A Busy First Few Days – Off We Go

Queens College students, Julia and Cal, don immersion suits during the Safety meeting onboard the Thompson. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V23.

The weather gods offshore were not friendly to us while we were in Newport mobilizing for the cruise with 40 knot winds offshore, except at the nearest site, the Oregon Shelf – only an hour offshore. With eyes on the forecast indicating that the conditions near shore were better than 300 miles out at Axial Seamount, we decided to offload the infrastructure/instruments to be installed at Axial and mobilize gear for the Shelf site (80 m water depth). Because all flatbed trucks for moving gear had been sent away, Larry Nielson, lead field engineer rapidly improvised by securing a tow truck with a flat bed to move our gear to the ship – yes a tow truck. We wonder what folks thought seeing our gear go down the road -very strange looking ‘cars’? We also stayed in port an extra day because we would not be able to get any work done in the poor sailing conditions.

During the stay in port, the Thompson crew conducted a Safety meeting, including a requirement for all team members to don their emergency survival suits. The students had a great time with this exercise, and enjoyed the extra day walking the shores of Newport and getting to know their way around the ship.

With weather conditions improving, the R/V Thompson left port at 1:15 August 14th heading out to the Shelf site ~14 miles offshore. The sky was a bright blue, and the sea lions loudly serenaded us as we departed, transiting out the Yaquina channel. It was a blustery day with waves breaking against the jetty and nearly instantaneously the ship began rolling quite strongly as we entered the Pacific. It is always a wonderful feeling to leave port with folks full of excitement for the adventure ahead. But, as always, numerous folks rapidly bonded with their bunks due to seasickness, climbing into the bunks that form comforting cocoons.

Jason dove at about 4:30 on the Shelf site – visibility was quite good, and under low current conditions – it is always a guessing game what the conditions will be like here because the water depth is so shallow (80 m = 260 ft) and because productivity is so high and there is significant sediment transport at times. But, we lucked out and conditions were fine for diving. Unfortunately, there were a few issues with Jason and the winch and so the vehicle was recovered. With winds decreasing the decision was made to go farther offshore (48 miles) to the Oregon Endurance site to work at the Shallow Profiler Mooring.

The Shallow Profiler Platform looks hairy, covered in feathery seastars. Credit: UW, NSF-OOI/WHOI; J21514, V23.

The R/V Thompson arrived at the Oregon Offshore site at ~1030 pm. During the transit, the ships CTD rosette was configured to take measurements of the ocean and water samples to depths of 720 feet. The CTD operations went well and at 0440 am Jason went back in the water for an engineering dive to nearly 1970 feet to test the controller and winch.

The dive was very successful and we are now diving at the Shallow Profiler Mooring taking phenomenal imagery of the life that thrives on the mooring platforms. With sunny skies and calmer seas, the students are emerging from their cocoon’s.