Mai Abualsaud Blog Leg 3

Shot from near the end of the fantail, looking towards the hanger. M. Abualsaud, University of Washington, V22.
An actively venting site with tube worm bushes and oxidized sulfide deposits. M. Abualsaud, University of Washington, Vs22.

September 2:

The ship began its transit and so there weren’t any dives happening. Therefore, when it got dark, we all exited the ship, grabbed our life jackets and headed to the bow. We informed our leaders of where we were going for safety purposes.

It took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust, but once they did the view that unfolded before us was majestic. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was something out of this world, the cluster of stars I saw. The milky way, planet Mars, and all kinds of stars were just covering the sky like a blanket. I laid down for at least 45 minutes on my back on the bow mesmerized by the stars. I have never seen this many stars as I grew up in a city and so light pollution did not make that possible. And so stargazing today was a memorable experience.

It got super late and so I excused myself and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning. Since the ship was still transiting, no dives were happening. Some students were helping Andrew, and some were helping Han with their thesis research. I offered my services, but they had enough labor. Therefore, I took myself and my laptop to the Main Lab to be productive. I talked to Julie, Andrew, Jen, and even sent an email to Wendi. Based on the discussions I had with them and a few days of contemplating, I knew what I wanted to focus on in my research project. And so, I worked on my presentation and completed it.

At the end of the night, they called us to do some cleaning work. To be honest, this was probably one of my favorite segments on this cruise. There is an odd satisfaction that I get from getting things cleaned. We washed and scrubbed the junction box as it was going home.

Getting a tour of the bridge during Leg 3. M. Abualsaud, University of Washington, V22.

August 30:

I woke up on this typical day, and like any other, we had a dive to start. I rushed to the control room for my shift, and it was my turn to log this time. Since we just started the dive, we had to wait about an hour and a half to reach the seafloor. During the process, however, we saw a lot of different sea organisms like dinner plate jelly fish, siphonophores, larvaceans, and a cool worm (that I forgot its name) that Andrew urged us to capture on the computer screen. During the dive, recovered the old OSMO instruments and put in the new one to continue timer-series sampling of diffuse vent fluids.

Following my shift, I took my daily 3-hour nap and woke up before dinner. I hung out with some of my friends on the deck and we chatted with Julie. We then went to dinner. After dinner we got a bridge tour. Chief Mate Todd showed us around the room and briefly explained what each button did. Todd’s mini lecture was very informative and enlightening. I learned about the creation of International Marine Organization (IMO) and the SOLAS treaty that was first adopted to prevent marine deaths. Todd mentioned a lot of interesting facts about marine life and logistics that have made me even more invested in marine life.

As we were waiting for the next dive during my shift, I was doing a little bit of research on Axial Caldera and the kinds of hydrothermal vents we saw there, as well as the different instruments we deployed in our dives. Jenn, then asked us if we wanted to use a refractometer to measure the salinity of the water. We all responded with eager and excitement and used a refractometer to measure salinities.

We finally went for our last dive of the day. We reached the seafloor and saw beautiful hydrothermal vents. And to our surprise we saw an eerie looking hole in the seafloor with a multitude of tube worms near the edges. I then went out on deck to see the squid that was covering the surface of the ocean.

August 29:

Today was action packed. I woke up and went to the ROPOS control room. It was towards the end of the dive, so we were just waiting for the vehicle to reach the surface. This took around two hours. There wasn’t much to log at the time, we did however see a diverse collection of marine species like shrimp, jelly fish and even squid.

Following the dive, our watch leader Andrew took us to the lab to show us and teach us a little bit about tube worms (his own research). He specifically talked about sulfide worms that are found in areas where active hydrothermal venting occurs. I found what he said to be very interesting as some researchers look for sulfide to find these tube worms. Andrew then demonstrated how to take a tube worm sample and immerse it in ethanol. Ethanol is meant to preserve the tube worms, theoretically, forever. We all took a sample of the sulfide worm as a souvenir from this trip.

We still had another 2 hours till our shift ended and some free time before the next dive. And so, Andrew wanted to give us a short lesson on how rigging works (how ROPOS reaches for tools in the tool basket). Andrew explained to us, how the tools must be knotted in a way that is easy for the ROPOS to have a grip on, but also securely tied to the basket. He demonstrated how to do the knot and made us all take turns to try to do it with a bucket as a sample tool.

After the tool basket tour, we went back to the control room and started doing logging work as the next dive started. My shift then ended, and the ship started transiting to Axial Caldera. In the meantime, we had an engine tour of the ship.

August 26:

Today I woke up and went straight for breakfast. Following breakfast, I headed to the control room expecting to do logging work for another dive. However, to my surprise they told us that we would be doing a CTD cast. This was my first ever CTD cast on the ship. Professor Julie was in charge and showed us a demo for how to collect water samples from each niskin in the rosette. We took multiple samples of water and put them in different containers. Each vessel had its own purpose. Some containers were to be analyzed for oxygen levels, others were analyzed for chlorophyl, and the last will be analyzed for nutrient concentrations.

Following the CTD cast there was yet another dive. Therefore, during my second shift, I mostly did log work. During my off hours I started to think more about my project. I do know I want to explore and study how climate change affects our ocean water. However, I need to figure out how I can utilize the resources on this ship to help with research. Perhaps I can compare oxygen, nutrient and chlorophyl levels from this year and the years before? I need to think more about my project and talk to different people on the ship for guidance.

August 25:

My first day logging in the ROV control center. Credit: M. Abualsaud.

A lot has happened today. I woke up very early and had breakfast. After that I did a RAT COVID test. We then attended a safety meeting to know what to do in case of an emergency (man overboard, abandon ship, and fire alarm) and what each alarm meant/indicated. Following the safety meeting we went out on deck and saw the ROPOS.

At 12:45 the ship departed. And while everyone was feeling sick and nauseated, I napped for a while. I luckily did not feel seasick. After I got up from my nap, I went to the logging room to see the deep profiler/ROPOS test dive. I am still a bit confused about what exactly the purpose is from these missions, and the more I learn, the more I am aware of my ignorance. However, from what I understood, the purpose from the dive was to clean the cables of biofouling and attach a beacon to the float.

During the dive we saw a lot of sea anemones, fish and other sea organisms on the orange footballs. We also saw a shark pass by which was very cool! I then started my shift. I was very nervous at the beginning as I did not know what exactly the names of instruments are. Luckily though, there is a lot of resources available in the room and people to ask.

August 24:

On one of the upper decks of the Thompson in front of storage vans.

I pulled an all-nighter packing my bags for my cruise. I was very excited, but also very nervous and intimidated by the whole trip. I reached the Ocean Teaching Building, took my third RAT for COVID and got in the car. Luckily for me the long 6-hour drive felt like nothing as I slept for most of it.

We arrived at Newport at around 2 pm and took yet another RAT. As soon as we put our bags and checked out our rooms, Jen and Andrew were so kind to show us around and give us a tour. Following that we had lunch, and finally at the end of the day all the science crew gathered at the front deck to dance to some music and have a good time.