23 Sept 2014
Poets and Projects
It is 3am and my sleep schedule is officially wrecked.
Last night, we had presentations from all the students, then finished off this leg of the cruise with "Poetry Night."
I need to remember to read some Billy Collins when I get home.
John Delaney recited some Robert Frost.
Pablo Neruda had some relevant words about our expedition too.
Orlando Thompson, an engineer on the ship, helped me put some finishing touches on my short film.
It should be posted in a few weeks.
It is time to sleep.
21 Sept 2014
Star Gazing, Saxophones, and Early Morning Death Metal
I got pleasantly interrupted mid-sentence on that last blog post by Ryan, Ian, and Hannah. As I rose from my chair in the library to go stargaze, Mike Hansen, an AB, told me that during the Dang Dynasty, the Milky Way was called the River of Heaven. Unfortunately, it was quite overcast. However, I did manage to see one shooting star between the clouds.
Now, it's about 0300 and I'm on watch with Ian until 0400 to log a ROPOS dive. We saw a bit of action right at the start of our watch, but now we are sitting in a 4 hour transit and won't see much besides marine snow, euphasiids, ctenophores, and the occasional fish… at least until the morning.
Kim, a ROPOS pilot, has been entertaining us all with some excellent tunes. He just put on some King Crimson and then introduced me to his favorite saxophonist, Mindy Abair. Naturally, I had to introduce him to Between the Buried and Me. The man has some good taste in music, especially since he started us off with some Norwegian Death Metal. Oh, also big ups for Janice Joplin.
20 Sept 2014
My short documentary is coming together. Max has some experience creating a successful documentary film, so he had some helpful suggestions as I edited. It's tough to sit in front of a computer screen for this long after coming from a job that requires me to go on a hike once per week. That being said, it's tough to describe the serenity of reading a good book on the bow during a sunny day. Currently, I'm trying to finish up "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" by Italo Calvino (I recommend it).
Our talk today was from Paul Aguilar, an engineer from the Applied Physics Lab. He shared stories of his work that spans the globe, from Florida to the North Pole, where he has done mooring installations and ice dives with SCUBA equipment. I, being a diver from the Puget Sound area, have often heard people complain about the temperatures of our local waters… but -40°F air temp is quite a bit colder than that of a Seattle winter day.
Paul went on to explain how insanely fearless Polar Bears as he showed us a picture of a bear that didn't like the tail of a NAVY submarine in its territory. Supposedly, there are few techniques to scare them off: a helicopter in the air, driving up to them slowly on no less than three snowmobiles, or a big Russian guy named Igor. The crack of a gun just makes them curious.
These talks have been both entertaining and inspiring to hear and have given me several ideas for what I'd like to do in the near future, which includes more SCUBA diving.
17 Sept 2014
ROPOS Dive and Planning for a Storm
The last two days moved quite quickly. Yesterday, I stayed up until about 0500 for my watch and slept through breakfast. I woke around 1000 to make sure I didn’t miss the ROPOS dive. It’s amazing to see the three pilots working so succinctly with each other and their navigators to accomplish the job. The ROPOS crew demonstrated excellent piloting as they connected cables to the mooring platform that had been deployed the day before.
Earlier this morning, we heard two great talks from John Delaney and Giora Proskurowski. John delivers his talks in a grandiose and poetic manner that exercises my way of thinking about our place in the world. It’s really quite inspiring. This talk was followed by Giora sharing his work on plastics in the ocean. Although I had heard a similar talk last year, it was supplemented with new data and figures from a paper he had recently published on plastic in the Pacific Ocean.
During our transit back to shore, I got the opportunity to see what kind of work it takes to keep such a large project under control. John, Kendra Daly, Skip Denny, and Keith Tanburri are some of the leading members of this expedition and they are working hard to keep everything to a schedule. Unfortunately, this already great task has been confounded by the aforementioned storm coming in. As the final days of the expedition are coming into sight, things have gotten logistically stressful. I am quite curious to see how everything plays out as we attempt to work around the storm.
[Captions for pictures]
Preparing to deploy the Shallow Profiler Mooring at Axial Base.
Photo Credit: Colin Katagiri
Mike radios down to the crew as he operates the winch.
Photo Credit: Colin Katagiri
15 Sept 2014
Contrary to my last post, I didn't sleep last night… at least, not right away. I ended up having a long conversation with Max in the library about mountaineering and his experiences on Mt. Rainier. As the conversation died down, we realized that it had hit midnight. Donning our hardhats and life vests, Max, Ryan, Hannah, and I went out under the cloudy night sky to help deploy and recover the CTD. Unfortunately, at a depth of 2600 meters, this whole process takes about 3 hours to complete. That's okay, because I had a nice talk with Jim Postel, a marine technician, and Kendra Daly, the co-chief scientist.
I ended up sleeping through breakfast. When I woke up, there were anchors being lowered over the side and people moving with intent in their eyes. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the action.
From the bridge, I was able to meet the third mate, Kim. She told me about growing up on Catalina Island and how she got into the business of working on ships and her past job on a snorkel tour boat. She has a really a charming personality and I'm glad to have met her. I took some more footage of the operations and waited for the winch work to begin.
In the galley, Doug, the steward (cook), has been preparing some solid meals for us over the past few days. Besides being one of the most essential people on board, he's a fisherman and a blues enthusiast, so we get along just fine (he was even bragging about his brown sugar salmon recipe, which is delicious). Nerding out over bands, instruments and amps, and fishing tales is almost enough to make me want to get off this ship… I should've brought a rod.
After lunch, I returned to the bridge to take some footage of Mike operating the winch. We had met a few nights ago in the library and he's pretty cool. Mike is very excited about what he does and is totally chill, but when he is working, he has his game face on. He was kind enough to let me stand beside him as he operated the winch levers.
For my side project, Max has been helping me finish drafting up the reddit AMA post for John, which should be launching next week on Wednesday or Thursday around 6pm. Simulataneously, Max is creating a wikipedia article for the Regional Scale Node… we were both amazed that no one has done that yet.
Anyways, it is late again now. I have to be up for the first ROPOS dive of this leg, which should begin around 3 or 4am, but I'm on the midnight to 4am watch… so I'm just gonna stay up again. I need to figure out a better sleep schedule.
14 Sept 2014
Calm before the storm?
Skip Denny, the weatherman, has been keeping an eye on the storm and said that the pressure differential to drive the storm towards us has dropped a bit, but we’ll know for sure in a few days. For now, we’re on station getting ready for this Leg’s big operation: the Shallow Profiler Mooring deployment. Skip is also one of the senior members involved in this project and gave us a detailed breakdown of all the anchors, syntactic foam floats, cables, platform, and the buoy. The engineers are ensuring that the winches are set and the ROPOS crew is double-checking that all their systems are working. From my perspective and the talk I hear, things are ready and we’re excited to get on station over Axial Seamount.
We had a talk today from Ed McNichol, the guy in charge of everything you see on the Live Stream and other media. He’s a great storyteller and is about the same as I remember him from a year ago (you can click around to find my blog from last year). Ed’s tale today began with a bit about James Cook, a British explorer from the 18th century. Captain Cook is regarded as one of the greatest explorers that the world has ever known. Among his many great accomplishments is that fact that he created a map of Newfoundland that was still in use until 1950. That means it took nearly 200 years for someone to create a better drawing than Cook’s map that was made from basic math, triangulation, a good eye, and a really crafty hand. His death was pretty fascinating too as he was hailed as a deity to the Hawaiians and due to some later confusion, was murdered by them. So it goes. This is much too brief of a synopsis to give you a good idea, but he’s worth your time to research.
Ed had some really neat footage to show off from a previous cruises aboard a NOAA vessel. It documented the finding of a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico that was dated to be from around 1800. The ship was covered in an oxidized copper that had a magnificent green as well as various biota. This was all paired with some crazy story about a finding of nearly a billion dollars in lost Spanish gold that is still being fought over in court today. One of the people who helped find the gold is actually an engineer working for UW’s own Applied Physics Lab and helping with this Regional Scale Node project.
Keith from ROPOS was kind enough to give us a very geeky and thorough briefing of the systems that the submarine uses. He got pretty excited about the new $500K computer that will be installed this winter. The level of sophistication and integration of so much technology is really quite mind-blowing, especially relative to the UW ROV that I helped to make at a fraction of their total cost. We wouldn’t be able to get any of the beautiful footage or sensors installed without this amazing robot, so it was awesome to get such a detailed look from him.
It was pretty busy today, but I had some more time to think more about my project ideas. I’m still bouncing some ideas off people and around my head. I ran one idea by the Chief Scientist, John Delaney. Tysen Mulder, a student from the last leg, brought up to me the potential for giving a little more publicity to the voyage, so I’m drafting up a little something for reddit.com/r/IAmA. If you’re a redditor, make sure to keep an eye open for the guy “connecting an underwater volcano to the Internet.” For those of you who don’t know what reddit.com is, I apologize for opening your eyes to your new favorite way to waste time. Basically, I’ll be monitoring questions that come through reddit.com then John and I will try to answer them live. Anyways, I’ll let you all know when we start answering questions!
TL;DR: It has been great being back out on the ocean. Waking up to the rolling seas and fresh ocean air is difficult to put into words. Submersibles are cool. We’re back underway and will be on station in about two hours, which puts me awake at midnight. I’m off to grab a few hours of sleep before I’m needed on deck.
13 Sept 2014
The Ship is on the Sea –
It's my second day down in Newport, OR and I've just finished dinner.
As I write this, the boat… I mean ship*, has just begun to rock and drop and heave and turn. We recently set a course for Axial Seamount out on the mighty Pacific Ocean (an orchestral arrangement of a song from The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker is playing in my head). *Some people get upset when you get confused and call it a boat. Hannah Delapp, an experienced member of ships, taught me a good rule of thumb: a "ship" can carry a "boat." Also, ships and boats are both "vessels." Don't quote me on that. Anyways, it's sunny and the water is relatively calm so all is well… for now. There's a storm coming for us on Wednesday, supposedly… yay.
Today was relatively relaxed for me. The engineers and ship crew were all getting prepped as the gear for Leg 5 was loaded; so all other personnel were mainly getting mentally prepared. After everybody took a group picture on the bow, I met some really cool guys from Sound Ocean Systems, the company that is helping us with some heavy-duty winches. Naturally, I recognized the US Ski Team logo that Don was wearing and had to say hello. He has been at the company for about 7 years and they are helping us with the winches to lower the Shallow Profiler Mooring, which will be mounted with scientific instruments (poke around this website to learn more about the sensors!). His buddy, Matt, is a coworker at Sound Ocean, and they also happen to both be rock climbers and skiers, which are some of my favorite sports. They said they had actually been to the Stone Gardens gym that I work at… small world. If you can't tell from my writing, I love to hear people tell stories and I'm sure you will hear some of them as I continue to film this journey.
We got underway later than we expected to today, but that allowed me to make some calls to friends, send some emails, and most importantly watch the Wyoming vs. Oregon college football game. Giora, Ed, Caitlin, and I walked to some dive bar in town to watch the game. Giora grew up watching the Ducks, so it was fun to watch the game with him as his team crushed the Cowboys. Although, to be honest, I don't really follow college football at all. I walked back from the bar alone to clear my head and get ready to head out to sea. As the ship cruised under the bridge and we passed the coastline, I felt a sense of euphoria knowing that I will be spending the next two weeks with some very smart and passionate people.
I closed out my long day with a bit of reading and some guitar. Oh, I also saw a huge pod of whales from the bridge as the sun was going down. “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
12 Sept 2014
Returning to a Home That I've Missed
I wake up at 5am in Sammamish, WA to finish packing. I usually don't procrastinate on packing, but I accidentally fell asleep watching Vertical Limit, which, for those of you who don't know, is a very important piece of cinematic history. After arriving at UW, I hopped in a van with Trevor Harrison, Ryan Groussman, and Jae Jose at 7am. They made the long ride down to Newport, OR enjoyable and I was thankful for their company and Trevor's smooth driving.
As we drove across the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, I caught my first glimpse of the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, a 274' ex-Navy vessel that has been outfitted with some serious research equipment and ROPOS, a Remotely Operated Vehicle that will be installing research sensors for this massive project at the depths of the ocean.
The crew of the Thompson treats us very well. As a returning guest aboard the ship, it has been nice to come back to some familiar faces and friends. I was a bit bummed out to learn that Lloyd, a Chief Mate and old time rock climber, is no longer around. However, India, one of the cooks is back and she always has a warm smile (and sometimes cookies) to greet me. Orlando, an oiler, remembered me as well. Previously, we had some discussions that lasted long into the night and well past dessert. I'm sure that will happen again soon. I could keep name-dropping, but I'm sure you get the picture.
After the members of Leg 5 got settled in their staterooms, those of us above the legal age stepped ashore for some beer at the Rogue Brewery. I highly recommend stopping by, if you're keen on craft beers and are in the area. They also have some pretty good french fries. Needless to say, I had a jolly walk back to the ship.
Once we were back aboard, I had a little evening snack and unloaded all the videos I took on a camera that I borrowed from my good friend, Dylan Markley (thanks!). I have already taken over 100 video clips… and I doubt I'll use half of those in my final video. As the videos uploaded, I tried to help make a quadcopter fly… with little success. But, it had gotten dark hours ago and now I'm cold and tired sitting out on this NOAA dock. Up the gangway, down a staircase, and into my stateroom. I said goodnight to my bunkmate, Max Schrempp, and fell asleep as soon as the lights were out.