Kenney Lai Blog Leg 2

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An overview of the junction box fondly called the “sheep.” Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI; Dive J2-1360; V21.

August 14: Anemone Cleaning

If I had to use 2 words to describe my most recent shift, it’d be ANENOME MASSACRE! We were on the Oregon Shelf  recovering  the “sheep” junction box. Much to my surprise, it was completely covered in hundreds of large white anemones surrounded by swarms of krill. Of course, as a biology student, this excited me!

However, the Jason team found this to be quiet the struggle. Since the junction box was turned into a thriving anemone home, the cables and essential points of access were extremely hard to find. Eventually, we had no choice but to remove anemones from the junction box.

When the sheep is successfully recovered, the interns will have the opportunity to clean the anemones off the junction box and boy am I excited to touch an actual anemone from ~80 m deep!

The interns and I intend to hold a funeral in memory of the anemones that did not survive the mission during our lunch later.

Leg 2 VISIONS’21 students cleaning the “Sheep” that had grown on the junction box since 2014. Credit: R. Scott, University of Washington, V21.

August 14: Busy days at sea

These past few hours have certainly been the busiest of all the days on the cruise. We cleaned the sheep for 2 hours and by the end we were all covered in anemone guts! I am actually a germaphobe so it was truly a fear-conquering experience or me. I was so tired after the cleaning, but with a little bit of coffee and candy I was able to power through my 0000-0400 shift.

We are currently transiting to return to Southern Hydrate Ridge, which is where the long-awaited sampling for my microbiology project will take place and I am feeling a little bit nervous. My biggest fear is that I will sleep through the dive to Einstein’s Grotto and I will miss the opportunity to sample, but I’m sure that my anxiety is just getting the best of me. The sky was still foggy tonight which disappointed me once again L. Wish me best of luck!

August 13 Oregon Shelf

During my shift this morning, we saw a handful of ctenophores and various floating red/purple polychetes at the Oregon Shelf. In my past two shifts, I have logged ROV operations when Jason surfaces and I am starting to understand how important it is to pay attention. I am becoming better about noticing when the pilot says things like “transponder off” and “first football off”.

I was a little upset this morning because of the extremely foggy weather. One of my favorite parts of having a shift from 0000-0400 is being able to watch the stars, and the fog tonight just made it impossible to see any kind of light! Watching stars is my most favorite activity to do back on land, but stargazing on a boat is completely different experience. Because there aren’t any large bright city buildings out in the middle of the ocean, the stars glow so much brighter and the sky looks so much more beautiful. Hopefully I’ll get the chance next shift..

Screen shot of the ROV control van while lifting up and securing the head of the MARUM Overview Sonar. Credit: K. Lai, University of Washington, V21.

August 12 Hydrate Ridge

Day 3 and the sea sickness continues! Despite everyone’s convincing arguments about how throwing up makes you feel better, I have yet to do so. But aside from the occasional headache everything has been chill so far. Due to the intense swells and currents, Jason has not had a chance to dive and my recent shifts have been quiet (which really is a good thing since I am still recovering from the transit-induced dizziness).

Enough about sea sickness though! From what I hear, when the weather calms down, Jason will be exploring Southern Hydrate Ridge which excites me since I am trying to scout out a spot in this site to collect my samples upon the return to Southern Hydrate Ridge.

In addition to my watch shifts, I have been gradually preparing my gear for sample collection ( for my science project). Two days ago, I was milliQ rinsing all my gear 6 times (milliQ is just pure water, as opposed to other types which have minerals and essential nutrients). Such gear includes 2L bottles, filter rigs, squirter bottles, and more.

Since this is a microbiology project it is extremely important that I keep all these sample-processing materials clean and uncontaminated. Back in my home lab, we had the time and resources to DI -wash, acid-wash, milliQ-rinse, and autoclave everything to ensure that all materials were 100% uncontaminated. However, we do not have such luxuries on this ship and that is something I am slowly adapting to.

Sometimes I stay up all night thinking about how the smallest contaminant in my washed gear could lead to the complete downfall of my project, but I also am working up the faith to trust that everything will work out in the end. I have exposed my own germaphobia in this blog, but hopefully I’ll have more to share in the next!

Screen shot of the control van during my shift showing anemones growing on LV01 at Slope Base. Credit: K. Lai, University of Washington, V21.

August 11 Observing PN1B

I had my first control van watch shift from 0000-0400 this morning and it was surreal to be in the room with the other engineers and scientists. I have always dreamed of seeing the deep-sea organisms that excite me so much live in the control van! During this shift I got to practice ROV sea logging and camera control which allowed me to appreciate how important the OOI RCA interns’ work are.

Unfortunately, due to some technical issues, Jason had to post-pone the dive plan. However, it was a blessing in disguise because I got to spend a significant amount of time observing the variety of organisms the PN1B site had to offer. Some of my favorites included deep sea anemones, sea pigs, big red jellies, rat tail fish, and an octopus. Being able to witness such magnificent creatures truly makes the seasickness worth it!

UW undergraduates Kenneth Lai and Isabella Oedekoven Pomponi don emergency survival suites during the first day Safety Meeting onboard the R/V Thompson. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V21.

August 9-10: A Community

The R/V Thomas G. Thompson departed, while my peers and I watched the last strip of land we’d see for the next 9 days disappear! It was breathtaking, but it also made me realize how small the society we’ve built is compared to the size of the ocean, furthermore how unexplored the ocean is. The amount of science left to explore in the ocean is what motivated me to get on this boat in the first place.

I was a little nervous about my microbiology research at first, but the scientists on the cruise have been so nice and supportive which boosted my confidence in my ability to complete this project!

I had my first official “OOI science meeting” this morning and the feeling of inclusion was something I didn’t know I craved after attending such a large public university (UW) for 2 years. From struggling to put on the oversized immersion suits to watching the stars at night, my peers and I have been having a blast and can’t wait to continue our important work on this cruise!