Caitlin Russell's Blog

Microbes From the Deep
Engine Room Tour

Paul gives a tour of the T/V Thompsons engine room to VISIONS'13 students.

Caitlin Water Sampling During Leg 4

Caitlin and Andrew take water samples from a CTD cast ~ 125 km off the coast of Oregon to characterize fluids up to 9000 ft beneath the oceans surface.

15 August 2013

First off, I want to give the biggest shout-out ever to the galley crew. Dan, India, and Liz who keep us so well taken care of, it’s ridiculous. One of the favorite parts of my watch is going upstairs at 5 and seeing what delicious baked good India has whipped up for us for the day, whether it be blueberry coffee cake or peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I know one of the questions I have heard most from the other students is “Is it time to eat yet?” Let me just say, it is heaven up there for a compulsive snacker such as myself.

Anyway, now that the important stuff is out of the way, on to the science. Two days ago, we recovered three iSmacs bottles from the base of Mushroom for the Girguis Lab at Harvard. I couldn’t tell you what iSmacs stands for, but essentially they were PVC funnels that contained test tubes full of different minerals that are found in hydrothermal vents and the idea is to see what types of bacteria grow on the different minerals. Opening them up and processing them was very smelly, but very cool. We also deployed and tested the HD camera, which, despite some initial technical difficulties, works! It is located at the base of Mushroom and when the video came up in the ROPOS control room, we all kind of were in awe; the quality was absolutely stunning. I am very excited to see what comes out of this camera in the next few years.

We got spoiled earlier in the cruise with weather. Although it may have been foggy, we didn’t have any rain and the water was very calm. Two days ago we got our first “storm” (it was very small) and had to wait it out to send ROPOS back down. On the other hand however, we also got some beautiful sun and a few amazing sunsets. It was incredible.

11 August 2013

Today marks our sixth full day on the R/V Thompson. I think. One thing I have found about being at sea is that between my 4 am watches and erratic nap schedule, it is difficult to keep track of what day it is or how long we have been out here. It has been a busy and at times dramatic week so far. We spent some time at Hydrate Ridge looking at methane seeps, and then we headed up to Axial Seamount, where we have been for the past few days. Today, we have been installing and testing two seismometers, and I believe we will soon be installing an HD camera to look at a vent known as Mushroom in the ASHS vent field.

Things have not gone entirely smoothly on this leg of the cruise. We lost the CTD on the first cast (but were able to recover it, thanks to ROPOS!) and just last night there was water found in the HD camera on ROPOS. Luckily, we had a spare one onboard, although why we happen to have a spare $180,000 camera hanging around beats me. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is that things never go as planned, and it is imperative that one is able to adjust and problem-solve. The people on this cruise are amazing and can fix pretty much everything.

I have been able to see, learn, and do so many awesome things.  We decorated styrofoam cups to send down on the CTD, which will shrink because of the increased pressure, heard talks from Deb and John (our co- Chief Scientists), and stood on transponder watch to see who could be the first to spot an old transponder that we cut from the seafloor.  I think the coolest things I have seen so far though are definitely the hydrothermal vents. It is one thing hearing about them in a classroom or seeing a picture of them in an article, but it is completely different to be right above them and see them in real time. They are truly spectacular oases in the deep sea, teeming with some of the strangest organisms I have ever seen.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what the next week brings and in the meantime enjoy the pictures!