Petek Mertan Blog Leg 1

A rock fish rests in the Benthic Experiment Platform at the 80 m Oregon Shelf site. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI; J2-1528; V23.

21 August 2023

I woke up this morning to surprisingly calm waves – or at least it seemed that way to me after being on a days-long weather watch due to rough seas. It looks like things are finally starting to look up: Jason is currently in the water for a test dive (J2-1525), and once it’s out we will transit to the Oregon Shelf site. This is supposed to be the shallowest site (around 80 meters), and hopefully teeming with lots of biodiversity to observe as Jason works on turning various platforms. I can’t remember the last time I had a shift, but I’m excited to capture good footage today and make the most of my remaining ones.

The other students and I have mostly been in the Main Lab the last couple of days, working on our project presentations or just keeping our heads down to get through transits.

We also watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie the other night in the lounge. It was my first time seeing it (I know, sorry) and it really felt like an IMAX-worthy, immersive experience as we felt the waves rolling around us while watching the same thing happen on the screen.

Now that today is the last full day we have in the open sea before arriving in port tomorrow, I hope it goes as well as it can given the circumstances. No more weather watches, no more delayed dives – just some final successful operations would be a good way to end the trip.

19 August 2023

At the very start of this leg we joked that we may be cursed with bad luck, but now it’s getting harder to believe that that’s not true. Unfortunately the weather’s been less than ideal for the majority of the trip, so we’re currently on hold for all planned dives. Jason also lost power yesterday and had to be brought up from a dive early so that the crew could figure out what went wrong.

It’s pretty unfortunate that there have been so many unanticipated setbacks, but at the same time it shows how adaptable the crew is, and their ability to stay optimistic by telling us that this is just how it is with "life at sea."

Although we’re not going to be able to go to Axial Seamount and see hydrothermal vents, I’ve still gotten to see other cool things both on and off shift. We saw a couple of whales and a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the ship a few days ago. Right before one of my midnight shifts there was also a phantom jellyfish (Stygiomedusa gigantea) sighting which was amazing, and later I got to capture 4k footage of a group of silvery fish feeding near the surface right before Jason reached deck.

Seasickness hasn’t really gone away for me (especially with the never-ending huge waves), but I’ve somewhat gotten used to it. Chewing gum and listening to music have been especially helpful. It also looks like I’ll be working on my project once I’m on solid land because I’ve been in no condition to start it here – every time I open my laptop my nausea significantly worsens. I do have an idea for what I want to do though, and I spoke with a couple of people about what instruments and data I’ll need.

We have around three full days left at sea now; hopefully a couple of more successful dives occur before we return to port.

16 August 2023

Wow, the seasickness has been brutal for me up to this point. I knew going into this that I’d be more susceptible to getting seasick since I get motion sick pretty easily, but still nothing prepared me for what it’d feel like. Besides when I’m asleep, I’ve been in a constant state of nausea ever since we departed two days ago. I haven’t been able to complete a full shift yet – the control van is especially bad because it’s elevated and has no windows inside. I’ve had to let people know so that they can take over for me before succumbing to my cabin and hoping the nausea lessens, even if slightly.

Looking on the bright side of things, I’ve gotten to help out with camera duties while on shift, and seeing Jason going in and out of the water is very cool (especially when it’s completely dark out). Yesterday Jason was supposed to recover the PIA but had to be pulled out because it was unable to latch on, so my noon shift ended early. By midnight, however, the issue with its latches had been fixed and Jason was sent back to resume its scheduled dives.

While we waited for Jason to be fixed, we got to decorate our Styrofoam cups, which will be sent down later this week at a site with especially deep depths – Slope Base 2900 m beneath the oceans surface (~9500 feet) . I’m curious to see how they’ll come back out.

I’ve been spending a good amount of time out on deck staring at the horizon in the hopes that I get over seasickness faster. It helps temporarily, but then as soon as I’m back inside the nausea worsens again. I’ll just have to stay positive and hope it’s true that it always gets better after a few days of adjusting.

August 14, 2023

Today is the third day I’ve been on the Thomas G Thompson, although we don’t depart until later this afternoon. We were supposed to leave yesterday, but rough conditions out in the ocean delayed the trip by a full day. Part of me is glad things turned out this way because it’s given all the students an extra day to orient themselves and get to know everyone without having to simultaneously deal with seasickness.

I’ve gradually gotten a better grasp at ship’s layout (though I’ll probably get lost a couple more times here and there) and meet people who I’ll be seeing the most.

Yesterday began with a safety meeting where everyone tried on their immersion suits, and later we got a tour of the engine room. One of the student ambassadors then took us out to the bow and it’s safe to say it is my favorite part of the ship. The view from port was amazing with the sun shining overhead and the distant sounds of harbor seals at shore. I’ll definitely be going out there whenever I can.

We also went into Newport the first two nights for dinner, and even went to Yaquina Bay State Park for a bit as the sun was setting. It felt surreal and even post-apocalyptic with how the fog covered the ocean and wind was blowing over sand dunes everywhere.

We’re still in the very early stages of brainstorming our research projects – I have a couple of ideas, but they’ll involve self-teaching myself some difficult technical skills. I’m ready to take on the challenge though, especially since these projects will continue into fall quarter.

Besides working on projects or trying to get in some sleep, it looks like we’ll be busy doing our shifts and helping out however we can. I’m excited to see all sorts of cool phenomena and deep sea creatures through the ROV Jason’s camera. The logging part seems a bit intimidating since I don’t want to mess anything up, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it by the end of a couple of shifts. I’ve been assigned the 0000-0400 and 1200-1600 shifts, which seems doable enough. It may be similar to the feeling of pulling an all-nighter and catching up on however much sleep as I can before I have to wake up again during the day.

As I finish this up we’re a couple hours away from officially leaving dock and heading to our first site, which is Oregon Shelf. We’ve been warned that the waves will be rough so I have my fingers crossed that everything we’ve tied down will (mostly) stay in place and seasickness won’t be too bad. I currently have