Celia Kornblum Blog Legs 2 & 3

Giant red jelly surprises us during dive descent. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI; J2-1544; V23.
Prepping Fluid and DNA Sampler for departure on the Thompson. Credit: L. Richards, National Oceanography Center; V23

5-6 September 2023

Our last few days of the cruise were mostly transit, but there was lots of work to be done. I had my last watch shift during a Jason dive on the evening of the 5th and leaving the Van for the last time was bittersweet. We saw many amazing biological and geologic sights and instrument installations, and Jason is an incredible machine to see in action.

The following day, we worked to prepare all instruments and specimens to be offloaded, which included some clambering around on my end to attach coils on a Fluid and DNA Sampler. Transit back to Newport was thankfully smooth and gentle, the waves comforting rather than nauseating.

The cruise has finally come to an end, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Working with my fellow marine enthusiasts and engineers provided an insightful peek into what I want to pursue in the future. I have all the materials I need for my research project on plankton and plan on taking my work back to Bellevue College to pursue throughout the next quarter or so. I’m very excited to see what specimens I can document.

Swathes of tube worms cover ocean floor. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHO; V23.
Two niskin bottles that were attached and fired by ROV Jason at 20 meters. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23

3-4 September 2023

I’m slowly getting acclimated to the rougher seas, but often have to step outside for some fresh air. The view is always a treat, and I find myself searching the waves for any signs of whales or dolphins that like to pay visits.

I’ve noticed a large brown seabird off the stern that seems to be following us in hopes of scraps. Shifts have been doubled, so I now have watch from 0400 to 0800 along with my evening watch. It’ll be a difficult sleep schedule, but also means I get more time in the Van with Jason.

We deployed the CTD again at the Axial ASHES Vent Field very early in the morning on September 3rd, but this time at a much deeper depth. The process of firing all 24+ niskins took several hours and I had to sleep around 0100 while it was in the water, but Mariela was kind enough to collect a water sample for me from the niskin fired at 10 meters as a part of my research project. It went straight to the freezer where it will remain until we leave the ship.

I also obtained a water sample from the Axial International District 2 site at around 20 meters deep. I used 2 niskins attached to Jason that were fired at the end of a dive during the ascent. Unlike my first sample, I was advised to use ethanol as a preservative instead of flash freezing it, due to fragile, calcite-based plankton likely being destroyed by the harsh freezing process. My next steps will involve returning to shore with my samples and working with a professor at Bellevue College to analyze and document what I find.

Hydrothermal vent hosting sulfide worms spewing hot water that distorted the image. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

Arguably the most beautiful dive of the watch shifts I’ve had took place on the evening of September 4th during a dive at the Axial International District hydrothermal field. We saw large swathes of bright red tube worms and mats of vibrant purple microbial organisms. Small arthropods crawled around the vents and the water reached a temperature of over 50°C. It’s incredible that so much life can be sustained in such a harsh environment.

A shark and a few schooling fish viewed from the walk-through tunnel at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

1-2 September 2023

 Our transit from the Southern Hydrate Ridge was smooth sailing and we arrived back at Newport on the 29th without a hitch. The other students and I wanted to explore the town, especially the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is just a short walk from the NOAA facility. We caught a sea otter feeding and saw their large variety of cold-water organisms, including costal touch pools, shorebirds, such as puffins and murres, and of course, rockfish. There was also a walk-through tunnel for a large tank that had a few species of sharks, bat rays, and schooling fish.

Oddly enough, that wasn’t the only aquarium we visited. The Hatfield Marine Science Center was also nearby, and they had a mix of salt and freshwater creatures, as well as an octopus feeding with a playful giant pacific.

Japanese spider crab, Chad, and one of his girlfriends at the Oregon Coast Aquarium Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

The sea lions that barked from across the canal summoned us, and we ventured across the Yaquina Bridge to see the rest of the town. We viewed the sea lions off Bay St. Pier where they lazily laid about on a group of rafts. They’re very entertaining to watch, jostling for spots to rest and constantly making noise. They look relaxed but I have no idea how they sleep over the cacophony.

Due to bad weather, our departure was delayed, but thankfully only by a day. We left Newport around 1400 on September 1st, but this transit was much choppier than the last. My seasickness came back with a vengeance, and I was bunk-ridden for the majority of the time. The schedule for dives is constantly changing due to the shift in our departure and unpredictable weather, so I may have some time to recover before we begin operations.

Juvenile giant pacific octopus rests on the side of a junction box. Credit: A. Jenkin, University of Washington; V23.
Processing of CTD oxygen samples with Mariela. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

27-28 August 2023

We’re closing in on the end of Leg 2 and many exciting things have happened. The biology seen during the dives has been diverse and spectacular. I wasn’t on watch when we saw a juvenile giant pacific octopus resting on a junction box, but have to mention it, as they’re my favorite animal. We also saw (and might’ve bumped into) an ocean sunfish, also known as a mola mola at the beginning of one of our dives.

I’m a night owl and tend to work late rather than wake early. I was hanging out in the Main Lab around 2200 when Mariela asked if I wanted to help her process the oxygen samples we’d retrieved from the CTD a few days prior. The titration process to determine how much oxygen each depth sample holds is simple but tedious. Thankfully, we had a livestream of the ongoing Jason dive in the chem lab, where we were entertained by the robot’s struggle to fix a PVC pipe handle that had become lose. It eventually succeeded, and we finished with our samples, so I turned in for the night.

I’ve been doing research into how to best preserve and transport the plankton samples I’m going to obtain and there are a few methods. Formaldehyde is effective but aggressive and could damage the more fragile planktonic creatures and comes with the issues of general safety when working with hazardous materials, so I likely won’t be using it. Iodine was another option I considered, but we don’t have any onboard and I can’t find a reliable source for recommended dosage. My current best option is flash freezing, but that may change in the coming days. I’ll be collecting my samples during leg 3 so I’ve got a bit of time to figure it out.

Sunset off starboard side on August 28th Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

I can’t get enough of the sunsets we see from deck. The unobstructed skyline is truly breathtaking when the sun is low on the horizon and creates wispy flames painted orange and pink. I was lucky enough to see a very clear green flash on the evening of the 28th when the sun dipped below the waves, something I’ve been wanting to see for a very long time. Tomorrow we’ll transit back to Newport, and after a couple days rest at port, we depart on Leg 3!

Crane shack and sunrise from the back of the  R/V Thompson. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

25 and 26 August 2023

Seasickness has finally passed and I’m now comfortable enough to appreciate the excitement of the expedition. I chose to forgo sleeping in favor of assisting with the CTD recovery at the lovely time of 0300. It was a wet and repetitive process, but we successfully recovered ocean water samples from as deep as 220 meters to be tested for nutrients, oxygen, and chlorophyll. I may be collecting water samples for my project in a similar fashion with bottles attached to the ROV Jason that I can retrieve and analyze for plankton life after returning from the expedition.

Hydrothermal vents seen in Jason’s control room, the “Van”. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

I slept during the day until my first watch shift during an ROV dive, starting at 1600 and going until 2000 (4-8 pm), where I get to do logging of the dive or recording video for Jason during its dives. I’m currently doing recording while my watch partner Brian is doing the logging. It’s important to record and log every moment of the dives so events can be reviewed or used for projects in the future.

Many of the dives involve replacing or adjusting instruments that provide a variety of data, usually over a long period of time. Instruments such as seismometers, have been underwater, collecting data, for several years.

We see a wide and interesting variety of marine creatures during these dives. I was lucky enough to be in the peanut gallery of the Van, Jason’s control center, when we reached the bottom of the seafloor during a dive at the ASHES site (~ 1500 m water depth) at the Axial Seamount. This area is rich in unique life, hosting a variety of tubeworms, rattail fish, crabs, and other deep-sea dwellers at the hydrothermal vents. This dive took place overnight and lasted over 8 hours; I called it around 0200 and went to bed as I had pushed myself through a very long day and needed sleep.

Rose, M. White, A. Paley, B. Lam, and C. Kornblum assembling and documenting the “MOSQUITO” before it’s deployment the following night. Credit: C. Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

A couple other shorter dives took place after the long ASHES one, during which I slept and worked on my project. I’m in the process of obtaining a plankton net for zooplankton instead of using niskins attached to Jason, because the plankton concentration would be higher, and I could simply drag it off the side of the ship. I also need a way to safely transport the samples once I obtain them, keeping the life in them as intact as possible.

During my watch shift in transit, I assisted in documenting and assembling one of the instruments we’ll be sending down in a dive tomorrow night. The instrument is called the “MOSQUITO”, rightfully so, as it has several long needles it injects into sediment. It was really interesting to learn about and help put together, despite having only completed 6 very long steps out of 30 by the time my shift ended.

Departing from Newport at dawn. Credit: Celia Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

23 and 24 August 2023

After a long 7-hour drive from the University of Washington campus, I’ve made it to the Thompson! I was greeted by the barks of sea lions from across the bay and got to meet the lovely crew, scientists and engineers I’d be sailing with.

I explored the ship alongside the other students joining the expedition and we played several rounds of Uno to break the ice. Tired from my trip to the ship and the general excitement, I turned in early in preparation for the next day.

Cruising under the Yaquina bridge and past pylons flocked with fowl. Credit: Celia Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

Despite the incredibly cozy bunks, everyone woke up early on the morning of the 24th to experience our cast off from Newport, OR. We departed at 0700, treated to a lovely sunrise and variety of seabirds that accompanied the ship for a while. There were a number of items on the agenda, including a safety meeting where we donned our neon orange immersion suits. The suits proved a small struggle to get in and out of, but it was fun to see everyone as a giant orange gnome.

We received a tour of the ROV  Jason, which would be used during the dives, and explored the various sensors and probes that will be deployed over the course of the next few days.

After lunch, which was delicious, as are all the meals, we had a briefing on the biology found in the zones that we would be visiting with Jason.

The CTD being prepped for deployment and collection of ocean water. Credit: Celia Kornblum, Bellevue College; V23.

We also did training for CTD (conductivity temperature depth) ocean water sample retrieval, which will take place tomorrow morning before dawn.

Most of us are feeling the effects of seasickness, and despite trying to curb its effects with medication, I’m very drowsy and experiencing brain fog. Taking a nap in the afternoon helped, as did enjoying the amazing view and fresh air from the starboard deck. I’m excited to develop my project and take my first shift in the ROV control van. I plan on staying up this evening to enjoy the unobstructed night sky during the calm weather.