Heading out to sea – YAHOOOOOO

The R/V Thompson exits the Ballard Locks into the Salish Sea on its ~ 1.5 day transit to Axial Seamount. Credit: M. Vardaro, University of Washington; V21.
The R/V Thompson transiting into the Hiram M. Locks, as it begins it’s journey into the Salish Sea and Pacific Ocean. Credit: L. Bryan, University of Washington, V21.

After an intense mobilization on Friday, the R/V Thomas G. Thompson departed the UW School of Oceanography dock at 1800 on Saturday to begin the Regional Cabled Array (RCA) Ocean Observatories Initiative expedition (VISIONS’2021), funded by the National Science Foundation. The ship transited through a series of freshwater bodies and into the Hiram M. Chittenden locks to enter the Salish Sea. After a few hour stop at a fuel dock Sunday morning, the Thompson headed north towards the Straits of Juan de Fuca, reaching the entry way into the Pacific Ocean and open ocean at ~2100. From here, she turned southwest towards Axial Seamount, located ~250 nautical miles (288 miles) from the mouth of the straits.  Prior to sailing, all members of the science party attended a Safety meeting and practiced getting into survival suits.

Traveling at ~ 12 knots, it is anticipated that the Thompson will reach Axial Seamount, at ~ 1730 tonight to begin operations. After a year of preparation, the team is excited to begin work at the base of Axial Seamount. The ROV Jason should enter the water at ~ 1900 for its first dive at the Shallow Profiler Mooring.

The transit is a very busy time for the team of scientists, engineers, students, and the Jason team. The ship is “full to the gills” with RCA instrumented Shallow Profiler pods, junction boxes, and testing equipment. The main lab is home to the 20 RCA team members, including 7 undergraduate students. Nine members of the Jason team have workspace in the aft portion of the ship – “the hydrolab.”

VISIONS’21 students (J. Willson, C. Fink, A. Paley, G. Kent, J. Winter, A. Baker) and RCA Research Scientist R. Scott, are happy to pull away from the School of Oceanography dock, to begin the VISIONS’21 expedition. Credit: M. Vardaro, University of Washington; V21

Extensive computer and video equipment has been brought onboard that allows the team to see data streaming live from the cabled instrumentation once powered up after installation, and to archive the hundreds of hours of video and thousands and thousands of still imagery that Jason will collect. Specialized gear sends the live video feeds from cameras focused on the “fan tail” (back deck) of the R/V Thompson, and from Jason when it is in the water. Testing continues as the ship is underway to ensure all is ready for deployment and analytical labs are set up for analyses of ocean water that will very soon be collected.

It is wonderful to be back on the Thompson, working with the amazing crew that supports our work. Please continue to follow us as we explore the deep sea and visit some of the most amazing environments on Earth as we maintain NSF’s Regional Cabled Array, which brings the internet directly into the ocean.