Connor Fink Blog Leg 1

The rubber chicken gets a ride to the seafloor beneath Jason. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

August 6 – Life Aboard the Thompson

The Jason van this morning was a little different because some of the students convinced the crew to strap a glow in the dark chicken to one of the undervator platform beneath Jason while it was heading down to the seafloor. The Jason crew also made the backlit lighting very dramatic, so it was a fun thing to observe on the way down. There was additionally a shark that was seen on one of the cameras on the seafloor.

That shift, I mainly focused on Jason logging, which is typical for the morning shift. Since this is Day 7, I have gotten a pretty set schedule down now, which is useful for my sleeping and being in ordinance for what I have to do on this vessel. During the dive, the crew also had to avoid a log that was present at the starboard side of Jason.

After my normal nap and schedule, there was a steak dinner in the galley. This dinner was definitely my favorite of the cruise because it was cooked so well.

The “weird fish” at 2900 , during my night shift, which was my favorite sea life I’ve seen so far. I had to log it into sealog as well. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

I then had my second Jason logging shift where we at one point had to find the legs of the Shallow Profiler mooring at the bottom of the ocean. We also ran into the “weird fish,” which I logged. It had a purple and grey color with a long body and tail; it was the coolest form of sea life I have seen on this cruise so far.

This was the sunset around 20:00 after my night shift, and it was beautiful to look at. C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

When the night shift wrapped up, I walked out of the Jason van to then see the beautiful sunset over the water, and I took a cool picture of it as well. The night then wrapped up with me calling my twin and my special friend that were both at a show together and wrapping up my thin layers project.

This is me sampling ocean water through from the CTD cast, which includes getting the water into the flask and adding chemicals for analysis. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

August 4: CTD Work and Ship Tour

The fifth day of the cruise for me started with another 04:00 shift and another shallow CTD cast to about 220 meters, due to a Jason delay. Obtaining the CTD samples is a long process, including getting the water out of the niskin bottles with a tube and sampling techniques, some chemistry, and sealing them away in the analytical lab.

This cast was also the second our team did that morning because of an error in the niskin setup during the first cast. The ocean water is placed into all different sizes of containers, such as flasks, bottles, small pouches, and thermoses. Our team does this so different experiments can be done on different ocean water samples from the CTD.

The bridge onboard the thompson showing the windows and technologies that the Captain uses to operate the ship. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

After this CTD cast and after sampling was finished, it was time to transit to Primary Node PN1B  to get the node ready for recovery later in the cruise. During the transit, Rachel and some of the other lead scientists set up a bridge tour for us – the bridge basically being the cockpit of the ship where the captain does his work. The bridge is at the top of the ship, and the view of the open water turning against the ship was beautiful. The captain working at that time also gave us a run down of every mechanism in the bridge, and my favorite was the huge GPS systems on each side. There was even a pouch with binoculars with a purple inlay and a UW patch in the bridge as well.

Once the bridge tour concluded, Jenn, Jordan, and I had a team meeting for our identifying thin layers through data science project, where we discussed future steps and our upcoming presentation. I am planning on focusing more on the information and logic aspects, where Jenn and Jordan are going to focus on science and oceanography.

The titrator to determine oxygen concentrations in seawater, which involves numerous steps. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

I then decided to take a nap, and when I was walking to my room there were a few crew members playing mario kart on a nintendo switch, which I thought was a good use of downtime.

After the nap with a dream that I was a professional baseball and basketball player making me almost check espn when I woke up, I made it to my 16:00 shift where I did titrations in the analytical lab. This was an interesting process to learn and observe because it involved changing of colors in solutions due to chemistry, with an end goal of obtaining oxygen concentrations from the ocean water samples. Our team made a funny joke of “good titrations” matching up with the “good vibrations” song by the Beach Boys, which gave us a good laugh too.

The titration shift soon ended, but directly after there were some humpback whales outside the Main Lab that the science party got to observe. It was beautiful seeing the fins lift up out of the water, while getting a free whale watching cruise in the meantime.

At last, I then spent some time on the phone, ate a kit kat before I went to bed, fixed my rubik’s cube back to where it was before, and went to sleep.

The station in the Jason van where I learned how to do the Jason logging tasks. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

August 3: Jason Shifts at Axial Base

Today, I woke up again at 04:00 to start my watch shift. The first activity that happened was a bird had to be released back into the air that had flow onto the ship in the dark.

After a jammed finger, it was time to learn hands-on experience in the  control van logging and controlling the Jason cameras. Even though I had a tour of this van at the beginning of the cruise, it is still amazing how many screens and controls there are in that room. There are a couple of controls that looked like the stick to a video game.

When my shift ended, I had some downtime, so I went away with my rubik’s cube again. At one point I was four corners away from solving it, and then I messed it up again. I then decided to work on my side project for identifying thin layers with data science. Wendi, the Co-chief Scientist, gave me good notes and a rundown of future steps in accomplishing my program and goal, like how to extract profiles from pressure data.

The cloudy sea off the fantail of the Thompson; this is when my fellow students went out on the aft deck around 21:00 after my shift. C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

I was fairly tired after this, so I took a nap before my 16:00 watch shift. Once I got on my next shift, I got to control the video logging for Jason, which took about 1-2 hours to figure out how to recognize and work all the cameras on both screens. There was also a long wait when Jason was going from one stop to the next, thus sparking really good conversations in the Jason van with colleagues and fellow students about games and tik tok influencers.

During one of the Jason dives, we recovered a biological experiment from a researcher in Oklahoma and put it in a box for safe transpor to the surface. It was really intriguing to record that part of the dive.

Once I got out of the Jason van and my shift was over completely, I went out to the front bow with some students, where we could only see a few 100 meters in front of us because of how cloudy it was.

Lastly, the styrofoam cups should be dropped off, after onto one of the deeper CTD tests when I am asleep at midnight, so it will be fun waking up to that as well.

My selfie as the Thompson departs Seattle for the Pacific Ocean. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

August 2: First Impressions

Today, I had my first impression of my real shift schedule, which is from 04:00-08:00 and 16:00-20:00. I had to set my phone to military time so I could get used to the time as well. While trying to get up at 03:30, Anabel and I decided to adventure around the deck at night, and it was surreal seeing nothing but black, the wind, and the waves crashing with the boat around us. After this, I ran into some colleagues playing cards and saw that we were about halfway there to Axial Seamount.

This was the sunset in the morning around 05:00, it was very beautiful. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21

The sunrise that morning was also beautiful, with the sun just peeking out beneath some clouds. The main duty of this shift was to get training for CTD sampling, which is basically getting the right size and chemicals in a CTD sample of ocean water for analysis.

After the shift was over, I took a quick nap to get ready for my 16:00 shift, while also going outside to look at the sun at high noon. The meals have additionally not slowed down; they are amazing. My next shift consisted of the Thompson making it to Axial Seamount, and the first operation that was going to be done being the CTD sampling. I watched the numerous CTD Niksin bottles go into the water, and the scientists bring the rosette down around 250 meters while getting samples in every bottle on the way up and down. There was additionally a live data feed which included chlorophyll, temperature, etc. This data collection gives provides verification of OOI dataf rom the installed instruments. The environmental data associated with the chlorophyll data could be helpful for my thin layers project.

The CTD rosette awaits its deployment into the Pacific. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

After collecting the ocean water, we needed to get it into smaller samples in tubes using the CTD sampling training I was taught that morning. We even sampled a part of ocean water in beer bottles while one of the scientists added a poison chemical to prevent chemical modification by organisms in the ocean water that can change the concentration of gasses such as carbon dioxide.

After my shift ended at 20:00, I took some pictures of the sunset and saw Jason deployed. There was a TV with 4k video of Jason’s camera in the main lab, where I got to see it capture numerous deep sea species.

In my free time, I have been designing more cups; we even have a styrofoam head for every VISION student to draw on collectively, and a ball for everyone on my Leg to draw on collectively as well.

I have also been learning how to solve a rubik’s cube for the first time using an online PDF, and at one point I was only 4 corner squares away from solving it. I’ll definitely get it by the end of this Leg. I additionally have been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and calling loved ones in the Chief Scientist suite at the top of the Thompson.

All in all, I believe I will make it through the rest of this Leg with this schedule, and I look forward to doing some Jason logging in the future.

July 31- August 1: The Cruise Starts

The Thompson is met by a beautiful sunset as it heads out of the Ballard Locks to begin Leg 1 of the RCA VISIONS’21 expedition. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington V21.

Starting at 2pm on the 31st of July, I boarded the Thompson by meeting my fellow VISIONS students on Leg 1 and getting directed to my bunk. My bunk reminded me of my college dorm room, as I had a shared bathroom, a desk, and a bunk bed with plenty of space.

After dropping off my luggage, I met with my fellow students again, where we learned how to tie our laptops down to our shared computer table with specific knots so they don’t fall to the floor when the ship is at sea. It kind of reminded me of when I started Boy Scouts in sixth grade. Meeting my fellow VISIONS students was also significant because they all shared the same passion for science and innovation as me.

Then, I adventured around the ship, where I checked out her size and length in front of my own eyes. I even went to the very top where I could see the UW medical building. Our first official meeting started at 3  pm, where the highlight of it was putting the red teletubby, or among us, a character suit contraption that was used for hypothermia safety in an emergency.

The next meeting proceeded this, and it was just meant for students, where we formally introduced ourselves and received an outline of our tasks for the ship. This is where we were first introduced to our shifts, where I learned I have to work from 4 am-8 am and 4 pm-8 pm for my watch duties. After learning about the watch shifts, it was time for the Thompson to set sail off of the UW dock and go to the Seattle station to refuel. Although this expedition was short, it was beautiful seeing the bridges by the cut and other locations open up for our ginormous vessel, the numerous other boats passing by us, the Thompson going into port, and the Seattle skyline and sunset. Once at port, it got dark and I went to sleep.

The next morning, I got up for the usual 7:15 breakfast and then I had a Jason tour at 10. The food is five star quality by the way, where I have already had pasta with shrimp and salmon bagels. During the tour, I got to see the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) , Jason, and its inner workings, while also getting to see the room where the pilots and users in the hot seat control the vehicle. I also learned more in-depth what my job as a sea-logger for Jason will look like. I will be logging events and data on my shifts with the pilots and Jason. After another safety meeting at 2, I had my first shift at 4 where it was mostly on call. They also introduced us to something called “cup therapy” where students and researchers on the Thompson can make art designs on styrofoam objects like balls and cups, and then they will later send them down with Jason into the ocean. Apparently they shrink due to the pressure and air trapped within the styrofoam, while the designs are still on them, and the weight is the same. I am looking forward to seeing my designs as well.

A soon-to-be squished cup. Credit: C. Fink, University of Washington, V21.

Just about an hour ago, someone spotted whales passing by the ship, and the entire crew watched the fins of whales burst out of the water and their blowhole’s blast water back into the ocean. In the future, I look forward to starting my shifts with Jason and working on my side project with fellow VISION students Jenn and Jordan, trying to identify thin layers with data science.

Lastly, I plan on calling loved ones tonight over the ship phone – the feeling of not having internet and social media is very cleansing as well.