My roommate and I got up for another 4:00am shift today. Still not quite used to our schedules, but the ROPOS dive is always interesting enough to keep me alert. The current ROPOS dive’s purpose was to attach an extension cable into PN1B, and due to the precision required it turned into quite a long task. When we arrived at the hydro lab, ROPOS was already on the seafloor preparing to connect the extension cable to the port. We got there just in time for the excitement! As soon as the cable was plugged in and the crew got word that the systems were online, ROPOS began its ascent back to the vessel. On the way up, a curious red octopus ended up hitching a ride with ROPOS!
Around noon, the clouds finally let up, and we were able to see sun and blue skies. It was clear enough to see a faint silhouette from the mountains on shore! We went outside and on deck to receive a tutorial of the CTD rosette, which would be used later tonight to collect oxygen, salinity, and chlorophyll samples. I’m hoping I’ll be able to participate in a CTD cast during one of my shifts!
Afterwards, several students and I made our way up to the navigation room, where the vessel’s Captain gave us a tour of the navigation systems and told us how the ship is steered. He was very nice, and we learned a lot about the vessel! Afterwards, a few of us hung out around the bow and soaked in a bit of sun. We hope that the skies stay clear so we can see a sunset, and perhaps a starry night.
During our next shift, ROPOS had been launched to go to a Shallow Profiler platform interface assembly (PIA) and retrieve the PIA from the 200 m platform. We saw that the shallow profiler was home to many sea stars, as well as urchins, anemones. While the dive ended during our shift, two more dives with ROPOS needed to occur before we made our long transit to the Axial Base.
We went out to ROPOS after its dive and collected oxygen, carbon, salinity, and chlorophyll samples from the Niskins attached to the vehicle. While oxygen analyses can be done on ship, the other samples will be stored until they can be taken to a lab for analysis.
Once we were done with our shift, several students and I went out on the bow to watch the sun set. The water looked breathtaking, as the sun reflected gold onto the deep blue water. It was a relaxing way to end the day, looking out into the horizon and chatting with the other students. Once the sun set, I made my way back to my cabin to get a good night’s sleep. This day was extremely satisfying, and I can’t wait for the next.
August 9: I woke up about 3:30am for my morning shift. We went into the hydro lab, where we saw ROPOS ascending from its first dive. While I was a bit sad that I was not able to see it land on the seafloor, it was still very exciting to see the vehicle come back up! Similar to the last shift I had, we logged events in real time using the cameras on the ROPOS and listening to the directions of the pilot. Soon ROPOS was back from its journey and secured on deck. After the dive was finished, a few of us went out to ROPOS to retrieve CTD samples for oxygen, salinity, and chlorophyll. We tried our best not to get too wet- it was still plenty cold outside! Once we got our samples, we secured them in the wet lab to analyze later.
After a quick breakfast and a little coffee, a few of us students went out on the bow together. The water was surprisingly calm, and we saw a whale spout from afar. The endless waves were so relaxing- I could sit and watch the water all day! We eventually came back to the main lab, where a few other students and I began to flesh out our project proposals and talk with the scientists about the type of data that will be available to us. Around 8:30am, I went back to my cabin to take a nap… I must admit, I’m still not quite used to waking up so early.
Around 10:00am I heard that we had arrived at PN1B, and that ROPOS would be getting prepared to dive soon. In the meantime, I had a delicious lunch and helped work on a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle in the vessel’s library. I’m glad some crew members have the same love for puzzles as I do! We then joined the students in the hydro lab and saw the ROPOS footage as it landed on the seafloor, around -1200 m depth. This was the first time I was able to see the sea floor with ROPOS in-person! We saw sea stars, several types of fish, jellyfish, pom-pom anemone, crabs, and even an octopus that was given the name “Casper”. It was a delight to see how lively the bottom of the ocean could be!
In the hydro lab, we conducted real-time logging and captured high-resolution photos with one of the cameras attached to ROPOS. We also got to experience ROPOS using its arms to wield a knife, a necessary tool to cut one of the straps securing the doors of PN1B. It was quite and interesting site to see, and props to the crew for being able to meticulously control ROPOS during this dive! We also logged ROPOS deploying USBL beacons and assisted in taking a photo survey of the PN1B area. Watching the live footage of the dives never gets boring, and we are always on the lookout for any fascinating creatures or features.
Near the end of my evening shift, the crew was getting ready for another ROPOS dive. The purpose of the dive is to attach an extension cord to PN1B so that all supporting instrumentation is connected to the primary node. Me and a few others observed the crew’s preparations from the deck, noting how coordinated they all looked. The crew here has been awesome, and I’m thankful to have them running the ship. I’ll likely be asleep through the duration of this dive, but if not, it will be something to look forward to during my next shift!
August 8: My first day on the VISIONS cruise was a memorable one. We woke up to an amazing breakfast and tested our immersion suits soon after. It took a minute, but I was finally able to get the suit on! Prior to our departure from Newport, a few fellow students and I went out on the deck and spotted clusters of white jellyfish passing by. We also observed numerous birds gliding just over the water, scouting for a tasty meal.
Around 10:30am, the R/V Thompson departed from the dock and headed out to the vast open ocean. We waved to the people on shore and on the boats passing by, all of which looked minuscule compared to our large vessel. It was likely obvious that some of us students had never been out to sea before, myself included. We took numerous pictures on the bow of the vessel during our departure, excitedly focusing our attention to each new feature or creature we saw. There were several sea lions on the buoys we passed, and we were even able to sea the spray of two whales! It made me realize that I should have invested in some binoculars, but the view was spectacular nonetheless.
As we got out to sea, the waves began to roll the boat, and a few of us began to lose balance and reach for the nearest handrails. We then made a game out of the rocking vessel- we would begin to jump as the vessel’s front was tilted up and try to land it as the front tilted back down, in an effort to get as much airtime as possible. We may have looked a bit foolish to anyone observing, but it was much too fun to care!
As we headed back into the inside of the vessel, the swaying of the ship became a little more jarring. It was a good thing we had ratchet-strapped all the supplies last night! Because it was my first time experiencing a vessel in the ocean, I admit that I was worried I might get a bit sick. Thankfully, taking some Dramamine helped keep my breakfast and lunch in my stomach! By the time we reached our first station, my body felt much better, and I was ready for my first shift.
When I began my first shift, we had already arrived at the Slope Base and were preparing for the first dive with ROPOS. While the crew was getting ready to launch ROPOS, my roommate Ashlee and I learned how to do real-time logging on a computer in the hydrolab – the control center for the ROV. Our job was to watch the cameras and listen to the pilot to log any event that occurred during the dive. Once ROPOS was submerged, our eyes became glued to the cameras. We saw jellyfish, squid, salps, siphonophores, and some other interesting organisms during the descent- I wish I knew the names of all of them! When our shift ended, ROPOS was just around a third of its way to the seafloor, with was at a depth of approximately -2900m. While I was hoping to see it land, I want to get to bed so I’m awake and ready for my 4:00am shift! I am grateful for all I was able to experience today and cannot wait for what tomorrow will bring.