Kristine Prado-Casillas Blog Leg 4

Screens in the control van of Jason showing images at the Tiny Towers site and microbial mats. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas, University of Washington; V23.

15 September 2023

Last nights sunset was a nice gift to see after a few days of cloudy weather that blocked the sunset. Me and a few other students went out to the deck to talk and watch the sunset. The transit for this evening was super smooth and super enjoyable. Surprisingly we are going back to Axial Seamount after the deep profiler cable was working at the Oregon Offshore site. We still have a few days left in our cruise so it was decided that we head to Axial Seamount to try to complete sampling of fluids  that we couldn’t get the first round meaning another 17–18-hour transit one way.

The next day, we had a meeting with APL staff talking about their journey to APL and what their future prospective is. Both APL engineers said that they graduated from Oceanography at UW and had different paths into APL. One said that they were about to go to graduate school, but changed their minds last minute! Another made their own business in commercial diving. They said that graduating with a degree in Oceanography can give you vast opportunities and should not limit you to what you want to do since the skill sets built in your undergraduate career can be applied anywhere where your heart desires. They also emphasized the importance of Roth IRA’s and saving for retirement as early as possible.

During the evening, I spent most of the time attempting to make a PowerPoint presentation on my video project, but not achieving much because I spent most of the time talking with the other students. Talking to other students who are in my major, but that I haven’t had the chance to talk to yet was very nice and a perfect way to get to know their interests and better understand why they wanted to get onto this cruise.

I went to bed pretty late, which meant I woke up super tired but excited for our next Jason dive. This day would be filled with multiple Jason dives and getting the opportunity to see a bunch of cool biology at the seafloor in Axial Seamount!!

During the morning dive, we were able to finally take some hydrothermal fluid samples after figuring out the UFO sampler. My shift ended as we were gearing up for fluid sampling, but later when I woke up, I found out that the fluid samples were a success with a few hiccups along the way!

It was super cool to see biology at the hydrothermal vents and try to understand what was done there. As a biological oceanographer, my interests lie in the surface ocean where phytoplankton exist and undergo photosynthesis to produce their energy. Here at these hydrothermal vents, microbial communities undergo chemosynthesis, a similar process to photosynthesis, but the microbes get their energy from chemicals like hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide (that come from hydrothermal vents) instead of sunlight! These biological processes interest me heavily and is a reason why I stay up to watch these dives with little sleep in my system.

Dancing dolphins. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas; V23.

12 September 2023

Yesterday was a fun day because while helping Julie filter chlorophyll, we got interrupted by Katie saying that there were dolphins outside! Me and Atticus rushed out to find them while Aakriti joined us up on deck. Watching a group of dolphin’s swim just as fast as the ship was going was insane to witness. They would jump out of the water in sync and were even loud enough that we were able to hear their squeaks!! Clinging onto the edge of the ship while trying to get a view of the dolphins was utterly worth it.

After witnessing the dolphins swim around, the day was filled with mini adventures like finishing chlorophyll filtering, helping do a CTD cast, film footage of students and others collecting water samples for my video project, and finishing my blog post.

Mini Octopus. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas; University of Washington, V23.

When we sent the CTD down, we filled a laundry bag full of Styrofoam cups that we drew on and waited for them to come back to the surface. When we got our cups back, we were amazed by how small they shrunk because it was such a stark difference! My little octopus that I drew and cut up came out so perfect that it was a fan favorite!

My following morning shift started out doing a Jason dive at 4 am where the objective was to replace a CTD installed in 2022 with a new one at Axial Caldera.

Eventually the CTD was replaced, and the RCA team member in the hot seat decided to check out a geological swirl formation found on the radar nearby. This swirl is formed by molten lava that erupts on the surface of the ocean floor.

After my shift, I went right back to sleep since I heard that there might be another Jason dive during my next shift! As it turns out, there in fact was another Jason dive and we saw a lot of cool things.

This dive was focused on collecting samples for researchers and we spent a bit of time down on the ocean floor. One goal was to collect diffuse fluid samples which we had to schedule to another Jason dive and the other was to take temperature measurements straight from a hydrothermal vent plume. Super fun but stressful for those controlling Jason.

Screens of what the Jason ROV team and other folks in the control van see. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas; University of Washington, V23.

11 September 2023

Last night was a fun shift as I got to go into the Jason van room to see the vehicle being put into the water and log events happening then. It was a bit stressful trying to keep up with logging events since it was my first time doing it, but I had a few people helping me out along the way.

Once we reached the bottom and tried finding the Deep Profiler mooring at Slope Base to connect a dummy cable to it, we passed by an instrument that had an octopus latched to the side of it along with a huge rock fish just sitting there! It was so fun to just watch animals as we passed by and see some fish come up to the ROV camera not knowing that there was an audience the entire time.

Once my shift ended, I went to Julie to discuss when the next CTD deployment will be and trying to coordinate between sleep and work. Although I wanted to help out with collecting water samples at 2 am, I thought it would be best to get some sleep until the next one later in the morning.

As the sun was setting, I noticed that the weather was starting to get choppy and cause some rocking on the ship. Trying to go to sleep was hard because of this but I eventually got the rest I needed.

Waking up was so confusing this morning because I hadn’t realized that the ship was in transit to our next station and wondered why the ship was rocking more than usual. A few big waves hit the side of the ship and caused me to stumble as I got ready for my shift. I personally find it a bit fun to experience this rocking back and forth because it reminds me of roller coasters but instead, I’m doing work while I ride out some waves!

I checked in with Katie and found out it will take a few hours before the Jason ROV will be put in the water followed by a CTD cast which meant I could sleep in more! Goodnight!

I woke up and got ready only to realize there was a Jason dive happening, which meant I got the opportunity to see it descend into the water with a deep profiler latched onto it for!

It was fun to be a spectator instead of logging events for Jason since a lot of detail is required for each event and they happen quite quickly, which easily stresses me out. I got to witness real-time issues happen within the Jason control van and learned that the first problem encountered was that hydraulics in the starboard manipulator (right arm) popped and was too hot to operate so the Jason team had to stop for a while. They then solved the issue and descended with the deep profiler to attach to the cable at its correct depth. All in all, the morning was a good start to the day.

Sunrise during sample collection. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas, University of Washington; V23.

10 September 2023

As my first morning shift continued, my shift team got split up to help log events in the ROV room and help with Julie to collect water samples. I stayed back and helped collect water samples and learned how to log the type of sample and the number. I’ve collected water samples before and usually we write everything down by hand, but this sample collection had an iPad to log which Niskin bottle corresponds to what sample and a barcode to scan! This threw me out of the loop for a second, but I quickly got into the rhythm of things and worked efficiently with Julie as we got to view a gorgeous sunrise.

After a couple of hours collecting samples from the Niskin bottles and with the help of Katie, me and Julie were able to finish collecting samples, empty the Niskin bottles which soaked my pants, and make it to breakfast in time. Since I was pretty energized after my morning shift, I stayed up and worked on finishing my blog and thinking about my video project.

After an hour of work, I headed over to the outside deck of the ship to get a peaceful view of the ocean and get some sun in with Jasmine and Rowan. We wandered around a bit and tried to catch a view of the deployment of the Jason ROV before heading to the bridge and meeting the 2nd mate on board. We got a tour of the bridge and how the ship is controlled, how the different devices are used to maintain balance, how the ship is kept stationary, and more! The crew up in the bridge and the engineers down in the engine room work closely together and cannot make the ship run smoothly without their cooperation. I’ve learned to appreciate the hard work the ship crew puts into making everything on the ship run smoothly.

My evening shift was just as interesting as my morning shift. Me and the people on my shift had nothing to do for a little bit before I went to the back of the ship and asked if they needed any help. Luckily, Garrett and Amy who were cleaning the electronic housing of the Deep Profiler Mooring needed help scrubbing off biofouling. As we scrubbed away anemones, I asked them questions on how they go to where they are since I’ll be graduating soon and want to figure out my career options. Garrett explained to me how he had a few different jobs before working for APL and how he wants to go back to school for mechanical engineering. It never occurred to me that the first job I get after I graduate doesn’t have to be exactly what I want and instead can be a slow path to my desired job. Who would have thought that talking about their career paths as we scrubbed anemone guts off the electronic housing was a great learning experience for my future career in oceanography.

CTD-005 coming up to the surface. Credit: Kristine Prado-Casillas; V23

8 September 2023

Last night, the student watch schedule for Leg 4 was posted and it turns out I have shifts from 4-8 am and pm. I was slightly worried about my sleep schedule for this cruise, but I talked with an on-deck crew member and he said my body will adjust eventually. Apparently, it still takes him a few days for his body to adapt to a new sleep schedule, so my worries are subsided for now. Luckily, I’ll be teamed with Rowan and Jolee for these shifts and look forward to our first shift!

It’s an hour before the Thompson leaves port and I’m feeling antsy. I’m so excited to get to work in the ROV lab and see Jason operate underwater, but don’t know how well I will operate with minimal sleep. I don’t think it will be too hard since the student’s responsibilities are to log events happening to the Jason ROV.  Oh my gosh we just left port!

It’s been a few hours now since we left port, and everything has been going very smoothly. I haven’t been feeling seasick yet and I don’t think the others are either! I’m glad to see that no one is seasick so that we can get as many people to help out as this Leg is short on scientists. It’s almost 10 pm so I’ll try to watch a show and head to bed before my 4 am shift!

Waking up at 3 am before my shift was so rough, I immediately made some green tea and watched as the Jason ROV was being pulled out of the water through a tv screen in the galley. I went down to the Main Lab to check in with Julie and Katie to see if it’s time to head over to the ROV van. It turned out we were going to deploy the CTD into the water before mooring operations began. Me, Ziggy, Jolee, and Rowan joined Julie to understand how the CTD works, how to fire bottles that collect water at designated depths, and watch as data is collected on the monitors above. The morning shift turned out to be a great one!