My First 3 Days Onboard RV Thompson

As we left the UW Docks, I couldn’t stop grinning. I was so excited to be apart of the VISIONS’13 expedition and contribute to this unique experience. I loved cruising through the waterways that I know so well as a coxswain for a rowing team in Seattle. I made one last call home from the deck of the Thompson as we sailed off into Puget Sound and eventually into the Pacific Ocean. Transit to the first station (Primary Node 3B) took approximately 36 hours from when we left the UW Docks.

Living aboard a research vessel is a surprisingly easy adjustment to make. One striking difference is that the vessel never stops running. At a single time some people are sleeping, quickly eating, or working. It is very similar to a college student doing a marathon study session for an exam. They strive to produce high quality work usually fueled by caffeine and short amounts of sleep. Besides the odd schedule, everything else aboard the vessel is fantastic. The food is great and it is a joy to take a break from cooking every night. The weather conditions are perfect and I am fortunately adjusting to the rocking boat very easily.

My favorite thing so far has been learning about the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) onboard, ROPOS, and watching it work. During transit we were given an orientation of ROPOS as it sat on deck. I was surprised how big it was and how elegantly all of the tools and mechanisms were arranged. As we watched it getting lowered into the water for its first test dive, we joked that it was an oceanographer’s versions of the Rose Bowl kick off. As silly as this sounds, it was the exact feeling that I had. The ball was hanging in the air ready to be returned by the offense as the crowd cheered like crazy.

One of my jobs aboard the vessel is logging observations of the ROV dives on the Integrated Real-Time Logging System (IRLS). I love sitting behind the crew that drives and controls the ROV. ROPOS is able to move and work with such grace. Sometimes it is hard to believe that it is actually working underwater because it looks so effortless. However after sitting in the control room, I know that it takes lots of coordinating between the chief scientist, driver, navigation, bridge, and robotics controller. This morning (from midnight to 4am) was my first time logging as ROPOS dove down to Primary Node 3B. However during the descent, all of the lights shut off on the ROV unexpectedly. The next few hours involved diagnostic tests and finally the recovery of ROPOS for repairs on deck. It was disappointing that the dive didn’t go according to plan but I know that I will have many opportunities to log while ROPOS is diving.

It is amazing that we have only been at sea for three days. It seems very short and long all at the same time. We have learned so much about at sea life and I am glad to continue this education.