The last couple days on the Thompson are starting to fly by. We wrapped up the 18-hour transit to Slope Base in the afternoon, so everyone was catching up on their sleep. Mike gave a great informational presentation on the biology and chemosynthetic life around hydrothermal vents. I learned about the food chain, their growth, and the threats to their population. I also got to put names to the many species I’ve seen while logging dives. I really wish I got this presentation sooner into the cruise, but it was still equally as informative right now. It looks like we may be leaving a day earlier than expected which means packing and unloading will come sooner than expected.
I still haven’t gotten to interview any of my supervisors for my project. I spent a good few days chasing everyone around with my phone recording, but I always ask before doing so. I was able to finish up a quick trailer for my documentary, which came out more dramatic than intended. It brought laughter to a few friends I’ve shown for approval, so I think everyone will get a good laugh out of it when everyone presents the status on their projects. In all fairness, the CTD can be a suspenseful topic and my trailer does a great job capturing that. Hopefully I can get my interviews done on land before having to chase Trina and Christina back on land in the lab.
These last couple dives at Slope Base are to recover a junction box and shallow profiler instrument pods. I’m pretty familiar with these since I’ve been prepping several of them for the cruise before heading off. The junction box, MJ01B, got recovered and placed on deck just as I was easing off my shift. Personally, I don’t want to clean another J-Box after the last one. I do look forward to cleaning and disassembling the shallow profiler pod that will surface tomorrow with ROPOS. I’m comfortable with putting one together, so I’m confident I’ll be able to take it apart.
Overall, this VISIONS cruise has been a memorable learning and research experience and I look forward to meeting with the Thompson again in the future.
Things are beginning to slowly wrap up as the last few dives occur. I woke up this morning to the end of the last FETCH transponder being placed. There was a beautiful survey dive yesterday to determine its placement on the seafloor. Fortunately, there isn’t any fog today so I’m able to go out and enjoy the blue skies and calmer waves. Even with the pleasant weather, I chose to spend more of my day inside the ROV control room past my watch just to see the last bits of the hydrothermal vents. I got to see some Sea Spiders, which weren’t as unsettling as the Daisy Brittle Stars.
Today was my first time seeing a sample dive. One of the student leads are receiving worms from several vent sites for their own research. I look forward to seeing them come up from the vents to help clean and properly process them. During the dive, ROPOS was using its manipulators to grab smmall “bundles” of these worms from the diffuse flow and chimney around the hydrothermal vent, Inferno. These worms got placed into special sample boxes on the ROV to later come up to the surface. At the same time, four niskin bottles on ROPOS were being fired to collect fluid samples at and around Inferno. Some of these samples contain microbes and bacteria circulating around the vent. I think one of the bottles collected water right above the plumes of the underwater hot springs.
After the worms came up, we had to carefully transfer them to the wet lab to begin sorting. There were several different species of worms ranging from scale worms, palm worms, and tube worms. The first one of interest was the scale worms. There was a total of about 50 found after sifting through the bundle of other worms and sulfide. The worms like to cling onto the sulfide from the vent and mixing it around in water created a rotten egg odor due to hydrogen sulfide in the vent fluids. We began to run out of ethanol to preserve the worms, so some were returned to the sea. A few great finds within the bundles were a couple Sea Spiders and a rare worm not commonly found around this vent field. After everything, worm time lasted about four hours and I was paid in a preserved worm to take home.
When I said yesterday couldn’t have ended any better, I lied. My evening watch was one of the most spectacular dives I’ve seen on this cruise. As ROPOS descended, we were greeted with a seafloor environment of great biology and variation. This was the first vent dive present for, and the control room was crowded for the occasion. The first sign of life was the now-common Daisy Brittle Stars. As we surveyed further, the cutest Graneledone octopus was perched on top of some basalt. Not long after I decided it was my favorite organism, a Blob Sculpin wanders into view. I’ve never seen a Blobfish in its natural habitat, but it is difficult to see the resemblance.
Back to today’s blog, the second FETCH instrument was set down as a set of four. These FETCH instruments are a part of the brand now Axial Acoustic Array project and executed by my boss, Dana Manalang. I also had the great opportunity to interview her about this project, and I look forward to helping spread the word about this research. Not too far into the day, I was told that dolphins were out feeding in front of the bow. I carefully ran up to see them and the view was like no other. Possibly the same pod as before was out playing and hunting as they have throughout the cruise. This time, though, the water was easier to see through and I got some great pictures and videos to share at home. I have had a hard time adjusting to life at sea and seeing this made a bit emotional. This was the perfect reminder as to why I wanted to join this cruise and study the ocean.
Later on, I got to do the job I have back on land here at sea. In the RCA lab, I help Dana, Trina, and Christina test and archive instruments while doing some assembly and disassembling. We brought up the HPIES and junction box earlier in the cruise which desperately needed a cleaning. After that, I got some students together and with Christina showed them how to dismantle and put away a CTD and HYDBB-A stand. It was cool doing what I know I’m comfortable with, even if it meant collecting more cuts on my hands. We also received a tour of the bridge (ship command center) which was as interesting as the engine room tour. I got to learn about ship operations above deck and how maritime law and occupations work. Other than that, it was just business as usual by resuming my watch and going to bed.
Today started off gloomy with fog spilling over the ship; hardly able to see the end of the back deck from the ROV control room. My shift started promptly with a dive as the descent was just wrapping up before coming in. ROPOS headed down to swap out the current junction box, LJ03A, for a new one. I’ve noticed that the recent dives have gotten more difficult with reaching the bottom at 2,600 meters. There is a lot more sediment that quickly kicks up at contact and disrupts the vision of the pilots and cameras. Though you may think that’s why the dives can take a while, it is due to the long decent down to the dive site. Most of the time, the ascents take longer if it is a recovery dive; profilers, junction boxes, and instruments add weight to the ROV as well as time.
As we finished moving one of the CTD trees away from the junction box, a large Rattail fish approached ROPOS’ camera. He seemed very curious in what we were doing but minded his own business. I learned that most of the organisms down at these depths are nearly, if not totally, blind as evolution removed their eyesight. I guess you don’t really need vision deep within the pitch-black ocean. There was also a Cuskeel roaming around the cabling to the junction box, but he didn’t seem to care for what we were doing. After retrieving the old junction box, the dive concludes with a long ascent. Thankfully, my shift ended not too long after we started going up. It isn’t very entertaining to stare at a blue screen for about two hours.
After 20+ hours of hibernating, I think I may have gotten used to being out at sea. Yesterday was rough and hardly worth mentioning and the transit to Axial Base took nearly 18 hours. Today started off much better as the ship was not moving and I could move comfortably with my stomach. My first shift began with a recovery dive for another deep profiler. There had been some issues with cleaning the deep profiler and it may have also been slipping through ROPOS’ grasp. Regardless, it made it back up. I was fortunate enough to see ROPOS surface from the deep out on the deck. It was amazing watching it emerge from the illuminated waters.
Shortly after ROPOS got secured, I got to witness my first sunrise at sea. Last night was also my first sunset, but the sunrise was arguably more beautiful. The skies have been clearer after crossing some rough seas. The remaining clouds contributed to a gorgeous scenery. Today I realized that my video project needed some heavy reduction. I wanted to document the many different instruments that connect to the profilers, nodes, junction boxes, etc. as well as the RCA. Now, I believe the documentary would be too long, even if I were to only cover the CTD, ADCP, and HPIES. I think I will narrow my project down to just the CTD and its rosette. I’m lucky to have made this decision quickly, as today is the last CTD cast. I’m excited to capture it on video, and also see how much our Styrofoam cups will shrink with the pressure.
If it is still dark outside, should it even be considered “morning?” Anyways, my shift began at 4:00 am where I sat in the control center for ROPOS. The ROV had a couple dives scheduled, but I decided I’d observe the first one. My job for the shift is to log each action the ROV makes during its dive into a program that records its every move. While I do that, one of the other students takes pictures of anything interesting. It was really cool seeing all the monitors in the control room recording different angles of the ship, the ROV, and the ocean.
While I started logging different actions such as “ROPOS in water” or “First football on”, we had a friend visit the mooring. A blue fin shark kept appearing around the camera. From what I was told, this was the same shark as yesterday’s dive. He seems to be a frequent resident around the deep profiler’s mooring. After ROPOS recovered the beacon from the Deep Profiler Mooring, the shark took a bite at the ROV. Not sure what it was that he attacked, but part of the ROV flipped upwards. It must have scared him away as he disappeared until ROPOS surfaced.
As a part of the job, I get to also log any life or biology that come across the camera. I had the great privilege of recording “Shark” into the program along with a picture my peer captured. Today my seasickness came and went, but still haunts me and my meals. I do not look forward to embarking on another two-hour mobilization. Just before heading out, a group of dolphins passed along the side of the ship. The waves here are a bit aggressive, but they loved jumping through them and entertaining us. Just as I expected, the motion of the ship sent me back out to the deck as I continue my staring contest with the horizon. I unfortunately missed the CTD sampling for my project, but I’m sure they’ll cast the rosette out again.
Today marks the first full day on the research vessel, Thomas G. Thompson. I was so winded from yesterday’s transport from UW to Newport, that I fell asleep easily at 8:30 pm. The intercom woke me up at 7:00 am announcing the start of fueling before our departure at 12:45 pm. The day began with a science briefing along with a quick rundown of ship etiquette. Afterwards, we received a tour of the vessel and met many of the key personnel on board.
As soon as the Thompson departed, I immediately felt the sea sickness kick in. Even though I had a scopolamine patch, special wristbands, and some Queasy Drops candy, I still felt horribly nauseous. I began to feel better after sitting out on deck, until the fire drill required me to go back downstairs to my berthing chamber to grab my life vest and immersion suit. I had to go back on deck to watch the horizon with some fresh air. The trip took nearly four hours and anytime I tried to go back in, I nearly had to run back out.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep my breakfast and lunch down, so I didn’t bother to waste dinner. I also couldn’t attend my first shift at the Oregon Offshore Site. From what I heard, ROPOS had a great dive to the mooring with a new vehicle to be attached to the Deep Profiler. There are monitors all over the Thompson with the live footage from the ROV. One of the few times I peeked over at it, I saw a shark! I couldn’t tell if he was attracted to the beacon, or. The mini ecosystem covering the mooring. Hopefully I am able to get some rest tonight before my 4:00 am shift tomorrow.