6 September 2003
The transit back to Newport was still underway when I woke up for breakfast. I managed to borrow an HD camera and interview our chief biologist for my video project, which I will continue working on once I’m back on shore.
I helped process water samples from the RAS for most of the afternoon- we measured the mass of each sample bag with a balance and used a syringe to move set quantities of each sample into glassware for later testing. We all took turns with each step of the process, and the time went by quickly.
In the afternoon, we presented our projects in the library. We still have the next quarter to finish our work, but we discussed what parts we had completed so far and what resources we would need in the future. It was interesting to see what everyone else was working on. Afterwards, we had our last dinner on the ship- we leave tomorrow by van back to Seattle.
I will miss being out on the ocean, but I am looking forward to working on my project- and the necessary video footage is all stored on shore. I hope I have the opportunity to participate in a research cruise again- I enjoyed the experience very much.
5 September 2023
A dive was already underway when I arrived at my morning shift. We surveyed a vent and installed a new instrument into a vent called Diva. This instrument (TRHPH) measures hydrothermal fluid temperature and resistivity (chlorinity). The instrument communications housing is nick-named a ‘pig,’ because of the shape- it looks as though it has four legs, and a round body.
After taking measurements with the ROV’s temperature probe, the probe portion of the TRHPH was inserted into Diva. After that, the ROV conducted a survey of the other instruments in the area and took footage of nearby hydrothermal vents. We saw the vents named El Guapo and Escargot; Escargot already had a TRHPH installed. The chimneys were very impressive, a striking formation of minerals and deep-sea life. We saw bushels of tubeworms, pink scale worms, and palm worms like little red stars. Protists turned the chimney deep purple at intervals.
I took the afternoon to read, and to work on my project. We were given a tour of the engine room- the space was much larger than I would have imagined, engines roaring between a combination of machinery that was bewildering to me. I was given the impression that I walked through the ship’s beating heart.
After dinner, the ROV finished its last dive for my portion of the cruise, and so the boat began to steam towards shore. I had worried about the transit, because the journey out to Axial Seamount had made me badly ill- but the waves had since calmed, and I barely noticed a difference once the ship was underway.
The sunset was lovely- and since we were in transit, I could stand outside and watch for part of my shift. Porpoises played in the wake along the bow, as the clouds faded from pink to grey. I went inside for a while after dark, to help log the processing of water samples. Once we were finished, I went back outside again.
A few dark clouds washed shadows over the horizon, but above the stars were bright. Bioluminescence sparked and flickered in the wake, as though lanterns lighted the path behind us. Each burst of color was the fragile blue green of foggy beach glass. The engine thrummed underneath us, and the dark night grew brighter as our eyes adjusted. The milky way stretched overhead, pale as sea foam, as though a wave had broken over some precipice in the sky. Three shooting stars raced through the maelstrom of constellations.
Next, we climbed the steps to the deck that overlooked the bow: The lights of the ship were not so bright there, and there was space enough to lay down on our backs. The moon began to rise behind a whorl of clouds off the front of the bow, with the elegance of an impressionist painting. All too soon it was time to go back inside- but I didn’t mind too much, I felt that I needed very badly to write down the memory. The open ocean has proven to be a glorious kind of wilderness, and I think that I will miss it very much.
3-4 September 2023
I slept well and woke up confident that I was over my seasickness. I spent the morning and afternoon catching up on writing my blog and working on my project. Before dinner, I helped filter chlorophyll from a water sample to double check measurements from other instruments.
When my shift started, the ROV had already begun its ascent from the previous dive. Unfortunately, on the way up, the cable was hockled, or kinked, and the control team had to shut off power to the ROV. It took around 7 hours to repair the cable, because the damaged section had to be removed and replaced. We spent the rest of our shift attempting to stargaze at the bow of the boat, because no further dives were possible until the cable was repaired.
We only saw one or two stars, behind the clouds, but it was lovely to sit out in the dark and listen to the waves. On the inside of the ship, it was sometimes possible to forget that we were three-hundred miles offshore, in the middle of the ocean. Outside, it was impossible to forget- the majesty of the ocean was clearly apparent.
By the time my shift rolled around again the next morning, the ROV was fully repaired and once again in the middle of a dive. Another junction box needed to be replaced. The cables were connected to the new junction box, and the ROV latched to the old junction box so that it could be brought back to the surface. There was an issue with the HD camera, which was quickly resolved. We also saw two very large rattail fish- perhaps Giant Rattails.
I attended a science meeting after lunch- Han gave a presentation on their senior thesis, which had examined protists found on tubeworms at hydrothermal sites. It was very interesting, and it made me excited about the prospect of my own thesis project, although it is still far ahead in the future.
During our last shift, we monitored smaller vents with temperature probes in order to find the best location to place a vent cap. Although a few of the small vents had high enough temperatures, the flow volume was ultimately too low- the pilots dug out a larger opening with the temperature probe before placing the vent cap. Now that the vent cap is in place, it will be able to take fluid samples.
At the end of our shift, the previous vent cap and the samples it had collected were brought to the surface. We removed and preserved a variety of snails and worms that had colonized the vent cap.
1-2 September 2023
After resting in port for the past few days, I was excited to get back out to sea. I went to the front of the ship to watch our departure. It was a bright, sunny day, with strong wind. The water stayed calm until we were out past the breakwater. We saw a variety of birds, including Pelicans- I hadn’t realized that they lived so far north. Sea lions were hauled out on each marker buoy that we passed.
Once we were out past the breakwater, the waves increased in size. It felt a little like being on a rollercoaster, and the motion made it more difficult to take pictures of the sea lions. We saw a large Ocean Sunfish as well, floating just under the surface.
After a while on deck, I began to feel cold, so I went downstairs to my cabin. This was a mistake – I began to feel poorly from seasickness. I walked back up to the MainLab and tried to rest by a window, but the next time I stood up I felt worse.
I spent the rest of the day on the back deck in a lawn chair, watching the horizon. As the day went on, more students joined me. We sat in the CTD bay, so we were relatively sheltered from the wind and the salt spray, but still had a clear view and some fresh air.
I tried to go back to my cabin twice, in order to fall asleep- but going downstairs only made me feel worse. I slept all night and until the next evening on the floor in the Main Lab, which was more stable. Once again, everyone was very kind and considerate. They brought us food, water, and blankets, and checked in on us to make sure we were doing alright.
By the evening of the second I was feeling much better, and I was able to eat dinner, take a shower, and sleep in my own bed
27 and 28 August 2023
I woke up in the morning, had a good breakfast, and headed to the control room. By the time my shift started, the ROV had already been in the water for about two hours and was nearly at the seafloor at Southern Hydrate Ridge. We saw many comb jellies during the last portion of the descent. They commonly looked red or magenta in the ship’s lights, and reflected tiny, shimmering rainbows along their cilia.
The seafloor was made up of what looked like sand or mud, as opposed to the volcanic rock from the previous sight. Rockfish, spider crabs, soft corals, hagfish and white sea stars dotted the ground intermittently. Several of the crabs had climbed onto instrumentation that had been left there previously. We zoomed in on each animal for a better look. Then, the ROV pilots started to exchange plugs, organize the cables, and prepare to replace the junction box where the instrumentation was attached. By the time my shift was over, the old junction box was ready to be brought back to the surface.
After lunch, we were given a tour of the ship’s bridge. I hadn’t realized quite how tall the ship was. We had an excellent view of the surrounding ocean, with no land in sight. We could see a few fishing boats off near the horizon.
When I arrived at my next shift, the ROV was once again approaching the seafloor, with a basket full of new instruments. We brought an Osmo fluid sampler, a CAT and MOSQUITO flow meter, which I had helped assemble the night before. The pilots carefully placed each instrument and deployed the MOSQUITO. A platform, with different lengths of needles attached, dropped down into the sediment to sample fluid, which was pulled through the needles and up into a series of coils via osmotic pressure. A tracer needle moved fluorescein into the sediment.
After about a year, once the instrument is recovered, the next cruise will be able to check how much of the tracer chemical is in each coil, each corresponding to a different needle depth. I enjoyed seeing the MOSQUITO- watching it through the video camera felt more tangible than the other instruments, because I had helped when it was being built.
After the new instruments were deployed, the pilots set about collecting the old instruments from the previous year and securing them in the basket for transport to the surface. In addition to the instruments we replaced, we also brought a quantification sonar to the surface as well that was part of the MARUM Germany instrumentation that had been put on the RCA.
We didn’t see any new species, except for something that might have been a viperfish. We also saw a hagfish eating a rockfish, which was interesting to watch- the hagfish couldn’t seem to get a good grip and kept tossing the rockfish about. I went to bed that night late, but excited about everything I had seen.
The next morning, the dive was nearly concluded by the time my shift started, so I had most of the morning to work on my project. We had another brief meeting after lunch. After that, I helped clean an instrument that had been recovered. It was satisfying to clean away all the deep-sea mud, and it was pleasant to do something outside.
Soon after cleaning the instruments, I headed up to the control room. There was a beautiful sunset outside, so I stood on the walkway to watch it until shifts changed.
Jason deployed four Osmotic samplers for another scientist (L. Lapham) who was not onboard, and surveyed the MOSQUITO, CAT and Osmo sampler we had placed previously. Near the end of my shift, the ROV headed off on a biological survey. I saw a new fish- the Black Cod. We also saw a plastic flamingo, like the kind used for lawn decorations, planted on the seafloor to serve as a marker.
24-26 August 2023
When I woke up in the morning, I felt seasick, so I took my breakfast out to the back deck to watch the horizon. The early morning clouds over the ocean were lovely. All the crew members were very understanding and went out of their way to help.
Early that morning, we had reached our destination at Axial Base, and the previous shift deployed both a CTD and the ROV Jason to retrieve a Shallow Profiler Mooring science pod that had gotten stuck. I was able to watch as Jason approached the profiler cable and saw it in two, allowing the shuttle portion and the float on the profiler to float to the surface. Next, a small boat headed out to retrieve the science pod. In subsequent dives, a new profiler was deployed. I got some more rest before lunch and started working on a rough outline for my video project.
After dinner, I went to my first shift in the Jason control room. I learned how to log events as the ROV was lifted into the water, and then started its descent in Axial Caldera. Watching and logging all the animals we could see was a lot of fun- it felt like a treasure hunt. We saw many dinner plate jellyfish, fish, shrimp, siphonophores, and even two comb jellyfish during the descent.
After about two hours, Jason was within sight of the ASHES vent field. Jason moved around the hydrothermal chimney called Mushroom, replacing a fluid sampler and a high definition camera. We were able to watch the fluid venting from the chimney. It seemed to shimmer and blur away everything behind it, like a mirage.
The chimney was encrusted with life that spilled over like lacework. On the seafloor around the vent, bright green and yellow bacterial mats contrasted with dark volcanic stone.
While on the bottom, we saw a skate, a rattail fish and a large Poralia rufescens jellyfish. We were also able to observe additional instrumentation on the seafloor, including a seismometer, a tilt meter, and an array of thermometers.
When I got up for my next shift in the morning, Jason was still making its ascent from the dive the night before. It was nearly to the surface, so I had time during my shift to work on my project with Jason back on deck.
Then we got news that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Institute ship the R/V Rachel Carson had lost an AUV, and Jason was sent to bring it to the surface. Next, we had lunch, and a meeting in the library to discuss our projects.
During my next shift that night, I helped document the process of building a MOSQUITO by keeping a notebook and drawing a diagram. It was an extremely detailed process, and interesting to watch. The device used osmotic pressure to draw water through a set of needles which could be dropped into the seafloor.
23 August 2023
We arrived at the dock in at the NOAA Newport OR facility in the afternoon. There was a stiff wind outside the ship, and the sky was clear and blue. The air tasted like salt. Across the bay from the ship, a group of sea lions were hauled out, and we could hear them calling.
The inside of the ship was confusing at first, when I couldn’t remember which or how many of the staircases to use. After being shown to my room, I unpacked.
Each room (cabin) had two people in a bunk bed, with blackout curtains around each bed. I was very pleased with our lodging. In addition to the curtains, we had a large wardrobe each, to organize our things. My cabin was also below the decks, meaning that it was in a more stable position.
After about an hour to unpack and rest, we had a safety briefing. We practiced donning our survival suits- large, red neoprene suits that zipped up above our noses. It reminded me of an unusually floppy wetsuit.
After the briefing ended, we went exploring, and found the library, the galley, and the gym. We also found a large octopus mural that reached down and over the hallway next to the main lab. Each of us chose a spot in the Main Lab and secured our computers by drilling eyed screws into the table and stretching bungee cords between them.
We went out on the dock to take pictures of the ship from the outside. A harbor seal surfaced briefly, and a swarm of seagulls had descended on the far end of the dock.
Once we were happy with our photos, we all headed back inside, and had pizza for dinner. We spent the remainder of the evening playing cards in the library.
The next day, we got up early to watch the ship leave the dock, and to eat breakfast. It was a quiet, misty morning- hillsides veiled with clouds, the sky the faint pink of a flower bud. Slowly the color changed to grey, as did the ocean.
Once we pulled away from the dock, the ship began to move perceptibly side to side and up and down. This was disorienting, but my seasickness medication seemed to work well.
There was a fire drill that morning, after which we were given a tour of the ROV Jason, out on the back deck. We went into the control room- I hadn’t realized that the control room was in a large, separate container out on the back deck. I had imagined it being somewhere at the heart of the ship, perhaps by the bridge. The tour was very interesting, but I went back to my room to nap until lunch, because I was still very tired.
After lunch, we were given a tutorial on how to prepare a CTD. We climbed up the steel frame to remove the lids on top of each niskin bottle and attached them to a mechanism in the center of the rosette. Next, we removed the lids on the bottom and secured them to a second string from the top lids of the niskin bottles. When taking a sample, the mechanism would later allow the lid to snap back into place, closing off the sample. We also practiced collecting smaller water samples out of the CTD- each container had to be rinsed three times, including the lid, before it could be filled.
There was a lecture on deep sea biology in the library, which we all attended. I immediately went back to my room for a second nap after the lecture had concluded and woke up just before dinner.
The steam out to Axial Seamount takes twenty-four hours, so I didn’t have to attend my shifts in the control room and had more time to rest. I’m hoping to acquire better sea legs sooner rather than later.