Laura Rodriguez Blog Leg 4

The Jason van that is reminiscent of JPL’s control room. This is where the Jason team operates the ROV, the RCA team leads the dives, and where the interns and guests take shifts taking notes of the operations. Credit: L.Rodriguez, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, V21.

August 27: On Watch in the Jason Control Van

My day started off at 3:45 am in the Jason Van where I helped log any actions taken by the ROV or any other significant events. By the time I got there, Jason was already almost done with its tasks, but I got to spend about 2 hours with it before it had finished ascending to the surface.

The Jason control van has a very impressive setup – there are about 18 computer monitors in the front where the Jason team operates. The RCA team members that lead the dive, sit next to the ROV pilot.  There are another three screens in the back where myself and the others spend our shifts taking notes/images of the dive.

The whole room is kept in the dark, save for the lights coming off the monitors. Hearing the Jason team communicate back and forth with other crew members not in the van, and seeing how they had to wait for their go-ahead before performing certain actions, strongly reminded me of the control room at NASA JPL; the room where they operate their spacecraft is also kept in the dark with screens upon screens everywhere.

This whole experience has given me some perspective on just how similar oceanographic work can be to space-bound missions!

We finished our shift early and released, so I went back to bed. After waking up I am proud to say that I was no longer queasy! Finally, I had found my sea legs! I spent the rest of the day doing some work in the Main Lab (where everyone has table space to set up a computer and work). I really like having this area as it gives one a nice sense of community and it is always more fun to do work when those around you are also working.

The CTD that was pulled onto R/V Thompson; each of the Niskin bottles held seawater collected at different depths. Credit: K. Bigham, University of Washington, V21.

August 26: Sea Legs

I woke up at 3:15 am today for my 4 am shift feeling zero queasiness; I was very excited, perhaps I already have obtained these sea legs I have heard so much about!

Since there wasn’t a dive happening I, along with several others, helped with collecting samples from the CTD rosette that had conducted a cast at the Oregon Offshore site. It was a lot of fun and, because there were four of us helping out, it went by really fast! While helping though, I quickly realized that I still get queasy from the movement of the boat…I suppose my sea legs aren’t fully there yet.

Photo of myself collecting seawater that will be analyzed in the lab for nutrients and/or chlorophyll. Credit: K. Bigham, University of Washington, V21.

We then spent the rest of the day sailing to Axial Base (total ~18 hour transit)! The waves got really choppy during this transit, so I spent the rest of the day trying to sleep off the sea sickness – I found a steady diet of Canada Dry + bananas + salty chips helped a lot! The crew was also understanding and checked in on me.


August 25: Getting Used to the Ship

I slept really well in my bunk bed and woke up feeling refreshed and excited to start the day! First, I went to the galley to grab some hot breakfast. After that we met up with everyone and got a safety briefing along with some practice putting on the immersion suits (which was trickier than I would have thought)! We also had a practice fire drill, a tour of Jason, and a tour of the control room where we will be spending most of our shifts helping log information about the dives.

Me in the immersion suit. Credit: Mitch Elend, University of Washington, V21.

The Thompson departed right at 3:15 pm as scheduled! To my surprise the boat was not as bumpy as I would have thought when we left the bay. However, the constant and slow rocking of the boat I have found makes me a little queasy (and that is with an ear patch for nausea). Dinner was a little rocky for me as I found the higher I am in the boat, the more queasy I feel. Fortunately, I found watching the horizon or sitting in my room watching something on my phone helps with the queasiness.

We also got our shift schedule today. I am on the 4 am – 8 am shift; I’m really looking forward to it since that ensures I will be up in the middle of the night and will be able to view the stars in all their glory!

August 24: First Steps Onto the Thompson

Today is the first time that I have stepped onto a research vessel! I started the day off a little anxious as I had some trouble deciding whether to put on my ear patch for anti-nausea, or to rely on my trusty old bonine medicine (like Dramamine but non-drowsy). In the end, I went with the patch since I am prone to sea sickness. I was really nervous about getting onto the boat, but everyone was so friendly and patient that I quickly found my anxiety easing away. We arrived to the ship early so that we could tour around and find our assigned rooms. Sheets and pillows were provided to us, but I also brought my super warm blanket to be certain that I would not freeze during the cruise!

Today has been a slow day (well at least for me); after making sure all the science equipment for InVADER was securely tied down in the lab (if it isn’t tied down the boxes would swing around with the motion of the boat), I was free to spend my time as I wished. I decided to set up my computer and grabbed some hot pizza from the galley where I sat with people I had not yet met and made some great conversation.

While we are at port, we are allowed to come and go as we please until 8 pm, after which we must remain on the boat. There is a beach that is about a 20-minute walk from here with beautiful views!

I’m looking forward to our departure tomorrow afternoon (3:15 pm PST). I’ve been told that it is when the vessel first enters open waters that the seas get very rough and people get sick. I’m a little nervous about that, but am looking forward to being out at sea!