Sarah Baxstrom Blog Leg 2

August 21-22:

Marine life watching at the bridge. Credit: N. Wu, University of Washington; V’22.

My evening shift last night was very eventful! We started out finishing up a ROPOS dive where we got water samples from a few different locations including over a methane seep that I even got to keep my own little bottle of, it’s the perfect souvenir!

Afterwards, we helped set up the niskin rosette for our first CTD cast. These take water samples at various depths to test salinity, nutrient, and DIC levels among others. After that, we helped test salinity levels in reverse osmosis pumps from one of the retrieved instruments in the bio lab. We got off our shift about 15 minutes early which surprisingly made it feel like I got a lot more sleep than usual.

Today I decorated my Styrofoam cup to be sent 2900 meters down attached to the rosette to see the effect the immense pressure would have on it. My cup ended up looking pretty cool! After the rosette came up, we helped collect samples of the water from the niskins and label them for testing later.

“Squished Cup” Credit: S. Baxstrom, University of Washington, V22.

We also had a bridge tour today which is where the ship is controlled. There’s actually no wheel on the ship which I found interesting, everything is done through a computer and some knobs. The view from the bridge is amazing, you get a complete 180 and we were even able to see some whales and a bird possibly dining on a dead sunfish that floated up to the surface. We had some downtime in the Main Lab so we all sat down to work on blogs and presentations when the crew called us to see a pod of dolphins swimming by us while we transited back to the southern hydrate ridge! They were Pacific White-Sided dolphins and I read that they can occur in pods up to 2000 individuals! There sadly weren’t quite that many but we counted maybe 8-10.

Dolphins playing alongside the ship while we transited back to the Southern Hydrate Ridge site. Credit: S. Baxstrom, University of Washington; V22.

It turns out that we’re ahead of schedule on the tasks that we were set out to complete at each site. Since we had the time to spare, the science team decided we wanted to create a photo mosaic of the bottom of the seafloor at the Southern Hydrate Ridge site. This dive consists of ROPOS driving back and forth across the site in lines about 3 meters apart taking pictures every 5 seconds in order for Mitch, who is in charge of creating the photomosaic, to stitch all of the pictures together. He has done this before and the resulting maps look spectacular as well as being very helpful for future scientists diving at this site.

Logging lines was not the most exciting thing, but it definitely will create an end product worth the about 16 hours we spent 750 meters down!

August 19-20:

ROPOS arm detaching cable from LJ01D that is full of anemones. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/CSSF; V22.

My first shift went great! Most of the time I oversaw taking pictures of the new and old instruments with the ROPOS camera. I caught a lot of cool shots but one of my favorites is of ROPOS detaching a cable, which multiple anemones made their home on, from the old BEP.

I also helped logging events big and small in order for people to look back on the dive and see exactly what happened and what was done.

Most of our tasks in the ROV room are straightforward but it does require a bit of trusting your gut on what to capture and record as it can get tense and you don’t want to interrupt anything going on.

I haven’t been feeling too seasick, but I’ve been taking Dramamine and going out to look at the water and stand in the wind always makes me feel better if I’m feeling a little queasy. Sometimes though I think it’s impossible for my stomach to get upset because of all the great food the kitchen serves up.

Titrating water samples from Oregon Shelf and Oregon Offshore sites for oxygen analysis. Credit: S. Baxstrom, University of Washington, V’ 22.

One of my favorite things, however, was doing oxygen titrations with Julie. I’ve never been a huge fan of chemistry, but being able to apply lab skills to actual scientific situations was really exciting. Julie says that we’re getting done with our tasks for our Leg efficiently so we’ll even get to do some extra CTD casts that weren’t originally planned and get more samples for chemical analysis!

My shift last night was very eventful, the dive was planned to be about 6 hours long but went even longer because there was an issue contacting the shore to test the node of LJ01B on Southern Hydrate Ridge Summit 1.

Picture of the screens in the hydro lab showing a mat on top of a microbial mat. Credit: S. Baxstrom, University of Washington, V’ 22

While we were waiting for the response, the ROPOS team explored the biological life around the site where we found something very ironic; a mat (like one that you wipe your feet on) on top of a microbial mat! It definitely begged the question of which came first? The mat or the mat? Either way, it was sure something to see!

August 18:

First glimpse of the Thomas G. Thompson. Credit: S. Baxstrom, University of Washington, V’22.

The drive from Seattle to Newport yesterday went smoothly and we arrived around 1600. Thankfully, none of us tested positive so we were all able to board the ship and start to get comfortable in our home for the week.

When we first set eyes on the Thomas G. Thompson, it finally dawned on me that I was here, and I was going to be involved in this remarkable cruise with all these fantastic people. It’s been a little overwhelming but also very exciting to see how much is going on in the boat and all the cool instruments and tools available to the scientists. I have been getting more familiar with the ship so far though and I am excited to learn all that I can. I also learned my shift yesterday, I’ll be working 0800 – 1200 and 2000 – 0000 which I am happy about because it’s the shift that most matches my current sleep schedule.

We just departed! It was pretty foggy, but it didn’t deter our excitement much. It’s about an hour out to our first dive sight where we will be replacing and doing maintenance on some of our deep-sea instruments. I’m super excited for my first shift because we will be going straight into logging dives in the ROPOS room. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my project and I am still not sure exactly what I am going to do it on… there are so many applications that I am interested in from morphology of deep sea organisms, to data science, to astrobiology. My shift will be starting soon so I’ll give more updates later!