Our shift began with recovery of the CTD, we took turns in the computer lab communicating with the winch operators at the depth we needed them to proceed to. This allowed us to remotely fire the Niskin bottles in the computer lab for water collection, as the winch lab moved the instrument up through the water column.
Once the CTD is brought up to deck, we begin retrieving samples from each individual Niskin bottle. For retrieving a salinity sample, we attach tubing to the lower spout of the Niskin bottle and invert a container onto the tubing to be rinsed out, we then fill the container by allowing it to overflow for twice as long as it took to fill. This filled container was then passed over to the wet lab where the reagents would be added, and the sample would be sealed and stored.
On this dive we descended to ~2,900 meters and a fun project we did was to send down Styrofoam cups with the CTD for the pressure to shrink them into miniature creations.
Today we were given a tour of the bridge where the ships navigation is controlled. While up in the bridge we were fortunate to see some life in the water; a shark, birds and a sunfish were out. Afterward, we spotted a pod of pacific white-sided dolphins that followed alongside the boat.
My groups watch shifts are from midnight to 4:00am and noon to 4:00pm, we have found that it is difficult to keep track of the days as they seem to blend into one another due to these schedules.
The events of each day can include the ROPOS dives, laboratory work, and ship tours, all of which can take hours of our day and keep us busy.
Today our morning watch shift took place during the dive at Southern Hydrate Ridge. We were in the ROPOS control room while the operating crew troubleshooted communication issues with the Marum Sonar.
After finishing with the instrument, we searched for methane seeps by following the methane bubbles that appeared on the control room sonar, seen as small white specks across the screen.
During the day we were given a tour of the roaring engine room where we were guided around the lower section of the vessel to see the innerworkings of our energy production process. The engines are constantly running using diesel fuel to power our electricity, water supply, and while idling during dives.
We started the day with a walk-through of the Niskin sample collection protocol using the bottles located on ROPOS. Some of the water parameters that are tested for include DIC (dissolved inorganic carbon), salinity, and nutrients. Each bottle must be rinsed thoroughly before being filled, and some samples require reagents to be added before being sealed off.
Our morning shift started in the control room where we can observe several screens showing the ROPOS cameras, sonar, and ship location relative to the cabled instruments. During the dive to Southern Hydrate Ridge, they recovered sediment and rock samples from the seafloor that students need for their projects. This location was ideal due to the microbial mats that thrive at this location. Several ROPOS Niskin samples were also taken from the deep, and from the upper water column.
After ROPOS arrived on deck and was ready for sample recovery, we immediately evacuated the Niskin bottles and collect the necessary items from the bio box. We then take these samples to the wet lab for processing. The rocks were scraped to retrieve bacterial debris and any small critters (brittle stars, tiny scallops, and worms) were also taken as samples and preserved.
For my project, I needed the water that was collected from the upper water column at around 2/3 meters depth. I took the bucket full of Niskin water and separated it into three sub-sample containers for preservation. Luckily this dive provided me with water that had visible creatures swimming about; a good sign for future lab analysis on plankton.
Today we did not have any scheduled watch shifts in the ROPOS control room while we remained on shore, so in the morning I wandered around the ship trying to get a feel for the layout. We attended a scheduled safety training, which informed us on general safety, as well as ship emergency procedures. We practiced gearing up into our emergency suits, life jackets, and did a walk-through of the escape routes closet to our berthing rooms.
We were given a tour of the ROPOS vehicle on deck and inside the control room where they introduced us to many of the different features of the vehicle. ROPOS has several high-quality cameras located at the front, each with varying ranges of field view and adjustability. The platform located at the front of ROPOS has a ‘Bio box’, a large clear container with a lid for collecting any rocks or live specimen during the dives. On the left and right top sides of the vehicle, two Niskin bottles are used for water collection and can be opened at any point along the dive by the operators.
We prepared the labs for our evening departure from Newport at 6:00pm by securing buckets, boxes, and our own computers by using straps and cords. The ships movement can shift around loose items, so it was important to secure anything that could get damaged or roll away.
We arrived at the NOAA facility in Newport slightly off schedule due to transport issues, once we arrived, we waited at the gangway to get tested for entry. Upon boarding the ship we were introduced to our berthing areas and set our bags in. Afterwards we began a tour of the ship, making our way through the labs, and around the deck. Some of the areas we became acquainted with were the Main Lab, the wet lab and the ROPOS control room. We will be spending the majority of our next few days in the labs and in the control room during our watch shifts.
Our student research projects for this cruise are in the planning stages, the goal is to use data and samples we can collect from this trip to create an original project that we can continue to work on during the upcoming quarter.