Last night, (…maybe it was the night before, the days start to blend in at sea…) a group of us spent some time star gazing on the bow. As we searched for constellations we knew, the night sky appeared to sway as the boat rocked making them more difficult to spot. It was disorienting, but beautiful. A great night for stars. Moving from one awe-inspiring activity to another, afterwards I help stink out the analytical lab with Theresa as we opened up her deep sea sediment cores (science talk for foul smelling mud) to process them. I’ve worked in anoxic salt marshes before and deep sea mud definitely gives salt marsh mud a run for its money.
Jason completed another dive late last night at the hydrothermal vents in the International District yielding awesome footage of the ecosystem with highly adapted molluscs and tube worms thriving on the sides of the chimneys. We watched as Jason approached one smoker with a temperature probe; it’s so cool that we can put instruments into a billowing hydrothermal vent. This morning’s watch in the control van was cut short after technical difficulties with the winch. Most of my watch was spent listening to engineers troubleshoot how to get the winch unstuck. Stay tuned.
In the afternoon, Zac and Cheryl helped me record and edit clips for my video project on sensors. We also tested some water samples from the CTD cast using my homemade pH sensor with red cabbage juice indicator dye, labs we have previously done with undergraduates and high school students, and got reasonably good results within ~0.5 units. Pretty good for red cabbage juice. Chanelle and Kevin set up a ping pong tournament after dinner. Given my ping pong skills, it’s no surprise I was eliminated right away. I already wasn’t great on dry land, but throw in a moving boat and I practically handed Kevin that win.
August 13, 2017
It was a slow start to the morning after a bumpy ride to Axial Seamount during which many of us students were seasick. By the afternoon we had arrived at Axial Base and did a CTD cast to get some measurements of the water column. We prepped the Niskin water collection bottles on the rosette and learned about the sensors attached to the CTD. In addition to measuring conductivity (salinity) and temperature with respect to depth, the CTD is also equipped with instruments to measure turbidity, fluorescence for chlorophyll and oxygen. After launching the CTD off the ship, I spent some time with Julie and Cheryl in the control room to track the progress of the dive and select good depths at which to take water samples. It took about an hour to get to the bottom at around 2600 meters. On the way back up, we triggered Niskin bottles to close at various depths to get water samples along the way. Once the CTD surfaced we collected samples from the Niskin bottles for a variety of chemical tests, including oxygen, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), nutrients, salinity and chorophyll, that Julie will run to confirm the instrument readings. By this time, my seasickness had subsided and it was great to be outside in the sun doing science!
We continued on to Axial Caldera where we did another Jason dive to bring down a new HD camera and the osmotic water sampler I helped Katie build yesterday. Axial Caldera is huge, 3km by 5km. Watching the video feed from the Jason dive I was amazed by the activity at the vent. There were chimneys billowing with boiling water, lined with tube worms and other invertebrates thriving in this extreme environment. It was completely astounding to me that we are floating 1500m above such a unique ecosystem. To top off a great day, I watched the sun finally set from the bow of the boat with nothing but water for miles.
August 12, 2017
Last night I helped out with the Jason recovery from Southern Hydrate Ridge. Jason was brought back on deck with all the instruments it had replaced. They came up in the ‘undervator’ which is suspended underneath Jason for the ride to the surface. Each recovery brings with it some biology from the deep so I was pretty interested to check out what had come up with the dive. A pyrosome – a pelagic colonial tunicate for my invertebrate fans out or also known on board as ‘pickles’ to those not as invertebrate-minded – had gotten caught in the basket. Tunicates are chordates which means they are our closest invertebrate relatives! I had never seen a tunicate quite so large before, it is indeed the size of a pickle, made of jelly with a hollow tube along the middle. It is comprised of several zooids, individuals within the colony that are all genetically identical, that filter water from the outside and filter it toward the inner tube of the animal. Pretty neat!
I video recorded another Jason launch this morning for a dive at a site called Slope Base. This was the deepest dive yet. At 2900m it took Jason almost my whole shift to reach the bottom. Going through the entire water column you really get a sense for how deep the ocean is. I saw a lot more pickled tunicates floating about, they are pretty common in this area. We passed fish, ctenophores and loads of zooplankton as we descended to the bottom. Once we got there and found the instrument, my shift was up.
I am still amazed every time I am in the control van that we are capable of finding things that were put at the bottom of the ocean a year ago with such precision. I can’t even find my house keys.
After lunch, Deb gave us an orientation to the geology of hydrothermal vent systems and Axial Seamount, our next stop. These ecosystems are so extreme and dynamic yet still filled with life; I am excited to see them tomorrow! In preparation for our dives there, I helped Katie build an osmotic water sampler which will be deployed on the seafloor for a year. We are currently in transit to Axial seamount, a 19 hour ride from our previous site at Slope Base. Crossing my fingers it won’t be a bumpy ride!
August 11, 2017
It was back in the control van for another morning of camera duty. I recorded the recovery and launch of Jason in and out of the water during the changeover between dives today. It’s captivating to watch the depth countdown and cameras as Jason surfaces and returns to the ship’s deck. After a successful launch back into the water for a 800m dive, Jason replaced some cables, a velocity meter, and a pressure sensor at Southern Hydrate Ridge, our location for the day. Not as many ctenophores today, but I spotted some crabs and a smattering of miscellaneous echinoderms on the seafloor. All were happy to get their photos taken. It must be pretty difficult to operate Jason remotely. Scott, one of the Jason operators, confirmed this to be true.
Later in the day, I tried on a survival suit as a follow up to the abandon ship drill we had on the first day. The suit is meant to keep you warm in case the ship needs to be evacuated and you end up in the water; and as every good oceanographer knows, the water off the Oregon coast is very cold. On the practical to fashionable scale, the suit lands firmly on the practical side of things (see photo). The thick neoprene was more a challenge to put on than anticipated, though a child sized suit probably would have been more my style.
A true highlight of the day was getting a tour of the bridge from a seasoned first mate, Eric. He showed us the controls, ship navigation systems and some secrets of the trade. Not to mention, the view from the bridge is definitely the best view on board the R/V Revelle. There was nothing else in sight except water in all directions until the horizon. It was beautiful. Eric shared some exciting tales from his seafaring adventures that has us all intrigued. In general, many of the folks on the ship have fascinating stories which have been great to hear these past few days.
August 10, 2017
Today was our second official day at sea. This being my first research cruise, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was however, expecting to get seasick, which I did right after we pulled away from the dock yesterday even though it was a relatively calm day. Later in the day I started feeling better though I still can’t walk in a straight line on the ship given the general ups and downs of the waves. I await my sea-legs, I hear it’s a thing.
I started the morning with a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes and a bowl of fruit. We’ve been eating in style onboard the Revelle. Then it was off for my first shift in the control van of the ROV JASON. I am still trying to figure out why they call it a van, it’s a large shipping container with no wheels, but I’m trying to get ‘onboard’ with the lingo. Being in the van is like being in a mission control center, there’s serious science business happening and it’s apparent. There are several large screens projecting different camera views from JASON as well as other important positional information. It was pretty darn cool. Jason is like the underwater equivalent of WALL-E, roaming the seafloor and servicing scientific instruments. While we watched the engineers maneuver JASON’s manipulators to recover an old cable and coil it into a basket in the ‘undervator’ (it took me a minute to get this but it’s an upside-down elevator, makes sense), I was excited about all the biology that was going by the cameras…so many ctenophores! I was on camera duty today, taking photos as JASON completed this morning’s tasks at 600m water depth. I got a little camera-happy, photographing everything I thought was cool which was pretty much everything, sorry for all the fish photos…I was trying to get them smiling!
I also spent some time checking out JASON after it had been recovered from the dive as well as a number of the other instrument packages on deck. While investigating some gear, Zac and I found a few sea urchins that came up with the Benthic Experiment Package and identified them as Strongylocentrus fragilis, the fragile pink sea urchin, (thanks to my Friday Harbor Labs friend and urchin guy, Tyler Carrier, for help with urchin ID!). I am excited to see what tomorrow brings!