Today started out with an uneventful watch. We did however get to do some cool things. Namely, we toured the bridge with Tall Todd. I got to (pretend) drive the boat! The view up there was great – in the span of half an hour (ish – I wasn’t counting) we saw a mola mola being groomed by a seagull, a baby shark, and in the distance a pod of whales. Not sure what kind though.
I also did a workout, which was really eye opening. I hadn’t realized how hard it was on my body to be on the ship. You’re constantly moving to maintain balance, even if you don’t realize it. My legs were super tired and waking up at 3:30 for watch every day certainly doesn’t help. Although I am going home to the east coast the day we get back, and I guess I’m getting on an eastern time sleep schedule.
As I was writing that last sentence, a pod of dolphins decided to play in the wake of the boat, so I ran (no running!) outside to see them. And immediately after that I went to go get a snack, and the galley crew had put out a legit charcuterie board. I don’t think I’ll be leaving the ship then.
The coolest thing we did today was decorate Styrofoam cups (and two heads – also Styrofoam) with sharpies and put them in a laundry bag on a CTD, which measures water properties. We then sent that CTD to 2900 m below the surface. That’s 9500 feet. The Styrofoam, being filled with air, does not like this so it shrinks away in fear of the immense pressure. What comes back up out of the water is sort of like a shrinky-dink.
What I learned in boating school is how to tie things down for ROPOS to take to the bottom. At the next station, Southern Hydrate Ridge, we’ll be installing a seismometer to detect earthquakes, something which I was told hasn’t been done in a long time. It’s interesting – you have to think like an ROV, which doesn’t have thumbs. So we use bungee cords with pins in place that, when pulled, release the hitches.
I also helped Andrew clean a CAT. No, we do not have a ship’s cat, although I think we should, especially given their history. I didn’t ask too many questions about how that instrument got its name, but it measures the flow of fluids moving into the sediment compared to moving out of the sediment.
We pulled it out of the water from Southern Hydrate Ridge, where methane issues out of the sedimented seafloor and feeds a diverse (but very smelly) ecosystem.
We also got to tour the engine room, which was awesome. There’s a lot of thought put into making a research vessel that can both move around sufficiently but still be maneuverable enough to keep the ROV in position.
Yesterday evening we set off, and I immediately recognized that I had underestimated how much the ship was going to move with the waves. I was out on deck and jumped right as we crested a wave, which meant I ended up way higher off the deck than I expected. Needless to say I did not stick the landing. Fortunately it ended up just being funny, but I definitely won’t be doing that again (at least not without a helmet on).
Waking up at 3:30 in the morning for a 4 hour watch is nothing new to me, so fortunately that part wasn’t too hard. I’m also flying to the east coast right after the cruise, so it’s actually pretty convenient to get on the correct sleep schedule ahead of time.
ROPOS started really working today as well, replacing BEPs, cleaning things (with a very high tech toilet brush) and moving equipment around on the bottom. There are plenty of halibut and black cod down there to keep the sub company. We accidentally picked up a brittle star that was stuck in a piece of equipment we recovered.
After sleeping for what felt like 3 days and waking up refreshed, getting breakfast, and talking through project ideas with the rest of the students, we got started with our safety briefing.
If you’ve never put on an immersion suit (which we had to do today), they’re essentially heavy duty wetsuits that go on over your clothes. It wasn’t too hard to get in, nor were they too uncomfortable. But hopefully this is the last time I have to put one on until the next cruise.
We then got a tour of ROPOS, the on board ROV. He’s super cool, and super capable. I don’t want to reveal too much about him here – I’ll be doing a deep dive into the ROV operation for my project, since on this leg it won’t be possible to collect biological samples.
I also have my first watch today, and there will (should) be a dive about 3 hours into my shift, and then another one 3 hours later. Hopefully I can get some good footage during the dive after my shift.
To summarize the first day of VISIONS in one word would be difficult – a lot happened, some of it great, and some of it less so. The day started off interestingly (and annoyingly). I was asked to drive a van from UW to Newport, OR, presumably because I’m a responsible adult, or something. So, I wake my roommate up to drive me to the spot from which I was to pick up a minivan, because I didn’t want to take an Uber.
When I get to the lot, what do I find? Someone had the wonderful idea to break into the lockbox containing all of the keys to the university’s cars. Now what they probably didn’t know is that these keys won’t work unless you make a reservation online. So, if you stole all of these keys only to find out they don’t work, you would put them back, or at least leave them, right? Instead, this person decided to take the keys with them. So now I’m at the lot to pick up a car, already later than we had hoped, only to find out that there are no keys.
After some scrambling, I took an Uber to a rental company and finally managed to end up with a car in my possession only half an hour later than was originally planned.
After driving 6 hours to Newport, I got on the Thompson, got my room, toured the boat with Andrew, and started learning about ROPOS, which I’ll talk more about later – there’s a lot to unpack there. I’ll be on watch from 4-8 (AM and PM) which is less than ideal, but I like taking the tougher shifts because everyone else can benefit through my suffering.