Mei Ettari Blog Legs 2 & 3


Watching the ship dock while on deck. Credit: A. Simmen, University of Washington; V23.

6 September 2023

I originally wasn’t going to make another blog post after the last, but I had to include what happened last night. It was the perfect end to our final night out on the ocean, ending our research cruise. After a not so fun bumpy transit out, the transit back has been nice and smooth. The sunset was really pretty and there were dolphins off the bow of the boat. Unfortunately, I did miss the dolphins, but I did watch the sun go down.

Last sunset onboard. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

Since we are transiting for about 20 hours back to Newport, we don’t have any more watch shifts. Some of us watched the movie Wild, then directly after started the Minion’s movie. We were interrupted and told that there was bioluminescence off the back of the boat and the stars were out. So, of course we had to go out. The bioluminescence were very bright and they sparkled in the wake of the boat. Because we were in the middle of the ocean with no light pollution but our own, the stars also really stood out. You could see the whole milky way above the horizon. We went up to the bow of the boat, laid on the ground and looked at the stars in silence with the sound of the ocean in the background. It was perfect.

Today during our transit back, we have been doing lots of work helping in the analytical lab. We took samples from the RAS and sampled the gas for gas chromatography.

The Thompson docked in Newport at 1800 and we proceeded to help on deck with building cages, assembling and un-assembling instruments, and whatever else they needed help with. We watched the last sunset onboard before we drive back to Seattle tomorrow for the official end of this cruise. It has been a really fun and educational experience and I am beyond glad I came.

Tonight’s sunset over the ocean during our transit back to Newport. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

5 September 2023

Because of the delays and unanticipated events, there hasn’t been much to do this Leg. We have done less than half of the things we were hoping to do and have had to change plans a lot. Most of our watches have been uneventful or right as we go on watch the dive is just wrapping up. This Leg has definitely gone by super quick compared to the last Leg.

During our free time, we have been working on our presentations for our individual research projects and figuring out what we need  to start them in the fall. With the rest of our free time we have had lots of interesting conversations about what is happening in our lives whether it be school, dating, friends, and anything else that pops up. It has actually started to attract the interest of some of the crew members on board who overhear our conversations. Some have come up to us and asked follow up questions about what dilemma we were having at that time. Makes us laugh at the thought that we are entertaining some of the crew.

The Science crew before leaving Newport. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington; V23.

Tonight we start our transit back to Newport and are estimated to arrive at 1800 on Sept. 6th and then drive back to Seattle on the 7th, ending our time on this ship. Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. I have made long lasting friendships, shared lots of laughs, learned a ton about collecting research and the various instruments used for it, and most of all it reassured me that I chose the right major (Oceanography). Before this I was hesitant on what specific interest I was interested in within the major (biology, physical, chemical, or geological), but I quickly learned that I really enjoy the chemical aspect of it after being on this boat. Legs 2 and 3 were all oceanography and marine biology majors so it was nice to make friends who share common interests.

This is great exposure for those who are interested to see how field research is conducted. I am very lucky that I have been given the opportunity to experience this and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested, regardless of their major or college. Plus we got some pretty cool rocks from the Diva hydrothermal vent in the International District on Axial Seeamount.

On watch from 0000-0400 emptying the remaining water from the CTD. Credit: A. Jenkins, University of Washington; V23.
Gloved up and ready to sample from the CTD. Credit: A. Jenkins, University of Washington; V23.

3 September 2023

On Leg 3, we have two watch shifts instead of one. So now I have a 0000-0400 watch and a 1200-1600 watch everyday. During our 0000-0400 watch at Axial Base, we collected CTD samples from the CTD Niskin bottles that had just been pulled out of the water. We collected oxygen, chlorophyll, nutrients, salinity, and an RCA sample from specific Niskin bottles on the CTD.

Originally we were going to do a Jason dive, but the RCA and Jason teams wanted to wait until first light to determine how the weather was.

Then we started transit to Axial Caldera, which only took an hour. Good news is that now we don’t have to test daily for COVID and don’t have to wear masks inside. Only in the ROV Van.

Earlier this morning the engineers deployed the HPIES instrument off the side of the ship and during my watch (1200-1600), we started a dive with Jason to recover the old HPIES instrument and move the 2023 one closer to where the older one was. It should take about 7 hours as the ocean floor is 2600 m deep.

After our watch, we filtered the chlorophyll samples we collected from the CTD earlier this morning – 500 ml from each Niskin bottle – and then poured them through a vacuum pump where the leftover chlorophyll is caught on a glass microfiber filter. The filter is then carefully placed in a tube and 10 ml of acetone is poured on top to preserve the chlorophyll and to stop it from degrading or producing more.

Around about 2000 tonight, the Jason ROV cable started having issues and that affected the rest of the itinerary. They will have to cut a section of cable off and replace it before the vehicle can go back into the water. Estimated time is about 8-12 hours that it will take to fix it. In the mean time, we have to wait for it to be done until we can resume normal operations.

Other than that the weather has been better and the ocean is a lot calmer than it was. It’s still pretty rough and you can definitely feel it on the lower levels. During our transit, the crew closed off deck access because it was so bad. Waves were crashing over the side of the ship and you could see the horizon go all the way up and then all the way down.

I did forget to mention that the night of our transit, we saw the blood moon rise over the horizon. We didn’t realize it was the night of the blood moon so we were very confused if it was the sun or the moon. Ultimately we did come to the conclusion that we were going west and the sun should be setting in front of us, so it didn’t make any sense why there was this red ball on the horizon behind the boat east. Later we discovered that it was in fact the moon which was pretty cool to see.

Leaving Newport under calm waters that didn’t stay calm for long. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

1-2 September 2023

We were supposed to leave port on the 31st of August, but got delayed a day due to weather. Once we left port, we started the 5 phases of seasickness:

Phase 1, Denial: You don’t think you’re going to get sick because you never get motion sickness, however, you soon realize that you should’ve taken medicine way earlier.

Phase 2, Uh Oh: Quickly you start to panic because your insides are moving not relative to your body. Things feel funky.

Phase 3, Bucket: Know where you can run to quickly to throw up and know where to not throw up.

Phase 4, Questioning All Life Choices: At this point you are absolutely gut wrenched and there is no life behind your eyes. You start questioning everything you have done. Nothing matters anymore.

Phase 5, Survival: You gotta do what you gotta do. The only thing I found that works is that you don’t look at your electronics, close your eyes, blast your music, and pray that your 24 hour transit goes by quickly while in a curled up fetal position.

All jokes aside, we were told that this transit (Leg 3) was the worst out of all of the other legs this year. It was super wavy and the weather was not on our side. Pretty much every single person on this ship felt some sort of seasickness. It was a lot worse and more intense than Leg 2 when we had very calm seas.

During our night transit, some of us ended up hanging out in the wet let lab area of the deck because being inside was awful. The shift lead explained it in a way that made sense by saying bigger boats like the Thompson shift their weight slower so you feel it more.

When I walk through the ship during transit, I have been suggesting that you go as fast as you can (in a safe way) because if you stay in the hallways and stairwells too long, you’re done for. While we were hanging outside, some of us were going through all of the phases listed above and the others (me) were carrying the weight of being the funniest on board and entertaining the others trying to make them feel better. It was a fun time.

For me, this transit definitely did do some questionable things to my stomach, but I learned from phase 1 that you need to take your meds hours before transit. I cannot stress that enough. Although, because I stayed on top of it, I came out feeling way better than I could have.

Everyone basically knows now from Leg 2 that after the first day of being out on the ocean your body will start to feel normal and you get your sea legs. You just have to hold on until then. Luckily, right when we arrived at Axial Base (24 hours later), we immediately started to feel better.

The Newport Aquarium. Credit: A. Simmen, University of Washington; V23.

30 August 2023

Yesterday, upon arriving back to the NOAA Newport Facility around 1230, we were let off the boat to go wander around! Originally we were going to walk into town but the weather wasn’t that great so we stuck around the area. We ended up going to the aquarium where we ran to see the otter feedings that were occurring right as we showed up. The aquarium was small, but it was neat to see how big the marine life was in person at the bottom of the ocean vs on a monitor in the ROV Van. After, we walked back to the boat for a movie night which was Surfs Up.

Day 2 being docked was our last and only full day before we head back out to sea. It was a nice, warm, sunny day so we walked into town. The walk included walking for 2 miles or an hour and going over a huge bridge (Yaquina) across the water. It wasn’t that bad a walk though, just annoying that we could see the main area of shops right across the water but had to walk all the way around. It was also nice to stretch our legs after a week stuck on a boat.

Sea lions cuddling on the floating dock. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

Checked out SW Bay St where most of the shops were and obviously we had to get ice cream because it was so hot. There was a pier where you could see at least 50 California sea lions all cuddling together on a floating dock or swimming in the water next to it. They were getting mad at each other and fighting over spots which was funny to watch. Following the sea lions, we made our way to Nye beach located on the other side of Newport. We practically ran down the stairs once we saw the water and sand. Naturally, we all ended up walking around in the water or on the beach.

Nye Beach. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

Sat on a log, shared some laughs, went tide pooling, and enjoyed each others company with the sound of the ocean in the background. Eventually we wandered to find food and ended up going to a place called Chowder Bowl where we did just that. Most of us got clam chowder in a bread bowl and it was delightful. Then we made our trek back and over the bridge to the NOAA Newport Facility and back to the Thompson. Ended our night with a very stressful and chaotic 3 hour game of Monopoly.

Tomorrow we leave port at 1400 to transit back to Axial Base. It has been mentioned that the first few days out of port are not going to be nice to us and the waves are going to be around 8-12 ft high. None of us are looking forward to the waves and we’re curious to see if being on land for a day and a half has reversed all progress we made on our seasickness, hopefully not!

The super calm ocean. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

28 August 2023

We stayed at Southern Hydrate Ridge doing dives all day. The ocean was insanely calm and the sky was so blue. It looked almost fake. We cleaned off some more instruments that had been recovered and we hung out on the deck because of the nice weather. Then we started transit back to the Oregon Offshore site to do more dives with Jason. It was only an hour transit.

During my shift (0000-0400), the ROV team had started a 12 hour dive previously to install osmotoc fluid samplers and survey the area. The ROV moved to other locations throughout the dive to do additional surveying of the biology and geology of the sites.

Tomorrow morning, we transit back to Newport for the end of Leg 2 and to get ready for Leg 3. All the students who were on board for Leg 2 will still be on board for Leg 3; we are gaining one student for Leg 3.

There has also been a COVID “outbreak” on the boat so now we have to take tests everyday and wear masks on the boat. Only essential team members  like loggers are allowed in the ROV Van, so we can’t go in there when it’s not our shift and watch what they are doing. Kind of a bummer, but better to be safe than sorry. If we lose the ROV team due to COVID then there would be nobody to do dives with Jason, which is about 90% of this research cruise.

Sunset From the Bow
Sunset from the bow of the R/V Thompson. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

27 August 2023

We arrived at Southern Hydrate Ridge pretty early in the morning. At 0630 we had our first dive of the day. The first dive ended around 1200 and the second dive followed directly after, ending about 5 hours later. Then came the last third dive of the day at 1830 and followed into the early hours of the next day. It’s pretty much been dive after dive at the Southern Hydrate Ridge swapping out and recovering cabled and uncabled instruments.

During these dives, we have encountered lots of marine life. We have seen lots of hagfish, jellies, shrimp, fish, sea stars, and tons more. During dive 1 and 2 we actually came across a shark around the 50-100 m mark! There have been dolphins and whale spouts observed off the side of the boat as well.

Dolphins playing in the waves. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington; V23.

On my watch, we did a series of two quick dives at the Southern Hydrate Ridge recovering a sonar tripod, cables, and a CTD. On the descent we came across a school of Mola mola (sunfish) – there were at least 8 in view. It was a really amazing sight to see.There were also bubble plumes of methane coming out of the seafloor during our survey of one of the MARUM instruments.

Early on, we all learned that the WiFi on board has a data limit for each individual so we have mostly been saving the WiFi for our computers and checking our phones once or twice a day. It’s been nice to unplug for long periods of time and be away from the constant distraction of social media and texting. We even ended up playing a riveting 3 hour long game of Trivial Pursuit in which nobody won because we ended up going on deck and watching the sunset. Would it have felt rewarding finishing a game we started so long ago? Yes. But the sunset was very much worth it.

A whale spouts in the horizon. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington; V23.

We all waved goodbye to the sun, wished it a goodnight, and said “see ya tomorrow”. Then we continued to hang out on the bow of the boat and chat, laugh, enjoy the view, and look at the stars.

26 August 2023

Yesterday morning around 0330 we arrived at Axial Base. The CTD was put into the water to collect samples. There have been a few dives with Jason since then. The Thompson transited to the ASHES hydrothemal field in Axial Caldera from the Axial Base site, which only took about an hour.

The ROV control room with live 4K video of hydrothermal vent activity issuing from the Mushroom vent. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

Around 2130 Jason did another dive at ASHES and took a little over an hour and a half to get to the bottom. My watch started and from there the ROV preformed a camera survey of Mushroom, which is one of the hydrothermal vents in the area and site of the cabled high definition camera.

The main dive task was to recover the 2022 camera (CAMHD) from next to Mushroom and unplug the cable strategically without affecting anything around it, replace it with the 2023 CAMHD and plug the cable back in safely.

The other task included retrieving a new osmotic fluid sampler (OSMOI) from the undervator and placing it near the 2022 OSMOI. Temperature surveys were conducted at the diffuse flow vents. Then the 2022 OSMOI was replaced with the new OSMOI in almost the same exact location. The smoothness of the dive was not achieved because of complications with the new OSMOI instrument and other technicalities that took longer to resolve.

Currently, we are just starting the transit to Southern Hydrate Ridge, which was delayed by over 2 hours. The dive, while I was on watch (0000—0400), took longer than expected and we also had to do an unexpected dive after that because another ship next to us lost a piece of equipment that we went and retrieved for them. We should be at the Southern Hydrate Ridge in ~18 hours from now.

Life on board has been really nice. We have all gotten over the first few days of seasickness and we are really enjoying spending time together. Most of our time has been hanging out in the Main Lab and doing work on our computers or exploring more parts of the boat.

Some of us are still trying to adjust our sleep schedules to fit our watch times, but for the most part we are adjusted. We did recently discover the lounge where there is a big TV with tons of movies and a freezer full of ice cream!! We were astonished we didn’t find it sooner.

The R/V Thompson docked at the NOAA Newport facility. Credit: M. Ettari, University of Washington; V23.

24 August 2023

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at the dock in the NOAA Newport facility where the R/V Thompson was waiting for us. It was a very sunny day and the weather was pretty nice. You could hear the joyous sounds of the harbor seals across the water and see the crazy amount of seagulls that were hanging out on the dock.

This morning at 0700 we departed from Newport and started sailing towards Axial Base. We are slightly off of our itinerary  because we’re picking up some work from the last leg due to the bad weather they encountered.

It will take a little under 24 hours to get to Axial Base and we expect to arrive around 0400. Currently, it is 0100, so we should be there shortly. Upon arrival, we will conduct a CTD cast and collect water samples.

Later, when the sun comes up in the morning we will deploy the Jason to cut the stuck cable that is connected to the science pod on the Shallow Profiler Mooring – it will then float up to the surface and be recovered by the Thompson.

As of now, we are getting familiar with the instrumentation that is used and slowly getting to know our way around the boat. Every student has watches where we will be in the ROV control van logging what we see and what is happening. Because the ROV and deck operations run 24/7, some of us have really early and late shifts. Mine for example, is from 0000 to 0400. It’s not a desirable time, but it’s nice I can have the daylight hours to work on my project, sleep, or help on board.

I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for my project; however, I am interested in doing something with the data that has been collected at the moorings over the years. I have been told that when the moorings were first installed was when "The Warm Blob" (Pacific Ocean around 2014) was present. It was a mass of relatively warm water that affected everything in its path. I am curious to see the data from that and compare how the ocean has bounced back since and how it was affected.