Ian Lee’s Blog

23 Sept. 2014

  Few more hours before I finally return back onto terra firma.

  It has been an amazing experience these past 2 weeks, regardless of the expedition being shortened. I’ve met many great people, forged new experiences and yesterday’s presentation and poetry night capped it all off in brilliant fashion. I was extremely grateful that we did not have to make our own poetry for poetry night, though I probably could have concocted a few pretty good ones. Then again, poetry comes from the heart, right? Definitely wasn’t feeling it yesterday and the Haiku book John provided was pretty good in itself.

  Often people waste too many words in a futile attempt to grant beauty onto their life-changing experiences or journeys. However, I elected to take the path less travelled and will follow in the footsteps of the fictional Chinese poet from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica, who encapsulates beauty in just four words:

  Gray Sky.
     Blue Sea.

  This will be one to remember, with many more to come.


21 Sept. 2014

  Mock presentations today, there’s still quite a bit to clean up on.

  Last night’s watch was rather uneventful, as it was marked by an initial flurry of activity, followed by dead silence as ROPOS transited to its next destination. Apart from the wandering jellyfish, it was pretty much water for the last two hours of my watch. Which is fine with me, as the journey was accompanied by death metal playing throughout the ROPOS control room, which to me is rather soothing.

  There is going to be another dive again at 2am tonight and hopefully there will be some interesting fauna or even mega-fauna to see.

  Or not. Another lazy night of gliding through the watery abyss accompanied by great music suits me just fine as well.

20 Sept. 2014

  It’s done.

No, not the entire map which was a pre-existing bathymetric map provided by ArcGIS, but this:

  Crafted after an entire of week of learning a bunch of complicated computer codes to create the images, piecing a monstrous jigsaw puzzle together and manually adjusting the color and edges of each and every piece, I have finally created my mosaic. Notice how miniscule the mosaic is in the first map. Now imagine that Mitch had manually done an ENTIRE mosaic for the Ashes Vent Field (Which is what the first map depicts) and you can really appreciate the work that he does. Truly amazing.

  There have been a few talks during the period of my absence on the blog and in particular today, Paul treated us to a slideshow of his adventures in the North Pole. Working with UW APL, he did some work for NSF up in the North (Some even as an ice diver!) and in that time compiled a huge store of images of anything and everything in the Arctic. The amount of images he had was so extensive that the slideshow, together with some videos, lasted over two hours! During that presentation, aside from the majestic images was one gem which he mentioned: “The Life of an Oceanographer”, gesturing to an image of one of the guys standing at the boat’s edge, starting out into the expansive sea of ice. While I am no oceanographer myself, I can definitely appreciate the simple beauty of such an image and what Paul alluded to. Everyone wants to do what they love and that image was truly the epitome of doing what you love.

  On a more somber note, due to new developments I will unfortunately not be joining the VISIONS crew for Leg 6, which I was originally scheduled to. While regretful as I’m sure everyone in my position would be, nonetheless there is always the positive side to a situation. Not only does it depend on how you view it, but also what you choose to do with it. What I can do is to make the best of every situation and not waste any time regretting.

  I’m glad that I have been getting more than adequate rest these few nights as I’m about to go on ROPOS watch from midnight to 4am. My watch begins in two hours. See you all tomorrow.


 17 Sept 2014

How time flies when you're having fun.

With Newport just visible over the horizon, Leg 5 is soon coming to a close. Over the past few days, I've met and chatted with amazing people: Their stories and goals varied, yet each one unique in its own beautiful way. At the same time, it is regrettable that many of these same people will not part of Leg 6 and it may be the last time that I ever meet or see them again. Julie, who has been our mentor for Leg 5 will unfortunately not be joining us for Leg 6 and I'm grateful that she has been overseeing all us students over the past few days. While I have been mostly busy working on my mosaic in the main lab, I could feel Julie watching over us students as we go about with our projects all over the ship. Much like a sentinel, if you will. She will be missed.

  Despite entertaining such a pensive notion, the optimist in me always realizes the positive potential in new experiences. When I first boarded the Thompson, apart from a few other students and possibly John/Deb, I was not acquainted with a single soul on the ship. I'm an introvert by nature, so often the initial talking and interacting with others is an uphill task for me. Despite that, I now feel right at home on the Thompson and for that I'm really grateful for the friendly atmosphere that is fostered by everyone on the Thompson, from the students all the way up to the captain/chief scientists.

  One issue, which I believe is of great interest to many scientists/engineers, was raised by both Ryan and Giora over these two days and that is the issue of science communication. Over lunch with Ryan just before his talk on iron metabolism in diatoms, he mentioned how he had initially given two similar talks just months prior, with one at the annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium. While his non-UW talk was primarily to an audience familiar with the topic, namely molecular biologists, the UW symposium posed a new challenge in that he had to convey his research to undergraduates, most of whom did not have any knowledge of what diatoms even were. Today, Giora in his talk  on plastics then brought up how the image of large trawlers filled with plastic waste  resonated more with audiences than did scientific values such as plastic waste per parts million (ppm), though both documented the titanic amounts of plastic waste in the ocean. Evidently, science and technology is evolving at an exponential rate, but science communication is still sorely lagging behind. That can't be allowed to happen. I believe that we have to work to improve our science communication to be easily understandable to the general populace or risk leaving a majority of the world behind. This starts with all scientists/engineers and thus to begin with, I encourage everyone one of us to not only work to hone our craft, but also aim to better communicate our work as well.

  To end off, the mosaic is *almost* done, just that photoshop apparently hates large images and refuses to auto-blend my images for me. Thus I'm now playing with a ~100-piece jigsaw puzzle (With no head or tail) before running it through arcGIS for the final product.

15 Sept 2014

The past two days have mostly been spent on my first foray into MATLAB and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and while it’s been slow-going (Mostly on my part), I’m really glad that the resident GIS expert, Mitch, has been so patient in teaching me the programs. I’m currently working on a mosaic of part of the axial caldera seafloor and hopefully we’ll get a nice end result.

Apart from working on the mosaic, there have been daily talks at the library by various people on the ship on their expertise and often their life's work. Yesterday, Ed was our first speaker and he regaled us with stories of the life and adventures of the great British explorer James Cook followed by a presentation on his own work through the years with NOAA. From Ed's presentation you could easily sense his great passion for his work – We as students all hope to eventually do what we love and being on a ship filled with these kinds of people really brings hope and positivity for the future.

  I'll get back to working on my mosaic now and hopefully I can post my final results on this blog.

13 Sept 2014

This has by far been one of the busiest summers for me, and the Thompson has not even left port yet! Despite the break between Spring and Summer quarters as well as my little break in Singapore, it kinda feels like I've been zooming around without rest. After a 2-week hiatus back in Singapore where I honestly felt the trip was rather crammed, I finally returned back to Seattle this Thursday evening. It was really fortunate that I had packed some for the expedition prior to flying back to Singapore as I doubt I would have been able to complete packing a night before the expedition in my jet-lagged status.

  The next day, I managed to drag myself out of bed by 5am and by 7am Giora, Max and I were in a car headed to Newport. The Leg 4 people were already in the process of unloading their gear when we reached and it was good to see Deb again. We had a quick tour of the ship and then had some time to get set up in our bunks.

  The first day was mostly getting used to the ship's lay-out, with lots of exploring and getting acquainted with the ship personnel, including John, Kendra and Julie. What I found interesting was within a few hours on the ship, the initial experience drew parallels to my first few days when I enlisted in the army 3.5 years ago. Though I was not specifically in the navy, I couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu. Maybe it was the surroundings and how operations were carried out on the ship. Maybe it was just the feeling of uneasiness, as I embarked on an adventure which was definitely out of my comfort zone. However, I did not have much time to ponder as jet-lag eventually consumed me and I conked out straight after dinner.

  Today, I feel much more refreshed, though from experience I know jet lag will continue taking its toll for at least a couple more days. Regardless, there are a few interesting developments which I believe could be formalized into a project: I'm hoping to work on some Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and there seems to be great opportunities to do so on board. As I finish up this post, the Thompson has just left Newport and is on her way to the Axial Seamount. I don't currently feel seasick and I really hope not to for the next 2 weeks.

  Here's to a great coming two weeks to finish up my summer.