The dives that ROV Jason undertakes are usually hours long, so when I begin watch first thing in the morning, a dive is usually already underway. Such was the case this morning, so I spent the first couple of minutes of my shift figuring out the dive objectives and what was going on. In the back of the control van where we work we have access to a manual listing of all the instruments in the array and a dive log that lists the objectives for the dive. I like looking at the dive log and matching what I see occurring on the screens to the concise listing of goals on the plan.
The goal for today’s dive was to take out an old junction box and thermistor array and replace it with a new one. I spent the watch observing the pilot carefully navigate Jason around moving the old junction box out of the way and scouting around for a solid, level place to move the new junction box. The entire sequence is a carefully choreographed process that takes time but can be strangely mesmerizing to watch. The camera will be zoomed in on the junction box with a series of cables plugged into it. Suddenly, one of Jason’s arms will slowly enter the frame and very carefully and deliberately grasp one of the plugs, and pull it out. It will then fly over to the new junction box with cable in stow, and all you can see for a little bit is the dark water with particles oscillating up and down. A task as simple as this can take something like half an hour. All in all, every operation is quite a process.
After watch, I made another trip to the workout room. I was feeling especially brave today, so I hopped onto the treadmill to run for a little while. Running on a treadmill while on a rolling ship is probably not the safest endeavor. I found a rhythm in which I always had one solid grasp on the treadmill at all times, and I would periodically switch hands. The workout was exhausting more from the struggle of staying on the treadmill than from the actual running. I feel like I mostly got the hang of the treadmill, but we’ll see if I continue to try my luck on that front.
August 12, 2017
The main objective during my watch shift yesterday was the deployment of the instrument MOSQUITO and the removal of last year’s instrument. The MOSQUITO measures the diffusion of water through sediment, and its namesake comes from the skinny metal needles that project from its frame into the sediment. Two of the instruments were sent down to have one as a backup, which ended up coming in handy since the needles on the first one bent. Luckily, the deployment of the second one was successful. After the dive, Michelle and I helped Theresa take down last year’s MOSQUITO that was just recovered.
We started our transit to Axial Base last night, which is a 19-hour ordeal. We’ve been getting bigger waves making the rolling of the ship more pronounced, and this turn of events hasn’t been agreeing with everyone. I’m grateful that I have been feeling OK so far. Since my watch this morning was during the transit, I didn’t have a shift, but I did help out with the CTD sample collections when we stopped for a CTD cast. We collected samples of salinity, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, dissolved inorganic carbon, and nutrients from the Niskin bottles. The styrofoam cups we decorated were also sent down with the CTD to get shrunk with pressure, but I haven’t looked at my mini cup yet.
Today was a day of exploration in that I checked out the bridge and the two workout rooms. It was interesting being up in the bridge and talking to the crew there. Since it is so high up, it sways a lot more than the rest of the ship, so it’s not the best place to go if you have the tendency to get seasick. My urge to check out the workout room did not stem so much from a desire for exploration as it did from guilt in eating a lot of food compiled with zero exercise over the past several days.
Watch starts again bright and early tomorrow so I better wrap this up. Until next time.
August 11, 2017
I found out at watch today that the earlier shift had spotted a shark on Jason’s last dive, and I was understandably extremely jealous. Our watch did not include such a sighting, but it was still an interesting dive. It took place at the Southern Hydrate Ridge, which includes a formation called Eistein’s Grotto. The purpose of the dive was to take out the old mass spectrometer and install the new one.
The site was fascinating to look at because it was covered in microbial mats giving the landscape the illusion of being a grass-covered hill. I am also still surprised by the amount of life we see at the bottom. On this dive, I saw a multitude of rockfish, hagfish, sea stars, crabs, and other organisms going about their business as Jason momentarily disrupted their lives.
A notable moment of the day after watch was the mandatory struggle to try on an exposure suit. A group of us took the test suit out on the deck and we took turns trying them on, which made the experience more enjoyable since we could at least find humor in each other’s fight with it. I wrangled it on and then paused just long enough for a mug shot to be taken of me before taking it off again.
After the exposure suit conquest, Kevin and I jerry rigged a ping pong table together out of a regular table in the library with a net. We then proceeded to play ping pong for a couple matches and a passing crew member remarked that they had never seen ping pong played in that part of the ship before. We then thought that we had made history on the Revelle, and I was pretty excited to think we may have left some kind of legacy on the boat. However, more conversations with other crewmembers later in the day confirmed that we were not the first to have made a ping pong table there. Looks like today won’t be a day for the history books.
August 10, 2017
A concerned crewmember saw me staring pathetically at my blank open Word document and asked if I was feeling seasick. I assured them that the only affliction I was suffering from was a particularly bad case of writer’s block. The slow start to my writing is not for lack of material to discuss, but rather for a loss of words to articulate experiences I have little prior exposure to. Well I guess I better start before someone else thinks I am unwell as I stare transfixed and unmoving at my screen.
Today was our first full day on the water. We left Newport, Oregon yesterday morning at 9 AM aboard the Revelle, which is the research vessel of UC Scripps. The day-by-day plan of the cruise is carefully orchestrated to maximize the time on the ship and complete an ambitious list of objectives for the maintenance of the OOI. With costs of running a research ship like this at tens of thousands of dollars a day, it comes at no surprise that the crew hit the ground running. Within about two hours of departure, the ROV Jason was already starting a dive in a site 80 m deep. I was not on watch at this time so I just watched the deployment of Jason from the video monitors in the main lab and the galley.
My watch shift was assigned to be from 4 to 8 AM, so besides some safety orientations and drills, I was basically free that day to explore the ship and get oriented to being at sea. There’s something about being on a boat that always makes me feel content whether it’s a ferry boat, a water taxi, a dingy sailboat, or in this case a research vessel. I like the constant stimulation ranging from the ambient noise of various pieces of equipment to the gentle swaying of the room. I fell asleep like a baby to the rocking of the waves.
Waking up earlier this morning at 3:30 AM wasn’t as bad as it might sound. Of course I say that with the disclaimer that coffee is a wonderful invention that makes things much more tolerable than they would otherwise be. Coffee thermos in hand, I walked into the Jason control room with my roommate and watch buddy Michelle, and after a debriefing of our duties from the previous students on watch, we began our shift. Our shift began in the midst of a Jason dive as it was recovering an old BEP (Benthic Experiment Platform). Jason attached itself to the BEP and then the entire assembly was pulled out of the water, which took some time because it is done in a slow and controlled manner and it was coming from almost 600 meters in depth.
Finally, Jason and the BEP broke the surface at which time the BEP was separated from Jason and set down on the deck. As soon as the BEP was secured on deck, Jason was being dunked back in the water to start a new dive. The screens plastered on the wall of the control room showed footage from video cameras on Jason as it descended. As Jason descended, we could see a huge swarm of fish descending with it, and we realized that the sun must have been coming up outside driving the migration of fish to the bottom. My watch duty was to basically monitor the cameras and take screenshots of opportune times like when scanning the layout of infrastructure at the bottom. I captured several shots of the school of fish on Jason’s way to the seafloor.
Eventually, Jason made it to the bottom, and its mission was to lay out some cable and retrieve some old cable. The task sounds simple but the dive plan was scheduled for ten hours. Our watch did not cover the full dive, so the new watch team came in when the dive was about two hours in. Sasha was taking over my duty so I showed her the ropes and then made my way to my cabin for a nap.
Later in the day, I received word that Jason had lost power. Apparently one of its four power sources failed and it shut down, so they had to bring it back to the surface to trouble shoot it. They got Jason back and running so it has since completed its dive, and I believe we are now in transit to a methane hydrate seep.
Anyways, I should probably go to bed now considering someone from the 8 AM shift just left to call it a day, and I have to get up 4 hours earlier than they do.