Leilani Combs Blog Leg 3

Andrew with his prized sea spider. L. Combs, University of Washington, V22.
Hydrothermal vent tubeworms. L. Combs, University of Washington, V22.

September 1:

We’re nearing the end of Leg 3, nearly all of the dives have been done (except for four) and we have started a 20-hour long transit back towards the Oregon coast. The past few days have been full of what most of us came here to see, the Axial Caldera and the hydrothermal vents.

We’ve seen an amazing array of deep see organisms and feats of scientific engineering genius. Today, we had the joy of getting some hands-on time with tube worms and scale worms that make them their home, we even got to meet a sea spider!

Ben explains Thomas G. Thompson engine function to VISIONS 22’ Leg 3 students. L. Combs, University of Washington, V22.

August 30:

What’s it take to move a ship? Today, Ben (one of the Thomas G Thompson‘s engineers) gave us a tour of the inner workings of the ship and all the things the rest of us mortals take for granted. The engineers on the Thompson not only keep us move forward, backward and even side to side, but also over see the systems that provide us clean water to drink and shower (via reverse osmosis) and keep us safe from harm. The ship’s engines are kept running by engineers and a team of oilers, whom these operations would not be possible, so hard-hats off to them!

August 26: 

ROPOS returns from the deep. Credit: L. Combs, University of Washington, V22.

My first watch will be hard to beat! At one of our first sites in the Oregon Offshore area we encountered the most fish I have ever seen in the wild. Larger fish towards the surface, that seemed to only decrease in size (but not number) with depth. However, a blue shark known to inhabit the area stole the show.

The shark took interest in ROPOS shortly after deployment, it would be business as usual, but it was always easy to find a shark fin or face sneaking in from some corner of the video frame. Until the shark finally built up the courage to go for the goal, a flashlight mounted about ROPOS’ right eye, managing to knock it loose.

ROPOS gets an eye patch. Credit: L. Combs, University of Washington, V22.

ROPOS had to be recovered to assess the damage, which in the end was a dangly flashlight, and after a couple repairs was redeployed to complete the replacement of the site’s Deep Profiler.

But our friend the blue shark would not be thwarted so easily. He was waiting for us upon re-deployment and escorted us back to the mooring wire. Although our friend the shark appeared to take a couple more swipes at ROPOS, thanks to some smart reinforcements made to ROPOS’ light mounts, the redeployment objective was achieved smoothly.

These sharks are known to frequent this site and have not been believed to be as agitated by another ROV called Jason often deployed on these cruises. Leaving us to wonder, what’s ROPOS got that Jason doesn’t? Maybe it’s all in the eyes.

(No robots were seriously injured in the making of this blog post.)

August 25:

Fishing boat “Evolution” makes its way through Newport harbor.
L. Combs, University of Washington V22.

Bon Voyage!

After having ample time to settle in on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson at the Newport, OR NOAA facility, we headed to sea today at 12:45. It was a gorgeous day in Newport as we made our way past fishing boats, diving cormorants, and seagulls taking wing in the ocean breeze.

We enjoyed four-hour transit to the first site at Oregon Offshore Site, where a test dive was completed before the Deep Profiler instrumented vehicle was installed on a second dive. I however, was off to bed to prepare myself for my midnight to 4 am ROPOS watch.