Ethan Ensminger Blog Leg 1

August 12:

The ROPOS Command Center working at the Shallow Profiler Mooring. Ensminger, University of Washington, V22.

I did nothing on my shift last night except talk to some other students because we were in transit. I was able to get to bed a bit early though, which was nice. I woke up this morning, had a small breakfast, then reported to my shift, but we weren’t quite ready to dive yet, so I hung around on the back deck with Andrew and some of the crew tying knots and having some fun.

Soon, the ROV was in the air, so I went to the aqua lab, home of ROPOS command, and began logging the dive. This dive was very fast at only around 3 hours from start to finish. It was to replace and reattach one of the modules of a shallow profiler unit, and the pilots and team seem to have gotten into a groove given how quickly and easily they did it. They undid the cables and plugged everything back in, before doing a slow fly around for pictures and then ascending.

Live water column data from the CTD cast control and data screen. Credit: E. Ensminger, University of Washington, V22.

I ate lunch next, and then went to the computer lab to watch and assist in a CTD and sample collection dive for the rosette. We sent it to a depth of 220 m, then brought it back up in 20 m increments to pause and fire two niskins containers, which are tubes that snap shut on both ends to capture a water sample. The apparatus was then brought on deck and several students including me prepared to collect samples for oxygen content, carbon, nutrients, salinity, and chlorophyll. The process was similar for all of these, which were just collected into different containers. We would check in with the person charting everything to get our container’s barcode scanned and get assigned a niskin that was collected at a specific depth, attach a tube to a valve at the bottom of the niskins, open the valve, get the water out of the tube, invert the container on  the tube to rinse it out, then flip the tube and container to fill it, and finally let the water flow a bit extra and completely flush out everything except the desired sample.

Pulling the CTD rosette out of the water. Credit: E. Ensminger, University of Washington, V22.

Some of the tests like oxygen content required chemicals to be added, so we took it into the wet lab and handed it off to Julie, who dispensed the correct amount of the appropriate reagents, before capping the container. Some of them like chlorophyll were just rinsed a few times, filled, and capped. It was a lot of fun and very wet. Once we finished everything, we emptied the canisters and took the boxes of collected samples back to the processing lab. I then took an afternoon nap, woke up, had a dinner of twice baked parmesan potatoes, salad, broccoli, an amazing roll, and a chocolate and berry parfait. During my nap, the ROV launched again and descended to the sea floor around 1500 m deep to the site of a thermal vent. It was neat to watch and see the floor covered in now solidified globs of lava as the team replaced some equipment including a “pig” which is a canister about the size of a paper towel roll on four legs that has a long cable with a probe on the end that gets placed into the vent while the “body” sits precariously on top. My shift starts in an hour, so I’ll likely see more interesting scenery.

The view from the bridge of the back deck of the R/V Thompson. Credit: Ethan Ensminger, University of Washington; V22.

August 11:

I woke up and went to breakfast this morning as usual, which was tasty French toast, then went to my shift at 8. We were and still are in transit to axial base, which is an 18-hour journey to the Juan de Fuca ridge. Due to this, there won’t be any dives today, so I went to help elsewhere. I was going to help Julie with titration of water samples gathered on previous ROPOS dives to determine dissolved oxygen content. We were going to do this with a Dosimat titration machine, but there was an error with it and a piston was stuck, so we spent a while determining the problem was corrosion and improper cleaning when it was last used, so we disassembled and cleaned parts and contacts hoping that it would work, but it didn’t, so that process is halted until we get back to port and a different one can be used. After the troubleshooting, I had lunch which included some amazing Ethiopian black eyed peas and basmati rice. Next, to catch up on sleep I took a nap until 2:50, because a presentation was scheduled at 3 in the library. I went there and no one else was there, so I thought it might have been moved as things often are on the boat due to a constantly changing schedule, so I went to the main lab to check, and the meeting was indeed moved to 6, but a tour of ROPOS was scheduled at 2 and a tour of the bridge was scheduled right after. I hurried to ROPOS command, but no one was there, so I went to the bridge and caught the last minute of the bridge tour’s questions. I was disappointed that two things that I wanted to attend and learn about had opportunities that took place with little notice, so I had missed it, but luckily the crew is very friendly. I mentioned my circumstances to the second mate who was the one on the bridge, and he totally understood and happily gave me a quick personal bridge tour. The ROPOS crew is also friendly and said to ask questions anytime they aren’t busy, so I went to the computer room they are in next, but no one was there, so I’ll go back a bit later to ask for a quick tour of the ROV from them. I am an engineering student, so ROPOS is the thing on the boat I am most interested in. It’s now dinnertime and there is a presentation from Jim Edson from OOI in the library afterwards.

Jim’s presentation was on the work that he does, some of the science behind it, and the technology that was implemented in the past, present, and future. It was interesting and he is a good presenter, so it was engaging too. My evening shift starts in 10 minutes at 8, but we are still in transit so I’m unsure of what I’ll do.

The ROV ROPOS changes at the CTD during dive R2201 at Slope Base near the Cascadia Margin. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/CSSF; V22.

August 9:

I had my first shift last night. I was watching the ROPOS cameras and listening to the team in the aqua lab, which is the ROPOS command Center. My role was to record observations and moments and things of interest. I got on shift while the ROV was still descending (I think it was around 600-700 meters) and not much happened for a while, because there was just ocean, particulate matter, and the occasional fish on the cameras. There were two moments where the team stopped descending for a while. One was around 760 m because there was an issue with the feeder that unspools and respools the cable, so they had to change sprockets and make a new chain. The second pause was around 1060 m (I think), but I don’t remember what for. The ROV descended at around 20-30 m per minute, and the target site, Slope Base, was 2904 m down and took a while.

Once we were approaching the sea floor, the first thing that came into view was one of the cable junction boxes, LJ01A. The ROV first placed down the tool basket that was attached to its underside. Next, it approached LJ01A to unplug cables at the J11 and J12 ports, which were for the OPTAA and CTD respectively. It proceeded to unplug them, then lift the plugs in the right manipulator and the CTD/OPTAA in the other, then placed them next to the basket. This is because the main goal of this first ROV dive was to swap out one of the instrument tripods. Next, the new tripod that was in the basket had to be retrieved, which was done by using the ROPOS manipulators to pull release rings and release the bungees holding down the new instrument tripod.  There was some difficulty because the cables had become slightly tangled on the way down, but the operators cleverly hooked a loop on top of the manipulator rather than using the claw at the end to aid in retrieval. Eventually the tripod was grabbed in the left manipulator, cables in the right, and it was moved to the location that the old one was at. It took several adjustments and movements until it was in the final position, but it slowly got there.  It was around this time that a fish appeared and watched the CTD and operations from here on out. The plugs were placed in front of the junction box they would be plugged back into, and then it was midnight, and my 4-hour shift was up. I briefly taught the next shift how to log events, then went on my way. I quickly returned to my room, showered, brushed my teeth, and went to bed for the first night while at sea. My next shift was 8am-noon, so I needed to catch up on all the sleep I could.

The next morning, I woke up at 7:20, quickly got dressed, had breakfast of steel cut oats, blueberry pancakes, fruit, and a Greek omelet. Once I finished, I reported to the main lab for my shift, which would be logging ROPOS events for the next dive, but it wasn’t ready yet, so I took my daily COVID test and typed this up. I am going now at 8:45 to fix my internet connection. Yesterday afternoon/evening, I tried connecting my laptop to the ship network to connect to cruise share, but I couldn’t, and I couldn’t figure it out, the student lead couldn’t figure it out, and the mar tech on shift couldn’t figure it out, so I waited until the other mar tech was on shift. It took us awhile to figure it out, but Liz, the wonderful mar tech led me to determine the problem, and I was able to connect to the ship servers to upload this blog and the internet. It is 9:20 as I finish writing this.