Max Schrempp’s Blog


23 Sept 2014

With a storm on our tail, we are preparing to enter Newport.  I'm writing this entry from the empty library, which I have grown quite accustomed to working in.  Every few seconds, a wave slams into the side of the Thompson, breaking the silence.  This has been going on for a while.  Nobody seems terribly concerned.  Therefore, I don't worry either.

We're scheduled to be in Newport around noon.

Last night, we presented our projects, followed by poetry night.  Since I am still in that mindset, I think it is fitting to share the first part of a poem titled "The Sea" by Pablo Neruda.

"I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don't know if I learn music or awareness,
if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves."

Participating in this cruise has been very special to me.  I have gotten to know a great group of people, from the crew of the Thompson, to the scientists and engineers, as well as my fellow students.

I hope that my blog has been interesting and informative.  Thank you.


22 Sept 2014

Today is our last full day on the R/V Thompson before we head into Newport.  On Wednesday, I start my sophomore year of classes, making this cruise an excellent finish to my summer.  I actually spent most of my summer on campus, so I never really “left.”  Everything should feel very familiar.

I am writing this entry in the middle of the day.  Newport is in sight.  We are holding station a few miles off shore completing some maintenance and engineering dives.  ROPOS has been diving since early last night.  That is one thing that seriously impresses me about ROPOS – how long a dive can last.  One of the dives completed on this leg lasted about 16 hours!
I decided to catch one in the early hours, prior to my watch.  It is not every day that you can arbitrarily decide to walk 50 feet down a hall and into the ROPOS control room.

My Wikipedia article on the Regional Scale Nodes is finished, at least for now.  That is the beauty of Wikipedia – it can be edited continuously.  Hopefully others will see the page and learn a little bit about this project.

Newport is in sight.  We are completing some work on the near-shore RSN hardware before heading in.
Tonight is student presentations and the traditional poetry night.  I guess that I had better come up with a good poem to share.

Until next time,

20 Sept 2014

We have arrived at Slope Base and are beginning to install the second 2-legged mooring.  This mooring will support another shallow profiler.  The implementation challenges are pretty much the same as at Axial Base, however this station’s depth is about 300 meters deeper.

The cable is currently being tensioned in preparation for lowering the giant anchors, which each weigh about 6 tons.  This will eventually be followed by a giant platform made out of syntactic foam.  I am hoping to help with putting the orange “football” floats onto the EOM cable leg.

The transit was rather quiet and uneventful.  We didn’t have as great of a distance to cover, which spared some of us from prolonged seasickness.

I am looking forward to the ROPOS dives.  We will be doing some extra work in this general area prior to the arrival of a storm forecasted for early this week.

Until next time,

18 Sept 2014

We are back in Newport to reload the back deck with the necessary equipment to assemble a second 2-legged mooring.  The Thompson is once again quiet and empty for the evening.  I did leave the ship with Jae for a couple of hours to walk into Newport.  It was nice to step off for a bit and get a decent walk in.

All of us are continuing to work on our projects.  My Wikipedia page is coming together nicely, although I still have some minor issues that I am sorting through.

I am definitely looking forward to heading out again.  Being in shore is nice, but I find myself preferring the open water.  I have made sure to spend some time on the bow, day and night, in order to enjoy both the sunset, and the starry skies that follow.  An ocean sunrise and sunset is something that I hope other seafarers get to experience at least once.

Until next time,


17 Sept 2014

We have departed Axial Base, and are in transit back to Newport, Oregon for more equipment and supplies.  The ship is once again bucking around in the waves, but none of us are feeling nauseous…yay! 

Our weather forecast shows some nasty weather rolling in next week, so the schedule is getting changed up a bit.

Today, we heard back-to-back presentations from John and Giora.  John spoke for a couple of hours about everything from Moore’s Law to hydrothermal vents.  Giora then talked to us about plastics in the ocean and the research he’s conducted on that topic.

Shortly after Giora’s talk, we toured the engine room of the ship.  The chief engineer of the R/V Thompson showed us everything, including the main generators, z-drives, and control room.  The z-drives and bow thruster allow the Thompson to hold a single position (the screws can be faced in different directions).

We arrived in Newport a little while after the engine room tour.  A few of us went up on deck to watch the Thompson “parallel park” at the NOAA dock between two other giant vessels.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  Most of the science party and crew disembarked for a few hours, so the ship was pretty quiet.  Eventually, I did end up leaving the ship as well.  Jae and I walked across the Newport Bridge to take photos of the bay.  I wrapped up the evening with a game of Cribbage with Colin and Trevor. 

It is strange to think that this experience is about half-over for me.  I have definitely gotten used to ship life.  The days are rich and full of new learning.  Although this ship is a professional environment, yet all of the scientists and engineers alike seem to truly enjoy their work, and the atmosphere can feel quite jovial at times.  I remind myself constantly how fortunate I am to be a part of this expedition.      

Until next time,

 16 Sept 2014

This morning, I awoke at 0700 to check if I would be on watch duty.  My assigned time is 0800-1200, however this is only if a ROPOS dive is occurring.  I   prepare for my watch in the ROPOS control room.  Having stayed up past midnight reading, I was quite tired.  Little did I know that I was in for quite an exciting experience.  Today’s ROPOS dive was the first one conducted during this leg of the expedition.  Although, I was somewhat familiar with the process of completing a typical dive, as well as what today’s tasks were, actually witnessing it person was very significant to me.

I arrived in the ROPOS control room at around 0730, a half-hour before my watch.  The room was dark, save the light from about a dozen large and medium-sized flat screen monitors.  Some ROPOS crewmembers were working on computers along the wall.  All of the overhead lights were out, and the portholes were covered to block any natural light from coming in.  The primary screen showed the visual feed from the high-definition Zeus camera.  ROPOS had started to dive.  The lights from ROPOS illuminated the marine snow in the water column.
My watch duty was to take photos using the DSC of everything noteworthy happened.  When I started at 0800, ROPOS was still heading to the seafloor.  Suddenly, a jelly floated by the screen.  I quickly took a picture and logged it into the system.

For this mission, ROPOS connected EOM cable to a junction box located on the seafloor, and to the FACT system located on the “smart leg” of the 2-legged mooring.  The whole mission was fascinating.  Several times, I had to remind myself to take photos and not just watch the main screen.  I especially enjoyed watching ROPOS carry out the simple tasks, such as removing the dust cap protectors for the cable ports and placing them in a storage bucket. 

Toward the end of my watch, ROPOS surveyed the Axial Base site.  Kendra took over taking photos.  I decided to stay in the control room, though.  How often do you get to watch an ROV working on the seafloor?  Not too often.  I wanted to catch every minute of the dive.  Afterward, I managed to squeeze in a short nap.

The rest of the day was eventful.  At around 1400, Ryan gave an excellent talk on cellular biology, as well as the research that he’s doing in the Armbrust lab.  We also got together on the bow for a group photo taken by Mitch.

I am currently writing an article on the Regional Scale Nodes project for Wikipedia.  Turns out, a page solely dedicated to it does not exist yet.  It has been nice to learn more about the history of this project.  It all started with an idea which grew into a realization that underwater cabled observatories were the most practical way to conduct long-term studies of the global ocean.

To wrap up the evening, a few of us hung out in the lounge and watched The Life Aquatic, an appropriate film for an oceanographic expedition.

Until next time,

15 Sept 2014

Last night, we successfully completed a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) sounding survey of our station at the base of Axial Seamount, otherwise known as Axial Base.  This was important to do prior to sending ROPOS on a dive.  CTDs, which resemble a giant bird cage, travel vertically in the water column acquiring data.  It is typically lined with an array of large Niskin bottles which are used for collecting water samples.  CTDs also carry several oceanographic sensors, including a pH sensor, thermometer, and transmisometer.
A few of us stayed up to help launch the CTD.  I have helped prepare and deploy a CTD once before, but that was part of a class.  This time, I felt as though I was given more responsibility, which was gratifying.  We launched at around midnight.  Tied to the side was a bag full of foam heads soon to be shrunk by the water pressure.  I peered over the side of the ship and watched the CTD disappear.

The CTD takes a little while to descend to the bottom, seeing as the sonar reported the seafloor to be about 2607 meters deep.  Traveling at about 1m/sec, or about 60m/min, the journey took a little under 45 minutes.  Trevor, Colin and I ended up slated to stick around to help put the CTD.  We watched its progress from the computer lab.  Data slowly filled the monitors.  Finally, the CTD reached the bottom.  I marveled at how deep it was, almost 9000 feet!  And here we are being sent live data.  Cool!  This is the same general idea that the cabled observatory we’re building is based upon.

By the time I went to sleep, it was around 0400.  My sleep schedule is getting a little funky, but that is okay on a ship which carries out operations 24 hours a day. 
At our daily meeting today, we listened to a talk by Kendra Daly, one of the visiting educators on board.  Kendra talked for a while about her work studying the biology of Antarctica.  She also discussed Southern Ocean ecosystems with us.
Even though we are only on Day 4, this cruise has already proved to be very rewarding to me.  I am currently teaming up with my fellow students on multiple projects.  A couple of them are outreach-related projects which will help us devise new strategies for generating public awareness and interest in Regional Scale Nodes and other underwater cabled observatory projects.  I am also working on a project with Ryan.

ROPOS will going on its first dive tonight, although I’m not sure when.  I hope that I can get a spot in the control room, which I’ve learned can get quite crowded.

Until next time,

14 Sept 2014

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed.  The nausea that I felt last night was gone…just in time for breakfast!  The galley staff has fed us well.  However, they are evasive and I have not had an opportunity to thank them.

This morning, Skip, one of the engineers, showed some of us around the fantail of the Thompson.  A lot of the hardware and machinery, not to mention ROPOS, are located in this section of the ship.  On this leg of the VISIONS’14 expedition, we will be deploying the vertical mooring for the shallow profiler at the base of Axial Seamount.  The vertical mooring will have two anchors placed over 2km apart.  The anchors will have cables attached to them which meet at a central float located about 200 meters below the surface.  From that float, the shallow profiler will be attached.  I had spent some time studying the illustrated diagrams of the vertical mooring, so I could follow along when Skip showed us the bins filled with orange 44-pound syntactic foam floats.  These will be bolted to one of the cable “legs.”

At today’s meeting, Ed, the video engineer, gave a 2-part talk.  He is incredibly well-read in the life and voyages of Captain James Cook, so we were fortunate enough to hear his presentation.  Ed also talked about some of the work that he has done on other oceanographic vessels.  He gave us a list of some Cook-related literature that I have written down and look forward to reading once Leg 6 ends.

Our watch schedules have been posted and we were provided with instruction on how to document the ROPOS dives and take pictures.  Word is that there will not be too many dives on this leg of the expedition, so our watch duties will be limited.  Even if I’m not on duty when a dive happens, I hope to get a spot in the control room.

Right now, I am headed over to the fantail for a tour of ROPOS.  Tonight, I am going to listen for the ISS on the radio I brought along.

Until next time,

13 Sept 2014

This morning, after a delicious breakfast made by the fine galley crew, we had a little bit of down time followed by a safety and general ship rules meeting.  The first mate went over important information such as using the buddy system while on deck at night, and how to properly dispose of sharp objects (they have their own waste bin).  He also reminded us to tie down everything.  While at sea, the Thompson gets rocked around by waves, which means that loose objects will move around.  The most dangerous example is a loose door.  The bottom line is that every person on the ship needs to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.

Toward the end of the meeting, the third mate took over and had us students practice getting into the immersion suits they provided.  The immersion suit is our lifeline in the event we have to abandon ship.  Tomorrow, we will have an actual drill.  We were then shown the multiple ways of escaping from where we sleep in the event of an emergency.  Our staterooms are located next to the bow thruster beneath the main deck, so it is critical that we know what to do.

After the meeting, we had some more down time.  The departure time was postponed until 1600 hours.  At first, the amount of free time concerned me (am I supposed to be somewhere?), but now I see it as an opportunity.  As they say, “the world,” or in this case, the Thompson “…is your oyster.”  I brainstormed a project idea and also worked my way around the ship introducing myself to the scientists, engineers, and crew members on board.

At 1400 hours, John met with us in the library.  He gave us a general overview of the RSN project and provided us with some additional project ideas.  I enjoy his presentations because not only is he an excellent speaker, but he uses detailed graphics and animations of the subject material.  He finished just as the ship started to move.  We all proceeded to go up to the bow to enjoy the scenery and take photos.
After dinner, I decided to take it pretty easy.  I could feel the motion sickness beginning to creep on.  Even as I write this blog entry, I don’t feel too good.  I probably should have taken Dramamine or something, but my “tough it out” attitude prevailed.

Until next time,

12 Sept 2014

We arrived in Newport, Oregon at the NOAA dock, just before 1300 hours.  It was a modest 6-hour drive from the UW School of Oceanography.  I rode with Giora, who will be one of the chief scientists on Leg 6, and Ian, a fellow student.  I had a chance to visit with the Leg 4 students and Deb Kelley before they returned to Seattle.  John Delaney was also out on the dock and personally greeted each of us.  I appreciate that even though the chief scientists are incredibly busy, they still find time to talk with the students.  Deb also gave Ian and me a refresher tour while we waited for the other members of Leg 5 to arrive.  Our first tour had been back in early July while the Thompson was docked in Seattle.

Over the next few hours, we learned our way around the ship, or at least started to.  I have a feeling that learning my way around the Thompson will be just like my experience learning the UW campus.  It just takes a little practice.

Everyone on board is very supportive of us students.  I was shown where to find certain things, such as ear plugs.  Right now, the ship is docked, but as soon as we get underway, I am told that they will be handy, especially at night.

The crew left for the evening, so the ship seemed pretty empty.  I monitored the Aurora Borealis map on the KING5 website for a while, but to no avail.  If it was visible from Newport, I had long since gone to bed.

I am looking forward to tomorrow.  We are scheduled to depart at 1000 hours.

Until next time,