSPH on a search engine. The search results from that is another reason that makes me very interested in oceanography. The search results included Taiwan Services Health…. something something, some Journal of Biblical Literature, some Railroad Age Gazette. Not one result matched with what I wanted. There is not a lot information about oceanography on the Internet. I realized this in the years of my college when I had to create a Wikipedia page for the Cob Eickelberg seamount chain. There was very little information and the fact that I got to put that information out there makes me very happy. This shows how new the field of oceanography is and being a part of these expeditions makes me really proud.
I ended up going to Skip (our Co-chief scientist for the cruise) who confirmed that there is nothing on the internet about it. He gave me a brief description about it. it measures Temperature, pH, sulphates and Hydrogen concentration in water. This instrument was designed by University of Minnesota to be used at the hydrothermal vents. THSPH works in waters that have temperature of 50°C and over. It works best in temperatures that are higher than 150°C. The information in the instrument is transferred through zirconium crystals.
The dive involved recovering THSPH and taking some temperatures of vent flows. But we had forgot the temperature probe on ship and thus, that activity was aborted. The THSPH was put in the basket, JASON docked into it and brought up. One of the concerns with this instrument was that it could be under high pressure and when you bring an instrument up, the pressure within it increases. The last time this was done, the instrument exploded. So, everyone on the deck had to be really careful when this was up. There was a little delay in science party to get to the deck and JASON had to hang on the winch away from THSPH. This really showed how concerning the situation was. I was taking pictures as Orest (Chief-Scientist) was working with the instrument. It was under very high pressure and the screws had to be removed very slowly to stop it from snapping open. As we had it little cracked open, white liquid (potentially seawater) started oozing out. It was decided that the instrument be left alone to bleed out overnight so that it is not under high pressure and can be handled in a safer manner.
After waking up for my day shift, I found out we were transiting to the slope base station. This was a 16 hour transit.
July 30, 2018
The night shift of 30th started with a lot of activity going on. We were placing heat loggers around several vents and crack to track the temperatures. Heat loggers are towers with several loggers attached on the tower at different heights. The tower has a triangular base that can make it stand right on top of any flow. The heat loggers have a certain temperature maximum beyond which they can get damaged. And one of the heat was placed on a very high temperature flow and the bottom most logger got toast. You could see the physical damage on it and it was blackened at the bottom. But we decided to keep it there since the loggers on top were just fine. It was fun to watch the heat probe taking measurements at various vent flows and I would guess how much the temperature would be. For most guesses, it was way higher than what I expected. It still amazes me to find these super-hot plumes of water.
The shift ended with the same process going on.
The day shift of the 30th seemed like the longest shift of my life. It felt like ten hours. JASON was looking for an elevator and this process was dedicated 7 hours. JASON spiraled in a snake-chain motion for several hours to look for this. Throughout my watch, it was just pillows of basalt, maybe a column here and there, some collapse, a shrimp or some fish. But over all just nothing. But I understand that this is the process of science. My shift ended with nothing found. I came down to the main lab and only 30 minutes after my shift ended, HUZZAH! They found the elevator. I couldn’t be happier. Everyone in the lab was cheering. In my mind I imagined if JASON was some type of AI, would it throw its manipulators up in the air to celebrate with us? Wo knows? Maybe do a little 360 spin in the water!
July 29, 2018
The night shift on 29th ended being cancelled because the dive ended just right before my shift started. But I had already taken a nap and was wide awake. So, I decided to go to the gym, read a book, listen to some music, play some cards. I realized how much more fun it is when science is happening. It is much more fun to work on a boat than just have a lot of free time. Work is what makes you appreciate a little bit of down time between the science that happens. I ended up falling asleep several hours later and got up just in time for my day shift. We measured a lot of vent flow temperatures. While most of the deep ocean is 2 °Celsius, the temperatures at these flows were ridiculously high. 80, 160, 180 even 200 °Celsius. The immense pressure at the bottom of the ocean stops this water from turning in to steam and you can see the water of different impedance come off the seafloor. I have studied about various hydrothermal vents in my marine geology classes but looking at them live was simply rad. Later after my shift ended, it was “Sunday Funday” and we had some marshmallows. I took a quick nap before my night shift. The JASON was planned to measure temperatures and collecting various readings for most part of the dive.
July 28, 2018
My noon shift for 28th started with deployment of COVIS (Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar) — a system connected to the Neptune Canada cabled ocean observatory that acoustically measures the plume extent and flow rates of hydrothermal vent complexes. This is a very dense network and lot of precise work is involved. Every time there is even a small displacement from actual location for an instrument to be deployed, it is corrected immediately. And after the while operation, towards the end of dive, a check is done on the conditions of the instruments deployed to make sure they are working fine.
The deployment of COVIS was pretty intense, the longest crane on board was used and extended all the way out. Everyone from the deck was cleared for the operation in case anything goes wrong. I was documenting all of this and towards the end of my shift, the deployment was complete and descent began. All the dives from this and onwards were very long dives. Ranging between 16-48 hours. This meant that both day and night shifts will have something going on.
July 27, 2018
The noon to 4 pm shift began with JASON already being at the bottom. We were at the Inferno vent site. This dive involved taking a lot of high quality 4K and HD footage for building photo mosaics of different vent sites. It was very impressive to look at the quality of imaging being done. You could see all the details very distinctly. We also explored the Mushroom vent site. There was a great amount of biodiversity around both the vent sites. Tubeworms, crabs, jellies, sea stars. You could see the deposits from white and black smokers. My mind wandered off to the topic of deep sea mining at hydrothermal vents for rare earth minerals. My friend was watching the live stream from India and he was asking me very good questions about all that was going on. I wished there was a mic for the live stream where people could answer question or just give a commentary for what was happening.
It was beautiful to look at all the different colors that existed so deep in the ocean where everything is just dark. Hydrothermal vents are fairly new topic in oceanography and are involved in mass balance of various ions. To be a part of something this new and big, it feels great. The crew are extremely nice to answer all the questions I had.
July 26, 2018
We reached the Axial vent site in the morning and JASON was ready to be underwater. JASON had a crawler attached to it on its way down that was going to be placed on the mooring cable on which it goes up and down. There was another, an old crawler on the cable which was to be replaced and brought back up once the new one was installed.
But the weight of the crawler needed to be balanced because JASON was leaning far too forward. Unfortunately, this was realized only after JASON went in water. They recovered it and added more weight on to the vehicle to balance the crawler. In fact, they ended up doing this one more time because the first added weight didn’t work out as well. Eventually, JASON began its descent.
It was cool to watch JASON in action and all of its manipulators were moving around like how the show in movies. I was extremely fascinated by it. By the end of my shift, the new mooring was on cable.
Towards the evening we did a CTD cast and collected samples for oxygen, DIC, salinity, chlorophyll, and nutrients. This took during the watch at night shift.
July 25, 2018
After the end of my JASON shift, going to sleep was very difficult. I shuffled around in bed listening to a podcast for a long time. When I woke up, the podcast was already on the third episode from where I had started, and it was almost lunch time.
Today we were going to transit for the most part. The next station was axial seamount. I knew this was going to happen but now that it is going to happen so soon, it seems unreal. Growing up, I wanted to be so many different things and wanted to travel so many different places. But, being at axial seamount as an oceanographer was never one of them.
Before we were transiting, we did a CTD cast to a depth of about 3000m. We sampled for oxygen, salts, DIC, chlorophyll and nutrients. The oxygen samples needed to be titrated and we did that for couple hours after the cast. There was a blue whale alert from the bridge which got us all excited and we were very quick to abandon all the ongoing work with titrations and run up to the hangar. After a long wait, we had nothing but several many whale watching stories and no whales were spotted from the hangar.
The day ended with some TV, card games and late night snacks as usual.
July 24, 2018
Today started with the calendar and the time table saying that my night shift had nothing going on. The day got better with the opportunity to help out with some deck ops. One of the techs, Nick, let me work alongside him with mooring cable.
A JASON dive was scheduled at 1530, so I was ready to give JASON at least a lift off, but it got delayed by an hour and I missed it. The JASON dive was planned to connect the new mooring cable. After a 2900 m descent, it turned out that the cable was just short enough for the operation to not succeed. So that meant, the next JASON dive was at my night shift. I finally had a JASON dive planned on my shift. I saw whole lot of animals on the way down. I was very excited about this. A squid hitched a ride on JASON on way down, a shark popped up no one of the cameras and plenty of jellies and various other invertebrates. At about 0400, JASON was still descending but I had to leave. The shift ended with some really great music that one of the JASON crew members put on.
July 23, 2018
For the most part, the night shift (000-0400 hrs) has been lull with complete lack of activity. So, I do get to sleep on a normal sleep schedule, but that means my chances of encountering a JASON dive on my shift are cut to half. On the other hand, I get to just ask many question on deck to the people who are working with JASON between dives and deck operators. I have learnt the signs to communicate with the winch house for releasing and drawing cables at different speeds and holding it steady. On my last cruise (RV Ronald Brown), most of my work involved indoors in the computer lab. So, it’s different experience to work deck ops.
We did a net tow that day. Even though I wasn’t on watch, no one was willing to get soaked in the water splashing from the nets. So, I dressed up in all the weather proof gear, looking like popular yellow cartoon character from some movie, and worked with the net. It was a while after my NOAA cruise in the Indian Ocean. And my first realization was how cold the water here was. I had forgotten about it. But I was dressed and ready to go. So, I took one for the science. One other student helped me as well.
The day ended with a CTD cast. Salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, DIC samples were collected. My sampling skills were refreshed from last cruise.
Once again my midnight to 4 am shift had nothing going on, so I just went to sleep after some late night snack.
July 22, 2018 (Continued)…
For most part after the JASON dive, the day involved about reinstalling the mooring. The engineering team was having issues with communicating with the mooring beacon and had to recover it. It was fixed when it was brought on board and successfully deployed again and the crawler (profiler that travels up and down) sent down the line as well.
In the student meeting we had previous day, all the student researchers talked about their project ideas. I wanted to do something about outreach. There are not a lot of people who are aware about the Visions Cruise. And even less people who are aware about what happens on these cruises, what instruments are being used, who funds these operations, etc.
So, I decided to do my project as a video documentation. I spent some time looking around on the ship figuring out what my topic could be. I decided to pick a topic that even I had very little knowledge about, so I could also learn more about it. JASON seemed like the perfect topic for this. No. JASON is not some human on board. In fact, JASON is the farthest thing from human. (but maybe better than humans?). JASON is the Remotely Operated Vehicle, an ROV, on board that helps conducts the OOI tasks.
I prepared my set of questions that I didn’t know about JASON and asked people around what they don’t know and that they would like to know. Now I had a good set of questions to inform the people more about JASON. I filmed some clips for the video I plan to put together about JASON.
July 22, 2018
The next day, the profiler was ready to be deployed. After a long process of attaching the mooring, profiler, buoys and weights, JASON was deployed to plug back in the vertical profiler.
July 21, 2018
Students were allotted their watches to keep the log of activities that were happening on board. Since it is very expensive to run a ship, ship activities happen round the clock to maximize the efficiency and cut the costs.
After arriving at the first station, JASON conducted at dive to unplug a vertical profiler mooring. The goal was to recover the profiler and fix any issues with it. Since this job takes multiple days, a plankton net tow was performed by one of the scientists in between recovering and re-installing the mooring. This was one of my first time observing three nets being towed together. The mechanical nets still involved using a brass. After collecting plankton from three different depths, we observed them under the microscope and saw various organisms. Some of my favorite ones were baby octopus, chaetognaths (transparent worms!), krills, amphipods. All the biomass collected was then preserved in formaldehyde. This was done in order to create a data base. The moorings have upward looking SONAR attached on them which sends an acoustic map of any particulate matter present in the water. This acoustic map is matched to the zooplankton collected in the tow for future use. By doing so this eliminates the need of looking at the acoustic maps every time and knowing what is in the acoustic scatter.
We got a tour of JASON van and the ROV and learned a few things about the controls, team member and operations of the ROV.
Being on the cruise involves a lot of documentation, written as well as visual. This is important to go back to refer to it in case there are any difficulties in the future. Lots of photos of any activity are important. Although it may seem like nothing significant is going on, it’s always the small details that help understand where things seem to go wrong.
July 20, 2018
After a long wait to avoid rough waters, the sailors aboard RV Roger Revelle set out for the Leg 4, the final leg of Visions 2018. Soon after crossing the bridge in out the port, we hit (surprise! surprise!) rough waters. Treading through the waters in a crisscross pattern to avoid the big waves, we headed out in the Pacific Ocean from Newport, Oregon. The Leg 4 involves working with moorings at various sites, installing sonar, some CTD casts and few temperature surveys.