Cathe Gill Blog Leg 3

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A nursery of yellow Neptunea stalks hosting egg casings and abundant orange anemones near Pythias Oasis. Credit: D. Kelley, UW/NSF/WHOI, V21.

August 23: Control Van Art and Snail Towers

After a training session at Sea logging, I stayed in the van with my small painting kit. Just watching all the monitors as Jason surveys the Pythias Oasis site is beyond fascinating. One of the more memorable sights to me was the field (do you call it a field down deep??) of snail towers, It looked like a forest  to me. These snails (Neptunea) lay their eggs and then stay on top of them and lay more, and so on, until they create a tower like structure. Amazing. Another world of landscape, one so different from my world up on land.

My small paining kit in the darkness of the Jason control van. Credit: C. Gill, University of Washington, V21.

I brought my small art kit with me into the van and set up at the back table to paint, just looking with Jason’s ‘eyes’ as he cruised. It is dark, and rolling, similar to painting at night. I know my palette of colors like the back of my hand so do not need to guess where each color is. I’m painting small size to be as compact as I can.  As Jason moves over the bottom we see many creatures, sea pigs, crabs, little fish, bigger fish, snail towers, and even an old alien whale bone.

Sketch of the Jason contol van showing the logging station in the foreground and myriad Jason monitors behind. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

August 21 06:00: Inside the Control Van and Deep Profiler Operations

This morning it was great to get into the Control Van and see all that goes on, my first. Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard to get up at 03:30 to be ready by 04, I seem to sleep really well in my berth, and love the rocking. I remind myself to keep the sketch loose, which isn’t hard in a completely closed-in dark van on a rolling ship. But rewarded by rectangles everywhere! The maze of monitors filled an entire wall.

It is dark, not too cold, and with a small flashlight I could see my sketchbook and start drawing. First the big shapes, then break them up into their smaller shapes. Some light, some dark. Then draw in the overlapping table and monitors for the loggers in front. This part has dimension, so is a nice contrast with the flat wall in back.

A painting of Deep Profiler operations as viewed from the O2 deck on the Thompson. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

Later on in the morning I watched the deck ops playing out on the aft deck, of course with my sketchbook. They were pulling up parts from the deep so that the new Deep Profiler could be put in again tomorrow. First the big float, then the YaleGrip, then the stopper, then the Deep Profiler Vehicle, then the Communication Coupler, then the Electronics Housing, then the acoustic release, then the anchor. All so well choreographed.

Soon someone from the group came over (did I mention how generous and welcoming everyone is?) and said he’d show me the O2 deck to get a grand view of it all. It was a stage before me! And with moving parts and moving people, and me in the coveted upper seats, also rocking and rolling. So of course I set up my full tripod easel and painting gear and painted for 2 hours. It’s maybe not so surprising that it is hard to get your brush to land where you want it, what with the wind and rolling deck. The challenge of this is an artist’s dream.

Water color of the ocean meeting the sky. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

August 20: Grays and Blues
So about grays, there’s a lot of them out there! Blues too. Maybe in the sky, maybe on the ocean surface. There’s great opportunity here to fine-tune the mixing of them for a painting, also to ruminate on endlessly during down time. Jason will now dive later today, so we are all waiting. A variety of anything makes interest, especially color. The gentle rocking of the boat fits well with today’s seas, and a feeling of calm and relaxation. And a joy to feel fine with the rocking, and not ill… I still have to work on my ‘lurch’ form of walking, but I am getting somewhere. And I’ve found an out of the wind place (at least for this afternoon) on the ship, and set up my paints to paint this sky and ocean watercolor.

Painting sketch of the CTD Rosette onboard the R/V Thompson, VISIONS’21. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

August 19: Sealegs
Still in port, I stood out on the aft deck and looked around for a likely subject to paint. Not sure of my sealegs yet, I wanted to do a small painting before things got potentially challenging. I settled on a view of the Niskin rosette. There was a well placed out-of-the -way spot to stand with my small painting kit, (leaning on the wooded box of the Profiler) that did not seem like it would be in anyone’s way. And it was intriguing in its repeats of the round cylinders. Reminded me in an odd way of a bird cage.

Waves greet the participants on Leg 3 of the RCA VISIONS’21 expedition. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

There’s much talk of this beautiful ocean and that it may be rough during the transit to SlopeBase. Well, yes it was! But so beautiful, lively, loud and moving. It was hard not to notice the many shades of blue gray, the sky, the waves, and the monstrous crashing ones that are beautiful and frightening at the same time.

All this beauty and motion caused intense reaction in my body, but with a rest and some seasick meds, I was good to go by morning.

Water color of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport Oregon. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

August 18: Today we Depart
Today we leave Newport mid day, and there is a fine excitement aboard. Early before breakfast I meandered to the bow to do a small watercolor painting while the deck was still stabile. The view of the bay and the bridge was misting and soft, and the grays were so varied and interesting. Looking at the bridge and the sky beyond, and the water calm and closer, there were about 25 different grays all around me, concealing the bar and the waters beyond it.

I painted fast as it was misting, leaving little spots in the washes, very indicative of painting along the coast. I worked until I heard the ship’s horn announcing we were heading out. It was glorious to move through all the grays that I had mixed for my painting, out under the bridge, and then towards the bar where it looked like a different world.

Pencil drawing of the R/V Thompson. Credit: C. Gill, V21.

August 17: Arriving onboard the Thompson
It was beyond exciting to arrive at the R/V Thomson in Newport to start Leg3, after so many months of anticipating. First thing I got my gear aboard and met people that I would be spending time with. I went out on the dock to draw.

In new environments this is a way that an artist gets ‘friendly’ and learns about new things – draw! The ship will be my home for a few weeks. In this sketch I’m looking at the many complicated shapes of the ship, what piece overlaps what, relative sizes, how their color behaves the late afternoon light. By the time I finished we were ready for a nice dinner.