Not Wanting to Miss Out

Katie Gonzalez and Orest Kawka moving the FLOBNM101 (multiple orifice sampler and quantitative injection tracer) from the Jason tool basket after recovery from Southern Hydrate Ridge. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V21.
Katie Gonzalez holding a sea star found on the recovered FLOBNM101. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V21.

By Katie Gonzalez  – Guest Blog

It has been an exciting two weeks aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson since the Visions’21 cruise started. I’m welcomed with old and new sights alike as we traverse the cabled array. There’s always something amazing to be seen and some new experience to have when doing science at sea.

This cruise marks my fifth time on a VISIONS’ expedition, and every year I find myself making more connections between the larger picture of this operation and the individual components I’ve been working with back on land. This has also helped me to better answer student questions about many things, from why their video and camera logging tasks in the control van are important to how the data they’re seeing on screens corresponds with the chemistry and physics from when it gets recorded in-situ and in person.

Having recently graduated from UW makes me not far removed from the student VISIONS’ experience and allows me to guide them with first-hand knowledge and emotions for the many aspects of student life aboard a research vessel.

Mola mola, or sunfish are the heaviest known bony fish. They can weigh >2000 lbs – they mainly eat jellyfish. Photo Credit: Billy Medwedeff, University of Washington; V14.

Dealing with the fear of missing out, “fomo”, on things during these 24-hour operations is something I’m still practicing. My shift is 1800 to 0600 so most of the cool biology sightings at the surface happen when I’m asleep, and waking up to hear the excitement over whale sightings or Mola Molas can make me feel like I’m missing out. Though I really do enjoy the night shift. I get to see the sunset, the stars, the sunrise, and have moments of tranquility during the quiet of the night.

I really feel most alive during the night, and constantly struggle to adhere to expected waking hours when on land, so the night shift is where I make my peace and practice overcoming my fomo.

During my shift I’m soaking up all the blue light I can in the Jason control van. On what seems like a million screens a deep-sea adventure unravels before my eyes every dive, and I’m overcome with awe as I watch what feels like “behind the scenes” of the data and instruments I’ve worked with on land.

Spending hours in a lab preparing salt pumps may seem menial to some, but watching those uncabled instruments being deployed, recovered, and then collected and stored for processing and analysis on land gives me a moment of clarity in seeing just how amazing and novel all this work is.

As the last few dives from leg two were wrapping up, I was able to have one of my most thrilling experiences so far on a VISIONS cruise at the end of an uncabled instrument dive. I had shadowed the “hot seat” and gotten some practice using the 4K still camera “sulis” to capture images of the instruments at the Southern Hydrate Ridge site during the site survey at the end of the dive. I was ecstatic to personally capture the photos that I use to create the site summary (an overview of all the deployed instruments at each site to be used as a historical reference for future deployments).

Every new experience makes me desire another, and I strive to do the best I can to keep having these opportunities. I’m looking forward to the next two legs of this cruise!