Aaron Mau’s Blog

Aug 25, 2017

It’s been almost a week since we left for Newport in our jumbo SUV.  I’m starting to feel it now; missing dry land and all of the pleasures that come with it.  I miss having accessibility to high-bandwidth internet and telecommunications.  Most data packages on the OOI data portal are too large to download via the ship wireless before timing out, so I haven’t looked much into the data taken this trip.

No watch this morning as we were in transit, therefore the conditions weren’t right to lower Jason into the water.  Daniel and I took advantage of this by sleeping in pretty late – missing breakfast – and taking things a little slower this morning.

I’ve been working with Ann on the project for DVM and after shooting some video material yesterday, we won’t be able to complete our original script.  The OOI data we were hoping to use was a bit wonky to access; the hydrophone from the data portal wasn’t available for download (we’ve got one up on the Revelle’s deck, not sure if that’s the one we’d want or not)  and the raw data only had figures from 2016.  Ann delved deeper into getting the data, but ultimately was coming up with huge files she could neither download nor utilize even if she were able to get it on her machine.  Wu-Jung has spent weeks working with the data itself, and isn’t authorized to essentially do all of the hard work for us in sorting out the data to a readable format.  So we reworked the script to discuss the echo sounder, interviewing acoustics engineer Skip to give us a rundown on the sensors used for detecting DVM organisms.  At the end of the day, however, things were getting a bit windy and dark, so we’ll try shooting again tomorrow when conditions are better.

However, we were able to wrap up the day when a huge quantity of porpoises and multiple whales crossed our path.  I got some great video; it was amazing how quickly these animals can move.  You’re only able to see them when they come up for air, and between sightings they can make such distance that you can lose them entirely.

Aug 24, 2017

Woke at 0330 for watch, but I couldn’t wake Daniel without getting violent.  I headed up to the galley to grab a snack beforehand; I figured he’d join me when his alarm went off.   The TV in the mess hall suggested that Jason was on the way back up, so there wouldn’t be very much left to our watch anyways.  I left him to sleep, as when Jason returns to the surface there is arguably the least going on and I felt pretty confident that I could cover both of our stations in that situation.

Had I read the mission summary, I’d have known that Jason was rising to about 90 meters to collect beacons from two floats.  Further to my surprise would we find a shark at the second – rubbing itself against the float – attracted perhaps by electroreceptors responding to the signals emitted.  I think I got the shark on video; I didn’t really touch the video streams until we had gotten closer to the floats and the setup wasn’t something I was familiar with.  Furthermore, I switched from the science cam to the pilot view which may have prematurely ended the recording.  I guess we’ll see when the drive is archived in a few days.  Addien, whom I was taking over for, stuck around anyways in the back of the van to watch the mission close out and was able to see the shark as well.  He and Tran had seen another shark on the dive, so he saw both sharks within a 5.5 hour watch period.  Jason rose up from the water after collecting the beacons with arms crossed to keep them secure, about an hour and a half into my watch.  So it was shorter than usual, but I was still tired enough to skip breakfast and set my alarm to get me up for a shower before lunch.

I exceeded my Wi-Fi quota yesterday, which I now realize was because I forgot to turn off my phone synchronization.  Therefore my phone synced everything I had done that day with my cloud storage – including a 10 minute video of Jason being dropped in the water.  No wonder my cap was hit.  I’m much more conscious of this now, and I kept my phone on Wi-Fi today just long enough to see that Liverpool qualified for the Champions League.

I stumbled out of bed to shower and head to lunch.  Immediately thereafter the students all went to help Wu-Jung with some zooplankton nets.  We’re planning on doing a 1-2km tow for about 3 hours tomorrow, depending on how Jason’s dives go.  We hooked caribeeners up to the nets for later assembly with the frame.  Later in the day I’d return to tie off some flow meters with the dreaded Bowline knot – something I’ve learned at least a half a dozen times but have yet to really memorize.

After helping out Wu-Jung, we headed up to the library for a meeting with Julie to discuss student projects.  I’ll be assisting Ann with the production of a few videos on diel vertical migration, and my long term project will be developing a web applet that enables users to see current data for some particular vents on the cruise website.  This may be a little ambitious as I haven’t developed something like this before, however I’ve got a lot of other programming under my belt and with a month to go before classes start, I should be able to learn a thing or two before I need to really start crackin’ on it.

After the meeting I did a combination of things to kill time until dinner.  I read until I finished my book and noticed the weather outside was turning a little sour.  Back inside, I finished my interpretation on Daniel Shiffman’s Perlin Noise Mapping to develop something that looks a little like ocean waves.  Overall the ship has been pretty quiet after the dive this morning; we’re in transit for about a half a day until we arrive at our next dive zone.  Guess I’ll need to pick out a new book…

Tomorrow I should expect a lengthier morning watch, and I’ll get a script ready for the video Ann and I would like to produce.

Aug 23, 2017

Disclaimer:  I would like to make it perfectly clear that not only is his name is spelled “Addien”, but he’s an ESS graduate student that has little craps like me for lab interns.  Also, her name’s spelled Ann, not Anne with an E.  Perusing through ship leg info can be pretty enlightening in that aspect, though I’m sure I’ll just find more errors tomorrow.

Weckt die Toten auf.  My watch started at 0400 today, so I ended up rising and trying to shine 3 hours earlier than yesterday.  Daniel and I headed up to the galley for a quick snack, then went to the cold, dark van to monitor Jason.  During our portion of the dive we covered three different vent locations; Tiny Towers, Diva, and Escargot.  We arrived at the end of the service around Tiny Towers to relieve the previous watch – Addien and Tran – so we didn’t know much of what had been done.  I was managing camera feeds like yesterday, while Daniel logged events and temperature readings.  Diva needed a TSHPH placed, which takes some measurements I don’t remember (Orest explained them briefly at breakfast), which required breaking down a portion of the vent column to make space for the probe.  I felt bad, as I had no concept of how old the vent was, but when Brendan showed me the growth inside of another sensor later in the day, I can reflect on it a little better.  It’s more like mowing your lawn than chopping down a tree.  Another crew had been out and left a hobo, an autonomous sensor of some sort, so we had to work around it without disturbing their measurements too much.  Escargot was trickier as we had a TRHPH, similar to the TSHPH but with a wonky handle setup that makes it hard to maneuver using the manipulator.  We ended up carving a big chunk out of Escargot with a crowbar to place the probe properly.  All the while it seemed that a rather large rattail had followed us from Diva to Escargot, which made for good viewing.

Breakfast was available at the end of watch, which I downed greedily without too much conversation.  Though I had gotten to bed early the night before, 0330 for a waking time was still early enough to keep me yawning during watch.  Daniel and I retreated back to our cabin to nap with alarms set for when lunch would be served.

We went up for chicken alfredo, then went outside to read my book for a little while.  I forgot to mark where I was last night, and I ended up going halfway through the chapter before I realized I had already read it.  We had an engine room tour planned for 1330, but I had noticed Brendan spraying some things down and decided to help out with something if possible.  Katie got me working with taking care of a hydrothermal fluid sampler Jason had brought up.  Hosed things off, collected a year’s worth of bottle samples, and pipetted filter samples to process the PPS.  Once we had taken care of that, we had about an hour before dinner.  I just went and read my book – now almost done – and brainstormed a few project ideas.  I wonder if I could do a music video for the intro song of Gilligan’s Island.

Dinner was splendid as always, then I went with Daniel, Ann, Tran, and Addien to help with RAS processing.  Essentially cleaning filters that were on the hardware I was working with before dinner, and placing them on a petri dish for analysis in another lab.  It was hard work, as we used syringes for suction and DI water spray bottles that ultimately didn’t deliver as much water as I would expect.  We finished up at around 1930, and since then I’ve just sort of been decompressing from the day.  I sent a list of project ideas to Prof. Kelley and Kawka – I’ll see what they think and then start perusing through data sometime tomorrow.  Wu-Jung told me that I could look at some OOI data she had downloaded regarding hydrophones; she’s got quite a bit of previously obtained data that has not been really looked at before.

Aug 21, 2017

I did it!  At around 0715 I was up in the library to hydrate and read a little bit, though I promptly bolted for the washroom and vomited.  The movements of the ship finally got to me.  Though I’ve been saying otherwise, I haven’t taken any sea-sickness medication this trip as I’d like a genuine experience to know not only my limits, but also to understand exactly what it may feel like if I didn’t have any.  That and I didn’t want people to get redundant by offering me medication.  I made it all of yesterday just fine and today I was finally able to get it out of my system.  As for the rest of the day, I’ve barely felt my belly lurch at all.

Estimations on the eclipse have been changing constantly, though there’s a consensus that we’ll have complete darkness at about 1012 based on our current trajectory.  Unfortunately we entered a fog bank at about 0905, which only became more silent hill-esque as we progressed west.  A crew member was on deck with his guitar, and I requested Here Comes the Sun to bring out a patch of clear sky.  He learned and played it remarkably fast, but the desired effect didn’t really happen.

One subject Daniel, Anne and I had discussed was a project assessing diel vertical migration under the influence of the eclipse.  Wu-Jung has hydrophones collecting data that we could look at during the eclipse timeframe to back up whether the migration was evident or not.  If organisms rise, then they likely do so based on light levels in the water column above them.  If not, then they may have an internal clock that tells them when the surface waters are safe.  I haven’t seen the data yet, but the timeframe was very brief and we were in transit, so it’s a complete possibility that data won’t be significant (though Wu-Jung knows of many papers that present figures that are).

We had an abandon-ship drill at 1230, which serves as a reminder to me that if I think headphones are worth saving, they should be taken off prior to putting on the life jacket.  Then the Visions’17 students reconvened in the main sciences lab to discuss projects, this blog, and assign watch schedules for Jason during dives.  I’ve been paired with Daniel to watch Jason from 0400-0800, which is probably the toughest one we could have gotten.  I guess I’ll be hitting the sack right after supper for the rest of the week.

I sorted out some communications info with the ship’s IT person (I’m one of the few people on the ship not using a Mac) and then went back up to my sunny spot to read some more.  I didn’t make it very long until I heard the crane for Jason being turned on.  I went over and observed Jason being lifted into the air, steadied by a half-a-dozen pairs of hands, and then descended into the Pacific.  Even more curious about what Jason was immediately seeing, I headed over to where Jason is driven and streams are processed – called “the van” though it’s really just two freight containers welded together and filled with monitors.  I sat down in the back of what feels like NASA mission control.  The main driver sits dead center, with a navigator/science person to their left and an engineer to the right.  Oceanographers sit behind them logging events and managing video that is streamed to the net, the ship, or saved on a local drive.  Katie gave me a quick intro to the current mission – essentially nudging a deep-water camera – and asked if I wanted to cover for Brendan who’d be working there soon.  I jumped at the opportunity and ended up working next to Anne, who replaced Prof. Kowka logging event data.  Jason dove, manipulated things at 1440 meters, and then rose again.  I was in control of the stream essentially the whole time, which felt both really empowering and worrying as I wasn’t familiar with the software.  It didn’t take very long to get the hang of though, and I feel a lot more prepared for my real watch period.

Now I’m back in my cabin, writing up my daily log and troubleshooting my code.  I’m thinking of creating a 3d plot of data we collect in python, perhaps developing an interactive map of individual stations which may take a little longer to flesh out.  Otherwise Daniel, Anne and I may just end up developing an informative video on diel vertical migration that would link outreach with research.  I’m sure I can talk to them about it tomorrow, I’ll be going to bed pretty soon for my watch in a few hours.

Aug 20, 2017

I awoke at 0630 thanks to a good night’s sleep and a loud alarm, though mostly the former.  First thing’s first was to shower – which may be interesting on the open ocean as waves get rough – and then to head up for breakfast which is scheduled for 0730 every day.

I was a little early so I checked out the library, which is exactly adjacent to the mess hall.  They’ve got a copy of Joseph Pedlosky’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, which came out about 10 years prior to the G99 model I reviewed in AMATH 383 over summer quarter on campus.  I didn’t get too far into his derivations of the pycnocline before Daniel joined me in exploring the ship’s literature.  He noticed the library has an extensive coverage of books on foreign countries.  He has family in China, so he was able to decipher some characters on an introduction to Taiwan.  I found some sort of nonfiction book written in Cyrillic, which my recent Russian studies can help me pronounce but not translate unless it deals with milk, cats, or where I can find a bakery.  There is however, a book written in Spanish called The Shadow of the Wind or something along those lines that I could try reading through if I find myself with some free time.

After breakfast I joined Daniel and another undergraduate oceanographer, Anne, for a walk down to the beach.  Wu-Jung joined us in walking to the science center, as there’s a massive humpback whale skull out front that we wanted to check out.  There were a lot of vehicles and tents on our stroll to the beach getting ready for the eclipse on Monday, which led to some interesting discussion on how a solar eclipse can influence biology.  The water at the ocean itself was warmer than I’d associate with Seattle, but still chilly enough to make your feet numb after a minute or so.  We knew that everyone needed to be onboard the Revelle at 1100, so Anne was the only one to really jump in and swim around while Daniel and I started back, discussing corgis and his work at the APL.

We made it back with about a half an hour to spare to have lunch and a general safety orientation thereafter.  The highlights of those two things were the homestyle salted potatoes.  We ended up leaving port just before 1300 and had a follow-up introduction to the ROV Jason at 1400.  Addien, one of the graduate oceanographers, pointed into the crowd of people and exclaimed “whale!” which I noticed immediately, as I was facing the same direction.  The mammal dove back down in the timespan it took for everyone else to turn around, but I can confirm my first real-life megafauna sighting.

The afternoon was a lax one.  We started off pretty fast and the ship was rocking pretty hard so many people experiencing their first cruise were pretty nauseous and haven’t made it very far from their cabins.  I’m finding that I can deal with the queasiness by walking around on the exterior of the ship.  Charlie, an engineering student from Harvard whom I bumped into at the laundry room, suggested fresh air and keeping your eyes on the horizon which has definitely done the trick for me thus far.  Eventually I found a sunny, non-windy spot on the third deck to read and admire the view distance.  It’s interesting to think that there are no cities for miles and miles, only some lone seabirds and the occasional tanker.  In my sunny spot I started reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and ended up reading about a dozen chapters before dozing off in the sun.  I came to at the perfect time, 1700, which is when the NY strip steak, Brussels sprouts and ginger beer were served in the mess hall.  My lips are getting pretty chapped from sitting in the sun and salty mist, but I’ve been able to appreciate the journey so far – which I know some of my colleagues can’t share.

I was going to discuss project plans with Anne tonight, but as everyone is feeling under the weather, I may just hang around the science deck reviewing some code or see if I could upload some stuff to Facebook to keep people in the loop.  Internet is not fast, it’s basically dial-up without the catchy theme song, but it’s bearable.  Good enough to check football scores, summer school grades, and github for updates.

Before going to bed I stopped by Jason one last time to look at things a little closer.  The crowd of people from the introduction earlier today made it difficult to analyze what sort of connectors they were using.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as Jason is essentially our club’s ROV on a dozen or so steroids we can’t afford, but it’s interesting to analyze how things fit together.  Chris, one of Jason’s mechanics, was repairing a scorpio camera and was willing to give me a more detailed walkthrough on how things worked.  There’s a lot of pneumatics in place, power is dropped down to something like 250V on board, and most of the cameras are analog that don’t push data nearly as hard as the 4k ones up front that are streamed from.  Most DC power was reserved for lights, and they have a really impressive optical tether that enables basically real-time controls.  All of the pressure holds are filled with oil to accommodate for incredible pressure.

Aug 19, 2017

The trip is starting off really early – early enough to be genuinely difficult.  We’re planning on leaving for Oregon at 0600 today, and with busses in my area only really starting up at ~0530 on a Saturday, it’s hard to really get there without spending the night near campus or getting a ride at a cruel hour from my parents.  Fortunately I had a place to stay on campus, and I was just able to head over to OTB at 0515.  It’s weird to be crossing campus that early with pillow and baggage without the light rail station as the destination.

I rode up with Wu-Jung and Tran, ocean post doc and ESS undergraduate respectively, in an SUV that really felt too big.  We arrived about 6 hours, 3 stops at gas stations and a bag of trail mix later in Newport, which was just after lunch on the ship.  We just walked over to the Rogue, a Newport-based brewery which happens to sell food on the side, for lunch.  I had the smokehouse stack, and wasn’t disappointed after what was a pretty uneventful drive.

Thereafter I pretty much had nothing else going on in the day, so I returned to my cabin below deck to unpack and maybe wander the ship a little bit.  I however, couldn’t resist the smokehouse food coma induced from Rogue.  Awakening four hours later I met my roommate, Daniel.  He’s an EE major working with the APL on campus that hated EE 233 as much as me.  I think we’ll get along fine, maybe I can ask him some EE questions for the ROV club I’m participating in.  We both ended the day watching Jack Black’s School of Rock in Tran and Jaclyn’s room, as the TV lounge two floors up was in use.  The movie ended at around midnight with Daniel and I being the only ones still awake, so we shuffled back to our room and had no problems finding sleep.