Kevin Lallys’ Blog

The crew has safely recovered Jason and we have begun our transit back to Newport, Oregon.  Tonight at midnight, we will do another CTD cast near the slope base of the continental shelf.  It is too bad we had to end our leg of the cruise a tad early, but everyone still seems to be in good spirits.  During some of the down time yesterday, we set up a ping pong table in one of the storage rooms and had a tournament.  It was a bit tough to play with the rocking of the boat, but well worth the time it took to set up.  Today I decided to break a sweat and test out one of the work out rooms for an hour.  I now feel a lot better eating snacks and chaco tacos with every meal.  I could comment more about how good the meals and desserts are onboard, but I think I hit that one pretty good in my first blog.
The is a nice bench built into the bow of the ship where I have been spending quite a bit of time.  I caught an awesome sunset there a few nights ago, and it is a nice spot to read while we are not transiting.  The other day while transiting, I though it would be a good idea to bring my coffee and scone to the bow for a few minutes.  I under-estimated the state of the sea, and soon realized that I should not be at the bow of the ship.  Halfway there, I started spilling a little coffee and scrambled to find something to hold onto.  I quickly turned around and speed walked my way back to a safe location.  After multiple coffee stains on my jeans and a few short breaths later, I was back inside the ship and once again humbled by the sea. 

I am looking forward to getting a few folks contact information before I depart the ship. I met a nice Chilean surfer who told me about the ins and outs of Chilean breaks and said he would give me his address if I ever make my way down.  I really like the routine of this kind of work.  After I finish my Master’s thesis this year, I would love to find more work on ships.  These research vessels travel just about everywhere, giving the scientists and crews the ability to travel the world and learn about its mysterious oceans.  Until the next one, cheers! -Kevin

August 15, 2017

I have now had two shifts working in the Jason Control room during dives at Axial.  It is amazing the amount of infrastructure that is on the seafloor down there.  There are multiple sensors measuring the tilt of the seafloor, variations of temperature, concentrations of gas, and recording HD video of hydrothermal vents.  It is hard to relate seafloor exploration to anything other than space exploration.  The sites we witness while in the Jason control room are unlike anything I have ever seen.  To some of the scientist here, it is so casual and they are just doing their job.  But from fresh eyes on the boat, it is feels like one of the final frontiers. 

During our first dive, we placed a HD camera that streams live footage of a hydrothermal vent to the internet.  The project has been going on for over a year, so it was import that the camera had the same frame as the old one (which we brought to the surface).  The stream has a minute of lag time back to UW so every time we adjusted the camera we would have to wait a minute for someone at UW to confirm its position.  Kind of a slow but fun waiting game.  The caldera is full of all kinds of volcanic flow structures (mostly basalt) including sheet, pillow, and lobate formations.  It takes a lot of adjusting to get the instruments to sit level on these rocks.  My job as video logger is too take important screen shots and record videos on the highlight tapes.  This includes photos of the instruments’ locations, biologically interesting stuff, and action shots of Jason configuring the instruments.  It is also important to record videos of every launch and recovery of Jason on and off the ship.  During the second dive, we measured the temperature of the fluids coming out of one of the hydrothermal vents in the international district.  The temperature was 301 degrees celsius!!?!? The life around the vent was flourishing- worms, snails, and matts of bacteria! So cool to think that the gasses coming from these vents are what made our atmosphere the way it is today (let alone the possibility of the origin of life!)

There is a more than usual uncertainty when conducting science at the bottom of the ocean- it is not guaranteed that instruments will be able to perform the way they are planned to. And there is a bit of stress when things don’t go according to plan, but with a lot of quick problem solving and working around the clock the scientist and crew always seem to meet the needs of the expedition.  This morning’s dive encountered some serious problems during the launch of Jason.  Immediately, the scientists and crew began working on ways to recover Jason safely and salvage as much expedition time as possible.  It seems we are heading back to Newport a little ahead of schedule for some repairs on Jason.  This means my shifts as watchstanding in the control room are over, but also gives me time to work on my marine mammal acoustic project.  Until the next blog XO Kevin

August 13, 2017

It’s funny how life works, I’ve had a rock sitting on my desk for the last three years that came from Axial Seamount and that is exactly where we are headed.  We are now finishing up a 19 hour transit from one plate boundary to another.  Almost 200 miles off the Washington coast lies the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a location where tectonic plates diverge and ocean bottom critters flourish.  Very excited for tonight’s dive! 

Today is the first day of the cruise that we have seen blue sky.  The state of the sea and the rocking of the ship have begun to pick up quite a bit.  It is a wild feeling lying in bed (in the front of the ship) while transiting through rough seas; you can feel you body move up and down ~20 or so feet every two seconds.  Last night was the peak of the of the Perseid meteor shower, however it was too cloudy to view at sea.  Instead I went outside and watched the bioluminescent algae light up as the ship stirred the waters.  I like to think when I see a wave 150 miles offshore with a good size amplitude and a decent period that in a day or so a surfer is grinning on some beach and paddling to catch the set hahahah. 

I decided on a project yesterday for my time on the ship; I plan to collect hydro-acoustic data from some of the near shore hydrophones to filter out marine mammal signals.  I will then use an open source program, PAM (passive acoustic monitoring), to identify marine mammals including whales, dolphins, porpoises, dugongs, manatees, seals, sea lions, and sea otters.  The final product will include all the marine mammal acoustics edited into a short outreach video.  As mush as I love studying seismology and “rock noise”, I am stoked to be applying some of my knowledge of digital signal processing to marine mammal acoustics.

I am looking forward to writing about tonight’s dive to the caldera of the submarine volcano, Axial Seamount.  I have spent about a year and a half of my undergraduate education (at the University of North Carolina Wilmington) researching Axial Seamount and calibrating high-precision pressure instruments to be used here for seafloor geodetic surveys (with Dr. Scott Nooner).  What a pleasure to be writing this blog on a ship directly above Axial.  Until next time XO Kevin

August 11, 2017

My experience on this boat is already so surreal and its only day three.  I’ve met inspiring people, had my first two shifts in the Jason control room, eaten 4 ice creams, a push-pop, and 3 slices of pie, and things are only getting started here.  It is a warm feeling knowing you are just where you are supposed to be.  I can tell this is going to be an influential experience for myself and I am looking forward to the insights coming out of it. I have already planned on gaining at lease eight pounds! The meals made onboard are amazing! + 24/7 access to anything you can think of… candies, bars, PBJ’s, ice-creams, cereals, coffees/teas, and ramen! Everyone on the boat is so nice and helpful too. 

The distractions seem to disappear when at sea and there is a more than usual amount of face to face interactions and conversations with people from around the world.  I decided to wing it and not bring any Dramamine, and it has worked out. Turns out I really love the rocking of the boat and the way it makes falling asleep easier and walking down the stairs trickier.  I am finally starting to get a sense of what doors lead where and how I can help out around the ship.  I only work one watch-standing shift a day, from midnight to 0400.  So in my downtime I’ve started reading a Hunter S. Thompson book, and earlier today I watched Dallas Buyers Club (there is an awesome little library onboard in tons of books and movies).

My first two shifts as the video logger in the Jason control room were incredible.  Last night’s dive began at 0100 with a shark checking out our submersible. We then continued down to 800 meters depth to place the new mass spectrometer in a safe location near the Southern Hydrate Ridge on the accretionary wedge off the Oregon coast. Sitting in the Jason control room is a trip! The pilot during my shift likes to play some spacey “kick-a**” music.  It is a dark cold room with more then 20 screens showing what the submersible is viewing and navigation/engineering controls.  After my two shifts in there, I am already reconsidering what I want to do the rest of my life.  Sitting in that room makes you feel like a true explorer. My job in there is to video log and take screen shots of robots configuring each other at the bottom of the ocean with alien-like creatures swimming in and out of view. This is truly the forefront of oceanic research.  I am very happy on this boat and until next time XO Kevin