Delilah Kaufman Blog Leg 4

The lab where the InVADER team has been working and taking their
rock samples. Because many of the samples came from sulfide vents, it smells really bad in here (H2S)!”
Credit: D. Kaufman, University of Washington, V21.

August 31: Days Fly By at Sea

It’s crazy to think about how much has happened in such a short amount of time. Because operations on the ship go 24/7 and I work two four hour shifts instead of one eight, my sense of time is totally off, and I feel as though I have been here much longer than I actually have.

When I wake up for my watch, I usually don’t remember if it is the midnight one or the 12 pm one until I step outside and see whether it is light or dark out – today I went upstairs to grab a snack before my midnight watch and was surprised to see that lunch was still happening!

This afternoon I finished my last watch in the JSON van. Right now, the InVADER team is working on their last dive to collect some last water samples as part of a BOEM-funded effort to D. Kelley (UW).

I’ve been really interested in the geology of the Regional Cabled Array sites since I started watching the dives, so these dives have been particularly enjoyable because they are taking samples of rocks and sulfide-rich vents from the ASHES field, which is where many of the hydrothermal vents and the most interesting geology is. Now that the dives are finishing up, it looks like we will get the chance to help with a few other projects around the ship.

Later today and tomorrow, we are going to get the chance to help sort tubeworms that we have been collecting along with the rock samples. I have been warned that, because they have hemoglobin, they bleed a lot and that it might be gross, but I am still excited. I also really want to help with the RAS fluid samples – while I’m still not exactly sure what the RAS does, I’ve been hearing a lot about it, and am eager to help – lots of exciting stuff is on the way!

The seafloor covered in lava with bacteria-filled cracks at the ASHES hydrothermal field as viewed from the Jason control van. Credit: D/. Kaufman, University of Washington. V21.

August 28: Getting to See Hydrothermal Vents for the First Time

For the last day everybody has been hyping me up for our trip to the ASHES Vent Field, which is supposed to be one of the cooler dives we do. This is where we see the most deep-sea life, which thrives from the dissolved chemicals and gasses issuing from the underwater hot springs . I was lucky enough to not have to rearrange my sleeping schedule to see this dive, as I started my noon-4 pm watch right as it was starting and got to see nearly all off it.

Watches have become much more exciting now that I have a better idea of what I am doing. Now that I am more familiar with the software we use to log video and events, I have more time to look at the maps and instrument guidebooks and the dive plan, which help me figure out what is going on.

During today’s dive, Jason landed directly in front of Inferno, which is a large sulfide vent that I had heard the name of before in class but wouldn’t have been able to identify myself. Being able to see where we are and what we are looking at, though, makes being in the van much more engaging.

Colors are so bright and vibrant at the seafloor in the ASHES vent field! I wish I knew the biology of the area better, because I think it would have been interesting to be able to identify more of what I was seeing.

We are currently in the middle of a dive in the International District Vent Field, though, so I think I will get the chance to see more during my upcoming watch.

The CTD rosette being deployed off the R/ V Thompson. Credit: D. Kaufman, University of Washington, V21.

August 26: First CTD Cast

Last night, we did the Leg’s first dive at the Oregon Offshore location. My watch started four and a half hours in, and I was told I would only be there to see them finishing up. I was disappointed about this, as I had hoped to experience an authentic representation of what watches in the Jason van were like on my first watch in order to get familiar with the video logging and Sealog systems, but I ultimately got my wish to see more when I came in to find that we still had a long way to go – apparently things were taking longer than they meant to. This made my first watch exciting – I ended up being in the Jason van for over an hour before we finished, and then went on to do a CTD cast.

The CTD cast was more exciting than being in the van. I was able to stand on deck to watch it being deployed, and then we retreated to the Computer Lab to watch measurements of the ocean environment be taken in real-time and firing of the bottles to collect water at specific depths. After that, we went out to take water samples for dissolved oxygen, dissolved inorganic carbon, nutrient content, and salinity. Later today we are supposed to do some lab work on these, as some of them need to be processed within the next few days. I am hoping to get to help with that before our next dive, which is meant to take longer than the last.