Jackie Toepfer’s Blog

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Aug 26, 2017

The nets we set up yesterday were only in the water for about half an hour, but you wouldn’t believe how many zooplankton we caught!  Most of them look like mini shrimp, but there’s a few that some of the students were describing look like tapioca balls that you would put into bubble tea.
Last night after dinner, I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the bridge from Captain Chris himself!  Hands down, the bridge has the best view on the entire ship.  You can see for miles and miles in every direction—it’s really something.

My shift last night was cancelled again because the visibility was too poor again to conduct any necessary work.  However, the Styrofoam cup I decorated a few days ago did go down with Jason and came up all tiny and shriveled due to the pressure!

We finished all over the interviews needed yesterday afternoon and presentations are tonight, so it’s crunch time to put together the entire video!

Aug 25, 2017

Finished up a couple more interviews yesterday afternoon, so it looks like we only have two more to complete today and then it’s on to editing! The ship is currently at the 80 meter site, only about ten miles offshore—it’s really weird to have cell service again.The first dive happened yesterday afternoon around 13:00 just after we arrived here, but there was very poor visibility underwater due to current patterns and the tides.  We were supposed to try again early this morning around 1:00 to give the tides enough time to switch over, but it was still to murky down there to get any work done.

Yesterday afternoon, after the first dive’s attempt, a few other students and I helped one of the post doctorate students, Wu Jung, set up three nets that are designed to catch zooplankton.  The nets took a lot of time to set up and prepare, but we caught a ton of zooplankton!  Her plan is to figure out which echo each size of zooplankton gives off one the echogram.  That way, she can determine the general size of zooplankton in various areas of the ocean. We only have two more full days out at sea, so I’m happy to be learning as much as I can about what’s going on on board.

Aug 24, 2017

Yesterday we were able to complete seven out of twelve of our needed interviews!  They all went really smoothly and I think the video is going to turn out to be a really great resource for young people considering their next steps in life.  It was a pleasant surprise to see that all seven interviewees scheduled for yesterday showed up on time and didn’t sleep through their interviews!  With everyone on board having different mirrored shifts, there’s always people sleeping and always people up and awake doing work, so I’m thankful people were able to find a sliver of time to help us with our project.

We might have spoken a little too soon about how timely all the interviewees were though, because my first interview of the day today, Chris, one of the Jason engineers, totally forgot to show up for his time slot today!  Good thing we started early so we can reschedule!
My shift last night was nonexistent because we were still in transit to the new destination last night; we didn’t arrive until about 1:00am.
The weather today was amazing!  Crystal clear blue skies, warm sun on the deck, and sea birds in sight in every direction.  Even Captain Chris commented that it was the best weather he’s seen since he began this cruise weeks ago.  We’re really lucking out with the natural phenomena this cruise!

Aug 23, 2017

Yesterday the mooring crew replaced the mooring at our last site in the International District.  The mooring is a very long sturdy cable with a weight attached to the bottom and a huge round floatie attached to the top.  A little cable-car sort of device called a Deep Profiler slides up and down the cable at a scientist’s command and takes various samples of pH level, temperature, conductivity, depth, and dissolved oxygen.  The weight is lowered onto the bottom of the sea floor and the cable is kept vertical by the giant float on the other end.  The mooring is then plugged into an existing cable on the sea floor so that scientists on board the ship and on land can send messages and commands to the Deep Profiler.  The device will stay on the sea floor for a year, until the next Visions cruise sets out next summer.

I was supposed to be on shift with Jason last night from 20:00-00:00, but the mooring crew took a little longer than expected so Jason didn’t even get into the water until about 23:30.
Last night got a little stormy for the first time since we set out, and I finally got to break out my new rain boots.  I wouldn’t describe the weather last night as rain, but more like a sheet of very heavy mist blowing every which way.  Hopefully tonight will be clearer for stargazing!
This morning I began preparations for the mini project we are expected to do on board.  I’m planning to interview various people on board, mostly about how they got involved on the ship and what their role is.  The video is meant to be an easy to understand breakdown of what exactly is going on aboard the boat.  It will also be geared toward middle and high school students to spark their interest and encourage them to consider a career in one of the interviewee’s paths.  At lunch today I was able to book up almost all of my interview spots for today—a great start to a fun project!

Aug 22, 2017

11am and I just woke up…my shift from the dive last night ended at midnight and completely wiped me out.
I was so preoccupied with the upcoming dive yesterday that I forgot to mention our first drill on board!  We had an abandon ship drill around 12:30 yesterday.  Good thing everyone else knew where they were going because I just grabbed my stuff and sort of followed everyone to the second deck.  The captain gave us a rundown of emergency procedures and called up one of the crew members, Malcolm, to give us a demonstration of how to put on a gumpy suit.
My first shift with Jason was last night starting at 20:00.  The room is kind of like a big train crate and just filled to the brim with screens displaying every angle one would want to see of and from Jason.  I was given the “event logger” job where I basically just typed exactly what Jason was doing for future records.  “Jason on deck”, “Jason over side”, “Jason in water”, “bottom in sight”, “Jason on bottom”.  It gets a little tedious, but it’s very important for the scientists in the future if they need to look back over the records.
Jason took about an hour and a half to reach the sea floor, during which time I saw tons of pickle-looking creatures floating around and lots of cool plankton and cnideria.
Once Jason arrived on the bottom, the engineers went to work having him let go of the giant, white, tons-heavy box of supplies he took down to the bottom with him.  Jason replaced a couple plugs and when I left he was attempting to connect the THSPH to one of the boxes on the seafloor.

Aug 21, 2017

We finally got out to our first destination earlier today.  Honestly the ride out to Axial Caldera was nauseating for my roommate and me—I was bedridden for most of the ride out here.
Through the ups and downs, I could step out of my bunk for just long enough to spot a whale on the way here and to enjoy the eclipse!
We started off the eclipse this morning at about 9:00 and it was pretty cloudy, so much so that the eclipse glasses were too dark to even use.  We spent about an hour waiting around with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album playing in the background (a personal favorite of mine), when all of the sudden totality struck.  It was so eerie—within a few minutes the sky was completely black and the entire deck was encased in darkness, and then just as quickly it was as if someone had flipped a light switch and the lights came back on.  And then, just like that, everyone packed up and went back to work.  I thought I’d be a little more disappointed with the weather for the eclipse, but I can genuinely say that it was one of the most breathtaking natural phenomena I’ve ever seen.
Dinner was about an hour ago and the food on the ship has been much better than I had expected—who knows, my candy bar rations might even go unused.
I have my first Jason shift tonight from 20:00-00:00 manning the second dive, so I’m excited to finally start working and get out of my room!  We are diving in the international district on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. More updates to come tomorrow!