Dan Anderson’s Blog

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September 4, 2014

This leg of the cruise is already over half way through. It seems like the time flew by. I have now spent over a week on this ship and still enjoy every moment. The weather has definitely picked up a little bit. It is about 25 knots and almost 2 meter swells. It is the little things when I notice the waves, like when I’m showering or getting dressed and the floor keeps rocking. I don’t mind the rocking because I don’t get sea sick, but it tests my balance sometimes. Everything loose on the ship has to be tied down with the rocking as well.

There is always at least something going on that I can help out with or learn more about. Just a couple days ago, a graduate scientist named Rick Berg pulled up a couple of MOSQUITO instruments from Einstein’s Grotto. This is an amazing instrument that slowly samples water in a 3-dimentional space with eight needles to look at flow rates. There is one needle in the very center that inject tiny bit of dye and the dye will be moved according to the flow rate in the soil. After a year, the MOSQUITO is retrieved and by looking at the concentration of dye in the samples from each needle, we can see where the dye moved. Each needle is connected to a small Teflon tube that is many meters long and then to an osmosis pump. The samples are stored in the long Teflon tube and are pulled through by the osmosis pump. Once the instrument is recovered, the coils of tubing have to be cut up and labeled and analyzed at different levels. This process usually takes close to 30 hours for a couple of people to do it. This is one of the tasks I am currently working on.

When the MOSQUITOs were recovered the scientists needed some push cores for analysis and took 5 push cores. Most of the push cores just had mud, but one of them managed to contain a small clam. I was able to quickly collect, dissect and freeze the sample at -80 degrees Celsius before the other scientists used the cores. This was a good start for my science project. I was able to learn a little more about what the clams are like and that it is very difficult to obtain bacterial mat with push cores.

Now that I have learned a little about sampling, I will be more prepared for the next dive on Southern Hydrate Ridge. The bio box that the ROV group has requires a swing arm to be put on and will take at least 2-3 hours to attach. Since it would take that amount of time, I decided to make my own bio box with a milk crate and some fiberglass. This will just be attached to the grate on the under porch of the ROV and can fit many samples (mostly 1-2 inch clams). Then for the bacteria, it will be a little more challenging. The best option is still a push core, but I think I need to scrape the top of the mat to get extra bacteria before pushing it in the soil. Either way, it is still being decided.

Life on the ship has been busy, fun and informative this past week.

August 29, 2014

I thought I would write out a quick post while waiting for some pieces of my project. One of my videos is on an instrument that is entering the water today, which entails the video has not even been recorded yet and the scientists and engineers who know the most about the instrument are busy making sure everything works out during installation.

This overall research area during this cruise is out of my specialty zone. My specialty would be knowledge of the carbonate system in relation to coral with a little rudimentary knowledge of stable isotope analysis. Creating or building cabled observatories or environments at extreme depth is not my strong suit. Throughout the last couple days, however, I have learned a lot about some of the difficulties faced by engineers putting this together and how they will or have overcome these challenges.

The goal of science is to get as much reliable data as possible and then try to make sense of it all. This is essentially what the cabled observatory accomplishes. This cabled observatory is going to have a massive impact on not only how we look at the world’s ocean, but also how we look at science. We will be acquiring massive amounts of real-time data at a continuous rate. This project being at undersea volcanoes with seismic warnings is cool enough and a great start but is insignificant to the bigger picture. The big picture is using this technology or similar technology everywhere and anywhere in the ocean. For example, in relation to my work, we could insert a cabled observatory into and around a coral reef and view constant real-time data to observe flow-rates, oxygen content, omega values for carbonate saturation, nutrients and numerous other aspects that could and will revolutionize how we view coral reefs. This could show in depth how climate change is directly affecting coral reefs and bring scientists closer to finding a way to save the corals. Anyway, installing a cable observatory in a coral reef is a long ways off, but the concept is intriguing and will be implemented at some point.

Something I’ve learned about sailing on a ship this large is that there is always a place you can go to get away from everything and everyone and just relax. For an introvert like myself, this is huge. I can collect myself and recharge on the bow or in the mess hall or in my room. It’s not that I dislike the people on this cruise, I just like to be alone sometimes. Even if a member is social, being confined to a 274 foot vessel for a couple weeks and seeing the same people every day can be taxing. This is why sleep, eating properly and exercise is so important during the cruise and can help remove stress and makes all social interactions more pleasant.

Another part of the cruise that I found interesting was the actual navigation equipment in the bridge. I happen to do a fair amount of sailing on 20-40 foot keelboats and use just basic radios and GPS charts. The equipment on the bridge is amazing. The third mate, Damian tried to explain all of the different instruments that they use during a voyage. I learned about their radar system, the electronic navigational charts, the GPS mapping used to keep track of the ROV and their automated drivers for keeping position on the ocean with only three thrusters. They also have manual overrides for all systems if electronics fail as well as an additional modified small driver’s station on both the port and starboard sides for docking. With a ship this large, there are a number of different phones that lead to different stations on the ship or to home ports back on shore. Finally, the radio was a standard dual VHF radio but was on channel 13, which was bridge to bridge chatter, and another channel, 16, which is standard coast guard and hailing channel. The bridge definitely has complete control over the entire vessel.

August 28, 2014

This is my first large research cruise. I had certain expectations from previous talks and video footage, but I know first-hand experience is almost always different. One aspect that stood out to me was the time it takes to get anything done when you are working on a hundred million dollar project with equipment and instruments that weigh thousands of pounds. Everything seems to be moving at a slower pace, but the chiefs cannot afford to make any mistakes at this magnitude. As the famous saying goes, “It is better to be safe than sorry”.

Some of you may know that I am hoping to accomplish my own science project on the side of this cruise. The project looks at different organisms near methane seeps and looks at the relationships between them with stable sulfur isotope ratios. To accomplish this project I will need to actually collect samples. Although we have almost two more weeks left, I cannot help but feel a little impatient when waiting to get some samples because this was supposed to be my big project during this time. I have been reassured that I will get some organisms eventually.

Now that I have realized I need to wait for the samples, I have looked into making some videos of our cruise and general Ocean Observatory Initiative (OOI) topics. One video that I am excited about in particular is on a particular mooring that will be one of the biggest scientific instrument in the ocean in terms of impact, cost and physical size.

Life onboard has been pretty good. I sleep usually from 2200 to about 0500 and then get up and shower and go do some sort of exercise either on the treadmill or just on the bow of the ship. Then at 0715, I grab some delicious breakfast and head down to the ROPOS room to take over my watch from 0800 to 1200. My job is to just take pictures of anything interesting and special events that take place with the deploying the instruments. It is very fascinating and fun to watch the operation, but I do not have control over where the camera points and to a control-freak like myself, it can be frustrating. After my shift, I grab some lunch and work on a personal project until 1400 when we have a student meeting for an hour or so to talk about future plans of OOI and personal projects. Later we will be hearing from various scientists and engineers who are at the top of their fields during that meeting time. After the little powwow, it is back to personal projects and the dinner. Then I usually relax and listen to some music for a bit while watching the horizon or a ROPOS dive.  Anyway, that’s a bit into the day and the life of Dan on the VISIONS cruise.