Jolee Thirtyacre Leg 4 Blog

Some of the students and the Co-Chief Scientist Julie Nelson finishing a 1000-piece puzzle of the HMS Titanic. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

15 September 2023

We made the most of our 18-hour transit from Axial Caldera to the Oregon Offshore site, and the sea was glass. It started around 0600 yesterday and we arrived at Offshore around 0030 this morning.

During this period of travel, many of the students spent hours on the bow and 02 deck talking and watching the waves. Some intent on seeing dolphins, were waiting, while others were outside just because we could be. At one point, a crew member from the bridge came down and reported dolphins off the bow. So, a few of us were able to see a common dolphin riding alongside the Thompson.

The 1000-piece HMS Titanic puzzle we have been working on since departure from Newport was completed today as well by Julie (the Co-Chief Scientist) and some of the students.

Part of the APL ream hanging out on the back deck at sunset during the steam to the Oregon Offshore site. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

The crew passed their time doing early packing, small maintenance projects around the ship, playing games, or participating in the pancaking eating contest during breakfast. At one point, during sunset, they were out on the back deck sitting on beach chairs by the railing. I can truly say, I think they have one of the coolest jobs ever and all seem like close friends.

Because we didn’t have shifts while in transit, we were free to fill those four-hour shifts with whatever we wanted. Some decided to sleep, but others of us wanted to keep the sleep schedules we have become accustomed to. Rowan and I (part of the 0400-0800/1600-2000 watch) decided to stay up with the 2000-0000 crew last night, even though we knew shifts would start today, because they wanted to watch a movie in the Movie Room. After a lot of indecision and advice from Emmet (“I watched the first Planet of the Apes movie recently and it wasn’t very good.”) we settled on The Little Mermaid (2023).

Watching The Little Mermaid (2023) in the Movie room during the midnight shift. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

After the movie, we all went onto the back deck to look at the stars before heading to bed. They were everywhere, the sky was full of them – the Milky Way was visible all the way to the horizon. It was a beautiful canvas of light above the dark expanse of the sea. And in the water, due to the churning of the props, bioluminescence were sparkling as well.

Shortly after, we all said our “goodnights,” or for Rowan and me it was, “see you in three hours,” and then headed off to bed.

Sealion curiously swimming around the R/V Thompson. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington; V23.

13 September 2023

I stand in awe of all I’ve seen these last six days, and in awe of the Creator of it all. The waves stretch on for miles and the horizon is always out of reach. The waves continue to come with a steady heartbeat. And birds fly above, knowing just how low they can be without catching their wings on a stray wave during the downbeat of their flight.

We saw blue sharks and some dolphins. A Mola mola was spotted off the starboard stern of the ship during a Jason dive two days ago. Some of use got to see a very curious sea lion that came swimming by. And tonight, we witnessed three, what we think are white sharks, during Jason’s ascent.

Screen shot of a lava whirl at Axial Caldera taken from inside the ROV van during Dive J2-1555. Credit: J. Thirtyacre; V23.

The sunrises and sunsets take your breath away. And as we made the 14-hour steam to Axial Seamount the other day, the clouds were so low on the horizon it gave the feeling that we were sailing towards Aslan’s Country in the distance.

During a 0430 Jason dive this morning, we got to see what’s known as a lava whirl. It’s like a whirlpool shape carved into the rock, showing that the hard surface used to be molten lava before it cooled. The team in the van called it an underwater crop circle when it appeared on the sonar.

There have been so many natural sights to marvel at during the last week and so much to learn from the crew. This Leg has been more engineering-based than the last three, with a lot of deployment, recovery, and maintenance on different moorings and profilers.

I learned how to reset the Niskin bottles for sampling and worked with the winch controller to collect samples during the dive. Julie taught me how to do oxygen titrations from the CTD using the Winkler method. Some of the student team even got a tutorial about working on the profilers from Garrett or a knot class from Brian. There has been so much material to absorb and each minute of it has been so valuable.

Leg 4 students posing next to the reset CTD Rosette prepared to deploy at Axial Base. Credit: J. Thirtyacre; V23.

It’s not all serious work though. To pass the time during Jason’s descents and ascents, since it takes around an hour to go the 1500 m, the van is lively. Last night, a variety of music played from Adele’s “Hello” and Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know,” to A Star Is Born’s “Shallow.”

During the dive today, the ascent talk involved the fictional scenario of Jason being entered into an ROV battle bots-style competition. The ROV team talked about modifications that would help Jason survive the battles but would be able to be completed in the fictional, allotted one-week modification period before battles started.

It’s been a fantastic experience so far and I’m excited to learn more and to experience the rest of the adventures this leg has to offer.

Sunrise at Slope Base. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

11 September 2023

Quiet. The Main Lab is still, with only my watch crew present. The operations last night on the mooring didn’t go as planned. The communications from the mooring deployment didn’t match what was expected. Hard decisions were made and the team decided to leave the Oregon Offshore site – so the trek to Slope Base commenced around midnight. This provides time for the RCA team to figure out what might be going wrong with the mooring, while allowing us to keep up with the demanding maintenance schedule for this Leg.

Maybe more importantly though, it provided time for the crew to sleep. They were up throughout the day yesterday working relentlessly to get the mooring in the water, and tirelessly throughout the night diving with Jason to make sure everything was set. The coming dive at Slope Base will take 10 hours to complete, so rest is a must for the already understaffed seven-manned engineering team and ten-crew Jason team.

The Deep Profiler vehicle deployed on the Slope Base mooring cable during Dive J2-1552. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI; J2-1552; V23.

The crew aboard are a collection of incredible people, from the cooks to the scientists, to the Captain, everyone has an amazing story to tell and somehow are all able to function on little sleep and live half the year without seeing land.

The collection of stories amongst the crew could fill a library and the adventures they have gone on would exceed a lifetime. Even with the small size of the crew, I doubt there is a coast anywhere in the world that has yet to be explored by at least one of the members I’m sailing with. Antarctica, the Bahamas, Guam, South Africa, there’s a story for each place and a sailor who spent months at each location.

Probably my favorite pastime on ship involves listening to different stories from the crew – Brian and Terence never seem to run out of them. I wish these stories were written down, documented somewhere for others to remember once the sailor is gone. Part of me wants to ask to log their stories, like the Veterans History Project logs vet stories, so someone, later on down the road, is able to read about their lives and get a glimpse into the adventures that few have ever experienced. Maybe I’ll ask Katie. Either way, I’m beyond thankful to be getting the opportunity to learn from such experienced mariners and to have these stories passed down to me.

Sunrise at the Oregon Offshore site. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.
Components of a Deep Profiler Mooring prepared for deployment at Axial Seamount. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

10 September 2023

Today started out pretty quiet. The water during the midnight dive was super murky, but they were able to recover the beckon they were looking for. Because things have been so quiet, our shift was told we could sleep, but the rest of the day was supposed to ramp up.

The quiet morning allowed us to watch the sunrise, which was breathtaking. All around there was nothing but water, and just beyond the low clouds, you could see the tips of land because we were not too far from shore (only about 42.1 m from the Oregon NOAA facility).

Throughout the afternoon and early evening, the team worked to deploy the Deep Profiler mooring they spent all of yesterday collecting and the one we helped clean. After deployment, we had the last dive at the Offshore mooring that started at 1845.

The best part of the dive was probably the unexpected KPOP request in the Jason van and Ronnie’s (who was in the ROV hotseat for the dive) joyful compliance with the request. So, imagine a cold room full of monitors and the intricate work of the ROV cleaning lines and plugging in equipment, and then envision KPOP blasting through the speakers. The van was full of students and crew members, so as you can imagine, it made for a great time and a very unique experience.

After this dive, we will take more CTD samples as a verification for the data the Deep Profiler mooring should be getting. However, I plan to sleep during this sampling process.

Once everything is complete, the board of lies estimates this should be around 0000, we will transit to the Slope Base. The dive at this location will be a long dive (~12 hours) because they have to go down to 2,900 m. The goal of the dive is to clean the Deep Profiler Mooring cable and replace the DP vehicle, so less intense work than at the Oregon Offshore site,  but it will take longer because we are extending the distance of the dive by ~2,900 m.

R/V Thompson under the stars at the Endurance Array Offshore site. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.
Recovery of Jason after Dive J2-1548 to the Oregon Offshore (PD01B) mooring. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

9 September 2023

One of the neatest things about being aboard so far has been the community and the round-the-clock life that happens here. Last night, while it was quiet and peaceful aboard, Emmet had the record player softly singing in the Computer Lab. It’s a neat thing to hear a record player playing and an even more beautiful experience to hear the scratchy, warm sound coming off the record while sailing in the middle of the open ocean. It’s a soft, quiet, peaceful sound. One that matched the rhythm and solitude of the expanse of waves around us.

The day started for me at 0255 and yet, the world around me never slept. The ship was always operating and there was always something happening. Jason was being taken out of the water when I arrived in the Main Lab and not long after, I was brought into the Computer Lab to learn how to take CTD samples. We went down to 670 m to collect samples today, something I never thought I would have the opportunity to say.

Afterwards, I ran the video controls for Jason during a dive that put a line through the PD01B Deep Profiler Mooring float at the Oregon Offshore site so that the whole system could be pulled up. It has not been recovered since 2021. When the Jason crew latched onto the float, I felt like I was sitting in the control room with Brock Lovett when coming up on the HMS Titanic. Getting to see something I never thought I would have the opportunity to see.

Sunrise at the Regional Cabled Array Offshore site. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

Though we have only been at sea for a short while, I feel like I have already lost all semblance of time. “Morning” has become relative and saying “goodnight” has become an all-day occurrence. My mornings involve four hours of darkness before the sun rises and evenings come before the sun has fully set. For others, their day is all darkness, and still others, their night is all light.

There has been so much to do, learn, and see in just the 24 hours since we left port. It makes you not want to sleep so you do not miss a thing.

Thomas G. Thompson docked at the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific, Newport, Oregon facility. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.
RCA isobaric gas-tight samplers in the Bio Analytical Lab. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

8 September 2023

Today has been a day of learning – learning when mealtimes are, how to find locations on the ship, about equipment, and learning what it means to prepare the ship to sail. Andrew gave us an impromptu talk about the RCA  Isobaric Gas-Tight samplers (IGTs) developed by Dr. Jeff Seewald (WHOI), and I am realizing how little I know about so much. The next 10 days should be amazing and a time for a lot of growth.

As we neared the time for undocking, only 15 minutes away, we tied down the science equipment in the wet lab and prepared the main lab for departure.

However, I could not help but feel the overlying tension in the air amongst the student crew as departure became closer. The talk, on and off, for the last four hours has been about seasickness, acting as a dark cloud looming over everyone’s head because most of us have never been to sea.

Sunset over the bow of the R/V Thompson while leaving the NOAA port in Newport, Oregon. Credit: J. Thirtyacre, University of Washington; V23.

Departure was beautiful though. We sailed with the evening tide at 2000, right into the sunset. It was beautiful from the second deck of the bow, passing through the mouth of the channel to get to open ocean. For the most part, I would say the setting sun and the smooth rocking put all of us at ease a little bit because jokes were being made and stories were being told while we passed under the bridge and out into open water.

Shortly after we came back down, at around 2130, I headed to bed, trying to prepare myself for the 0400-0800 watch that would come very soon. I am sleeping in the last room in the forward science berthing of the ship, and it was weird at first, laying in a rocking bed, but the thing that was the most unexpected was the sound of water slamming and lapping against the stateroom wall.

However, eventually, sleep came and so did the early alarm.