Twenty three hours ago the R/V Thompson left the NOAA dock at Newport, Oregon to begin the VISIONS’22 Cruise. The prior 3 days were intense as many tens of thousands of pounds were mobilized, including the state-of-the-art remotely operated vehicle (ROV) ROPOS, which will be the work horse for this 45 day expedition – taking >200 instruments to and from the seafloor! There was much excitement onboard as the cruise was joined by 10 students – for most, this will be the first time they sail on a global class research ship, working to 300 miles offshore.
The skies were typical for Newport, gray and foggy. The attitude of the Science Party was not a reflection of the weather. Students and other Science Party members were assembled on the ’02’ deck, enthusiastic about starting VISIONS’22. Students and others were waving to fishermen on passing charter boats and tourists on the Public Pier. Photos were being snapped as the Thompson went under the Newport bridge sailing out of Yaquina Bay on its journey into NE Pacific waters.
The Thompson transited ~ 6 hrs to arrive at the first dive site, Slope Base at ~3:00 pm (local) and the ROV ROPOS was launched for the first dive of the cruise shortly after, approximately 6:00 pm. This site is on the abyssal plain just west of where the Juan de Fuca plate "dives" under the North American plate forming the Cascadia subduction zone and sediment-rich margin. This is the deepest worksite for the Regional Cabled Array – here, ROPOS dove to 9500 feet beath the oceans surface to recover and reinstall instruments on the seafloor that measure deep ocean water temperature, oxygen and other key parameters to understand environmental conditions here. The dive was a success, finishing at approximately 5:00 am this morning.
Students have been busy learning about logging ROPOS dives – seeing the seafloor for the first time, and working on refining what they want to do for their projects. All in all, a very successful first day for VISIONS 2022. The next work site is Primary Node PN1B at 1,200 m (~ 4,000 ft water depth). This large substation on the seafloor provides power and communication to instruments at Southern Hydrate Ridge, 10 km to the north, and instruments and moorings at the Oregon Offshore and Shelf sites. Please look over our shoulder, watching the live video feed.