Jesse Turner's Blog

Monday, August 04, 2014
Velella velella

This video of tubeworms at a vent site on the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific was taken using an high-definition underwater video camera during the VISIONS '05 expedition in September 2005.

Lava Pond with Pillars

Huge, cavernous lava ponds occur throughout areas of Axial Seamount.  When the roof of a lava pond collapses, pillar structures that were formed are visible. 

10 August 2014

We’re steaming back from Axial right now; it’s supposed to be a 22 hour trip. As weird as this sounds, it feels bizarre to know that soon I will be able to walk in straight lines, sleep in a non-rocking bed, and be able to travel for more than 200 feet at a given time. For some reason, I’ve heard from multiple people that showers on land are the weirdest things to get used to again once back on stable ground. It doesn’t really make sense to me why, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough! There is one thing that I’m excited about: not staring at computers for most of the day every day… As fun as it has been to make these videos and create part of a webpage, it’s been a lot of work behind a screen. And considering some of the rooms have at least 26 monitors going at once (yes, I’ve counted), it’s difficult to get away from computers. That being said, my computer skills have gone up quite a bit thanks to practice and Ed’s help, the resident videographer. Without him, my videos wouldn’t have been nearly as high quality as they were. The people on board have been more helpful than I ever could have imagined. Anything I wanted to know more about, anyone with the knowledge was more than willing to provide it to me. For our daily lectures, all the students asked scientists, ship mates, and various people aboard to speak about anything interesting, and I can’t recall a single person declining to give a couple hours of their time to talk. This may not seem like much, but considering that time is most likely the most valuable commodity onboard, it really meant a lot for people to take the time out of their work (and sleep).

After a whole month onboard, I figured I would be completely done with life at sea. However, the exact opposite has occurred. Now that I’ve actually done it, I’m not tired of the ship in any way, shape, or form. It’s been more of an enticing lure into oceanography than anything else. I’m extremely happy to be able to go back home and see my friends and family, so I’m excited to be on land in one respect, but I already know I will miss it at the same time. This experience has definitely changed my outlook on life, my desires, and my goals. I know for a fact that I will be back on extended boat trips like this one again, but when and where I can only guess and hope. I’m overjoyed that I was able to be a part of this journey; without an opportunity like this I can’t say for sure whether or not I would have found my inner love for being in the open ocean, and for oceanography in general, so thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. I can honestly say that this has been one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had; hopefully it will be a gateway into many more like it.

9 August 2014

Talk about a roller coaster of emotions aboard the ship… These past couple days have been filled with excitement to say the least. Once we finally got the entire mooring for the deep sea profiler set and ready to go with the profiler attached, we tested the cable connection via a ROPOS. The connector on the mooring was bent too far for the connection to be made. After spending hours getting the cable and profiler down there, we had to turn right back around and bring it back onto the ship in order to replace the damaged piece. With 4-thousand pound buoys and 5-thousand feet cables, it was quite an ordeal, but thankfully we have spares parts on board.

In the midst of dealing with that problem, however, we got the message that this program has been waiting years to here. We can plug into the primary infrastructure! To make a long story short, the ownership of the observatory parts had finally been shifted, allowing us to make the connection. As soon as we could, John had ROPOS in the water plugging the cables in before anything else could stop us. Now, part of the observatory system is officially ready for use. Also, while that was being dealt with, the bent connector was fixed on the deck, so the new and improved version of the mooring is going in the water right now.

In other news, we had a barbeque on the deck for dinner a couple nights ago which was wonderful! It was kind of funny, I smelled smoke from the main lab and rushed outside to see what was happening when I found out the barbeque was starting up. It was delicious food, as always, and the crew even brought out an inflatable pool onto the fantail filled with fresh water. That was pretty surprising, so I decided why not take a dip? It actually felt really nice since the sun was out, but it was still fairly chilly out. Only a couple more days until I get to the mainland…

7 August 2014

Less than four days left on the ship! It feels pretty bizarre to think I’ll be back on land for good in the foreseeable future. A month on the boat has gone by faster than I would have thought. I also thought I would have been tired of by now, but such is not the case.

We finally put in the first deep sea profiler. This is the first ever deployment of a mechanism of this caliber. There are other similar profilers, but some engineers at the Applied Physics Lab at the UW have ramped up the potential of this one, with numerous improvements. It should be able to last longer due to an undersea charging system and it has many attachment options so that other instruments can be incorporated into its current configuration. Also, there is a completely separate shallow water profiler that will be located nearby which will only survey the upper 200 meters of the water column. The reason for this is because the uppermost layer, due to the influence of sunlight, has the most rapid changes and as such should be measured more consistently than the lower levels. So far it looks like it will work as planned, and there is a 24 hour dive going on right now that will be surveying it, along with accomplishing many other tasks.

The second video is nearing completion too. It has been much more hectic trying to work on it due to the shortened length of this leg of the cruise, but I think it should turn out alright anyway. I hope the first one gets posted sometime soon, but I’m not sure when exactly that will happen. I have also been working on gathering short clips, about 20 seconds in length, for the biology webpage that will is almost ready. Once I convert them using Compressor and am able to get all of the footage back to the mainland, it shouldn’t be too much longer before the website will be launched. I originally thought that I would simply email them to the mainland, but that will definitely not work due to their size and the lack of bandwidth that we have on the ship. I currently have about 80 clips ready for conversion, which will beef up the webpage nicely. I can’t wait to see the end results of my work soon!

4 August 2014

Well, the stay-at-slope-base plan has already fallen through. After being on weather hold for more than a day, and with more heavy winds and big swells in the foreseeable future, the executive decision was made to make the 18-hour steam to Axial base, which is where we are currently headed. These ‘plans’ are more like loosely-followed, weather-determined, fingers-crossed guidelines… Already, the new batch of students have seen their fair share of sea-going mishaps, whether due to the climate or to mechanical failures. A tiny metal pin, about a centimeter in length and maybe a millimeter in width, broke on one of ROPOS’ arms which cause a 10-hour dive delay. And of course it was 10 hours of decent enough weather to be able to send ROPOS in the water. Once the wind-gods saw that ROPOS was fixed, they started to blow again. Since the weather is (supposedly) better 18 hours away we took the journey to find out if the super-computer generated wind map was right. So far, the swells do seem to have waned a bit.
More and more of those bizarre looking biological sails called Velella velellas were in the water before we started up the engines and headed farther from the coast. Thousands, tens of thousands, of them were floating around mindlessly, getting caught in the eddies formed behind the ship. I’ve been talking with some of the engine-room crew on board and they’ve had to take about the intake filter and clear out all the little buggers at least two times a day, which can’t be fun at all. But we also saw a whale! Or, I suppose we just saw the spray of water that indicates a whale is just out of sight below the waves. But it was still enough to get some people on the side of the ship for a change of scenery.
We’ve been having quite a few interesting lectures lately. I was worried that the same people would be talking about the same things for the lectures as the first leg, but since there was a large turnover of people, and since there are so many interesting people on board, there has been no shortage of people to speak about new things. Of course, John did speak again, but this time it was with his fancy new, 16-grided mega lecture! It really is quite unique, with 16 different topics that he can go into and out of in order to answer various questions and keep things mixed up as he goes about. I must say that he is quite good at breaking the monotonous stereotype of what a lecture can be. We also had Tim give us a talk about the deep-sea profiler that we will be deploying soon, hopefully. Essentially, it is a miniature laboratory that runs up and down a cable that is attached to the sea floor and goes almost up to the surface of the ocean (about 100 meters shy) where a huge buoy keeps the cable taut. It has sensors for conductivity, temperature, chlorophyll (a proxy for photosynthetic life), pH, and many other variables. It also has a charging station at the bottom which is basically the same design as a glorified toothbrush charger!

2 August 2014

Hundreds, if not thousands, of strange blue translucent disks in the water. With what appear to be sails attached to the tops? Going outside to this bizarre sight was a little bit unusual, to say the least. They are called Velella velella and are similar to the Portuguese man o’ war. Thankfully, however, they aren’t poisonous to humans. They group up into masses like the one we saw today and roam around the oceans using, quite literally, sails that have evolved attached to their bodies. It looks, and feels, like a clear plastic sheet going straight up from the main blue disk, angled at 45 degrees from being parallel with the longest side of the body. Used in order to harness the wind’s energy, it is quite efficient. It’s so effective that sometimes we find them on the deck, over 15 feet above the water’s surface, blown there by the heavy oceanic winds. The main body is a thin blue disk with centimeter-long tentacles that search the upper inch of the water column for food. I couldn’t think up a weirder creature in my dreams. I have attached a picture of them so you can better visualize them.

I also saw my first Mola mola! They are also known as sunfish, and are another oddity of the oceans. Although they get to be about 6 feet tall, this one was only about a foot in height. For most of their life, they are motionless, drifting with the currents without care where they end up. They are a species that look like a fish whose length has been doubled and width has been flattened. And they only have two large fins, one going straight up and one going straight down. The one I saw was just on the surface, with its upper fin flopping around.

For this leg, Sam and I are continuing with the projects of last leg. We are currently creating a script for a second video, which will be more focused on what the Regional Scale Nodes project is doing and why it’s so incredible. It will be geared towards an audience that has never heard of the project before, so it is very basic, but it should make people interested enough to check out the interactive oceans website. Also, we are cutting out short clips, about 20 seconds each, for our biology at Axial webpage. We should finish up looking through all of last year’s footage within the next day, and then we will start using this year’s footage. It should be ready to go online very soon!

1 August 2014

Second leg! As I’m typing this, we are steaming out to slope base to begin. During the first leg, most of the work was geared around making sure that everything that we could possibly get down on the seafloor, we did, so that we had more room on the ship, and so that we could plug the instruments in as soon as we got the word. For this leg the focus is shifted quite a bit. During the next ten days, a deep sea profiler is being deployed. Essentially, a platform will ascend and descend vertically throughout the water column at 25 cm/s via a cable in order to better understand how variables change with depth. There will be an anchor at the base of the cable and a buoy at the top, which will be situated about 100 meters below the surface. The uppermost levels of the water column will be studied using a shallow water profiler. I assume this leg will be slightly accelerated from the students’ perspective due to the length of it. As opposed to having 18 days as was the case for the first leg, we only have 10 days. All of our projects will have to be thought up and executed quickly. So far, everyone who is new on board is wonderful! I’m excited to get to know all of the students, plus Sam and I have more of an administrative role since Leslie and Deb won’t be on this leg.

Hanging out in Newport was as fun as it could have been considering the few of us who weren’t over 21. Most everyone who was able to went out to bars, but there were about 4 of us who didn’t. We still went to the brewery to check it out which was very cool, then we all went to the beach and walked around for a little while. Not having the ground beneath my feet sway back and forth was pretty bizarre!

28 July 2014

Hydrothermal vent tubeworms have such a strong symbiosis with chemosynthetic bacteria that they have lost all traces of a digestive system: no mouth, gut, or anus. Instead, they have a specialized organ, called a trophosome, which provides a habitat for the bacteria in return for organic material from the microscopic organisms. This relationship is so efficient that tubeworms evolved a body type without an entire digestive system.
If I thought biology was cool before I learned about the organisms surrounding hydrothermal vents, then there aren’t words to describe how incredible it seems now. After all, the one thing keeping the whole ecosystem going is something that is toxic to almost all eukaryotes: hydrogen sulfide. To most of the macroscopic organisms found around these vents, which by the way is constantly pouring out this substance, hydrogen sulfide is deadly. However, there are billions of bacteria that have the ability to oxidize sulfide in order to create food. The tubeworms to which I was referring earlier actually carry the compound through their bloodstream to the trophosome in order to ‘feed’ their internal bacterial farm, and they do all of this without internalizing it themselves.

And tubeworms are no special case. Clams and limpets host similar bacteria in their gill tissues in order to obtain food. Palm worms, which have one of the highest temperature tolerances of any organism known on Earth, carry mats of bacteria on their backs. It is actually thought that the bacteria may provide a coat for the worm which insulates it from the heat. And the animals that don’t depend on bacteria directly still do indirectly due to the food web.

These strange bacteria provide a not-so-far-fetched insight on how life could develop on other planets too. Earth is strange in that it has what is known as a ‘naked ocean,’ which means that the ocean is directly in contact with the atmosphere with no barrier in between. There are almost certainly other planets and moons that have oceans, but most are hidden under kilometers of ice. Jupiter’s moon Europa is one of these examples. Due to the massive amount of gravitational pull exerted on Europa by Jupiter, and the fact that there is ice on the surface, there is most likely an ocean underneath because of the heat produced from this moon’s tectonic activity. Tectonic activity and oceans are the two necessities for the creation of hydrothermal vents, which makes life around them a possibility. Interesting food for thought.

27 July 2014

Our video about an introduction to hydrothermal vents is officially completed! All that is left to do is export the content from Final Cut Pro, which is the video program that we used during this cruise. The program is hundreds of dollars to buy, so we were lucky enough to have access to it on one of the computers on board. Hopefully it will be on YouTube by tonight and the title will most likely be The Most Extreme Environment on Earth. There’s actually a YouTube channel for the VISIONS 14 expedition on YouTube right now, but the only material that is on it is Christina’s ‘trailer’ video which gives a brief run through of the trip. Also, the channel is difficult to come across, so we are working on making it more easily available so that more people can see it. Our catalogue is coming along wonderfully as well. Thanks to Leslie Sautter, all of the information and pictures we have will be organized into a nicely formatted webpage which will be part of the Interactive Oceans website. We currently have a few mock up pages that are finished, but we are waiting until we have more content to put the webpage onto the site.

Remember how the fiber optic cable for ROPOS had to be cut due to some damages? Something good has actually come out of that; we were able to chunk up the piece into smaller segments and now we all have a little segment of the cable to take home with us. It is incredible to see the inside of the cable. I never would have guessed that the actual fiber optic part of the cable itself is only about a millimeter in diameter. The whole cable is about ¾ of an inch in diameter, but there’s a lot of protective outer coating, plus a good amount of copper which is used to get electricity to ROPOS for its lights and cameras. We are all going to have some cool souvenirs: salt from the bottom of the ocean, a piece of fiber optic cable, a wonderful poster illustrating hundreds of oceanic processes, plus there has been talk that we each may be able to get a rock from the sea floor.
The picture I have attached is a photo of the cable that has been cut and splayed out so that all of it separate parts can be easily seen. The tiny little clear wire on the upper right is one of the actual optical fibers, of which there are six within the cable.

25 July 2014

Today, I thought it would be interesting to provide a short explanation on one of the many interesting lava morphologies that we have seen during the ROPOS dives. It would be shameful to not share the amazing information that I’m learning on this cruise! The variety of formations that occur when magma hits the sea floor is phenomenal. Mineral content, speed, distance from source, topography. These are just a few of the variables that create a volcanic diversity so beautiful that it would be demeaning to call it miraculous.

The image shown is an example of what’s called a lava pond, or at least what remains of one. As lava flows across the sea floor, there are occasionally places where some of it drifts away from the main channel and slows to a halt due to the reduced push behind it. Since the ambient seawater is just above freezing, at about 2 oC, the top of this ‘lava pond’ cools quickly and forms a shell which hardens into rock and insulates the underlying lava, keeping it hot enough to stay in its liquid state. The liquid lava eventually flows out from beneath the rocky roof and is replaced by seawater, leaving what appears to be a solid lava seafloor, where there is actually a hollowed out passage. Because of erosion and pressure, the roofs of these lava ponds will eventually collapse, unveiling mysterious caverns below. It is important to keep an eye out for these occurrences because of the instrumentation that we are placing on the ocean floor. If the surface looks sound and a device is positioned there, it can quickly become nothing more than an expensive piece of metal if we’re not careful.

Often times, these hollows are dotted with stunning pillars that look like they belong in a Greek museum. Although the cause of the columns is not known for certain, there is a prevailing hypothesis regarding how they form. When the liquid lava is still within the lava pond, the high temperatures cause water in the underlying saturated sea floor to heat up and bubble upward through the lava pond. Because this happens in a convectional manner, the rising water forms into plumes that are cooler than the lava.  This water cools down and solidifies (crystallizes) the lava through which it passes.  It is this structured cooling that creates these magnificent pillars.

24 July 2014

If there were a lesson to be learned in the past few days, it’s been that oceanography cannot be planned; and that is not at all a bad thing, although it can lead to some all-but-calm moments. Knowing that plans will change, no matter our predictions, keeps the game exciting and the players on their toes. After all, we are apparently on our 48th version of the plan.

At the beginning, the weather was to blame for the lack of progress, but the culprit has quickly shifted to technical problems. The past three watches I’ve been a part of have not gone quite as we planned them, to put it nicely. Ironically, the only three major issues we’ve had, have happened while John Wonderly and I were on watch…

The first incident happened when we detached ROPOS from the Remotely Operated Cable Laying System (ROCLS). We began to notice that one of the sides was sinking into the sediment, while the other was perched up on harder sediment of some sort. After an hour of trying to reattach and level ROCLS, we just made the situation worse. Keep in mind that a minor inconvenience to us can mean hours of toiling for ROPOS, due to the difficulty of coordinated movements. ROPOS ended up ascending and we had to organize an entire dive simply to recover ROCLS, which is quite a hassle since it can take up to 2 hours to descend 2,500 meters into the ocean.

But that was nothing compared to what happened almost exactly 24 hours later. We were finally laying the 4 kilometer fiber optic cable that went to the northeast area of the caldera, when ROPOS lost hydraulic power all together. Let me paint the picture for you. We were flying 45+ feet above the seafloor with ROCLS attached onto the underside of ROPOS, when out of nowhere we see ROCLS release and fall into the depths below, while ROPOS begins to float slowly back up to the surface to be recovered. Thankfully, ROPOS has positive buoyancy, so when power is lost, it floats instead of sinks. But 4 kilometers of cable on a huge metal frame weighs a lot: well over a ton (and that’s the weight in water, it weighs much more out of the water). To make matters worse, we were over fresh, glassy lava flows which could easily damage the package.

As soon as they could fix the hydraulics on ROPOS, it was back in the water to see the damage. Miraculously, ROCLS looked all right. A couple of the legs were bent out of shape, indicating that the weight landed on one side, but it was right side up and it had landed just beyond a heap of jagged lava flow on a relatively flat area. Of course, it would be impossible to tell if the cable was damaged until it was back on board, so a winch cable was attached to ROCLS and taken up separately from ROPOS. Simple, right? Well, not so much. There had already been 200 meters of cable laid out on the sea floor, with the rest of the cable spooled on ROCLS.  This cable also had to be recovered. On my next watch, another 24 hours later, ROPOS and ROCLS were ascending. ROPOS had to help pick up the cable that was already out in order to prevent it from dragging along the lava flows, but on their way up, it became apparent that the fiber optic cable connecting ROPOS to the ship had somehow become tangled up with ROCLS’ cable. After hours of ROPOS driving in circles to untangle, everything was back onboard. Sadly, ROPOS’ tether had been damaged, and part of it had to be replaced, but on the flip side, all the cable was undamaged!

The moral of the story is that nothing goes as intended, especially on a ship. Combining weather, technical instruments, and a strict schedule doesn’t bode well for any plan. However, everyone out here understands that, and they were able to keep their heads level and use smart problem solving in order to fix the complications instead of freaking out.

19 & 20 July 2014

When I declared an oceanography major, whether I realized at the time or not, I opened more doors than I closed. The R/V Thompson oceanographic research vessel houses more distinguished experts than I can count on two hands. Geologists, videographers, biologists, engineers (of every sort you can think of), robotic professionals, chefs, photographers, educators, weather specialists, even an expert on plastics in the ocean.  The list goes on. The 19th proved that to me, if it even needed proving. Deb Kelly, the co-chief scientist on board, provided us with a captivating hour lecture (that lasted over two hours I might add) about hydrothermal vents and all that is associated with them. Without pausing for a second, she was able to answer questions that I had been unable to find after hours of web surfing. These people are at the forefronts their field, and they can solve problems on the fly.

Oceanography is anything but static. We had an all-science meeting in the library, where every scientist on board discusses the missions and how to fix any problems that have arisen. For example, just the night before, the Remotely Operated Cable Laying System (ROCLS) had been placed on the seafloor, and before they realized, one of the legs had sunken too deep into the soft sediment to reattach it to ROPOS. We had to make an entire new dive just to retrieve it, and thankfully we were able to. Things change all the time, and everyone on board handles it perfectly. And, at these meetings, not only are the students invited to come, we’re required. I must say that being treated as a participant is much more satisfying and motivating than being an observer. Inclusivity is this team’s philosophy.

Our project is coming along quite nicely. Most of the footage from previous dives has been found, organized, and cut to fit our script for the introduction video, and I think it looks awesome. We explain how a hydrothermal vent works and talk about the amazing fact that chemosynthesis is this ecosystem’s livelihood, which involves creating food from inorganic compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. We are soon going to start organizing species-specific footage in order to create some detailed videos about certain organisms. Also, we have created a catalogue format and have already written up a couple descriptions for the deep sea limpet and the gutless tube worm. After speaking with Deb, we found out that there will most likely be a part of the website dedicated to the biology aspect of these missions, and our information will be the first items that go there. I’m pretty excited!

The picture I put up for today shows ROPOS (Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science), which is the vehicle used for all the dives. It has HD cameras (both a still and a video) along with multitudes of other cameras used for flying it, two robotic arms with millimeter range precision, many lights, and various other instruments. In the image, attached to the bottom of ROPOS is a secondary node, which is the green box. This node is the intermediate junction between instruments such as seismometers, cameras, and mass spectrometers, and the primary node, which sends information back to the mainland.


17 & 18 July 2014

Sunshine. After waking up on the 17th to see the rarely-spotted sun, I figured it was obligatory to have breakfast and relax out on the deck. The science aboard this ship makes it easy to forget to go outside and appreciate the solidarity of the open ocean. Everything we’re learning is extraordinary. Just as an example, many years ago rhodopsin was found on the back of a deep-sea shrimp that inhabit areas around hydrothermal vents. Rhodopsin is something that organisms use to sense light. But why would an animal living in the dark evolve a light sensing feature on its back? Due to that observation, John Delaney decided to turn off the lights on Alvin, the manned submersible, while the window was just a few inches away from the fluid spewing from the hydrothermal vent. It glowed. The phenomenon known as blackbody radiation could explain what was happening, which is the same reason why an element on a stove top turns red. Needless to say, it raised more than a few questions. Could animals be attracted to vents due to the light vents emit? Could this be a factor in the dispersal of larvae or colonization? Is there enough light produced for animals to use photosynthesis as a possible means of energy? Another astounding theory: below the seafloor, living within the rocks there may be more living organisms, in terms of biomass, than all other life above, including every whale, human, ant, tree, everything. This microbial world has yet to be studied in detail, but several distinguished scientists have converged on the possibility of this subsurface biomass. The ship is always teeming with this kind of scientific energy, and some of the world’s experts are within a couple hundred feet at all times to discuss anything with anyone.

All this energy and information makes it easy to spend hours working on our projects. Currently, my team is compiling footage from both VISIONS ‘13 and ‘14 (this year) in order to make an introductory video explaining what a hydrothermal vent is and why it is one of the most extreme environments in which animals can survive. After all, there is no light whatsoever, the pressure is 150 times what we experience on the continents, and the fluids coming out of the hydrothermal vents can reach temperatures of 700 degrees Fahrenheit, in stark contrast to the surrounding water temperature that stays just above freezing. Our video is a very simplified explanation of this process, but it is designed to provide some education as well as spark interest about this strange biosphere. We are also in the process of designing the format for our catalogue of the macrofauna in these areas.

The image attached shows some of the deep sea biology we’ve found. On the lower right is a species from the Peniagone genus, which is similar to a sea cucumber, but it can swim. On the upper left is an organism that looks like an enlarged sea pig, but we’re not entirely sure because it is about 10 times larger than the others we’ve seen like it. And covering the ground are brittle stars.

One of the ship’s deckhands thought up an awesome idea on the 18th. What would salt from the bottom of the ocean taste like? She was able to make the idea a reality when a large sample of water was sampled from 2,500 meters (7,750 feet) below the surface for her to boil down. She graciously gave out little baggies of salt to all who wanted some, which ended up looking quite unlike innocent plastics bags filled with salt… But the salt ended up tasting wonderful, which I especially enjoyed considering my notorious not-so-healthy fondness of the flavor.


15 & 16 July 2014

Sadly, the weather has kept ROPOS out of the water for the past day and a half. The amount of weight that we need to deploy on ROPOS into the ocean requires calmer seas, and if something went wrong due to the waves we would be SOL for a lot longer than if we simply wait it out. My team has kept busy with last year’s footage and we have mostly organized all of the video and stills that we want. Hopefully we can start looking at video from the first dive of this mission soon! After a couple hours of computer work, we had another incredible meal from the most amazing ship chefs I’ve ever known.

I haven’t raved about the food nearly as much as it deserves. Every day, we get three belt-busting meals with more variety than could literally fit onto a plate. If I wanted to try everything that was available for one meal I would only be able to have a single bite of each course and even then I would be stuffed. Steaks, crabaroni, pumpkin bars, a fruit bar, a salad bar… Not to mention the multitude of candy and snacks available 24/7. Needless to say, it has taken all my will power to not be in pain after every meal. I’m going to forget what hunger feels like if this keeps up.

After lunch yesterday, we received a short lecture from my roommate John Wonderly, a teacher-gone-student for the cruise. He teaches at Clallam Bay school district, which is a small school up near Neah Bay. He came aboard this cruise in order to get more familiar with the ship and its functions, as he is trying to better incorporate oceanography into the curriculum at his school. The school is even partnered up with the UW School of Oceanography, and they are applying for grants to beef up the ocean related programs. The time and energy he has volunteered in order to educate his students is inspiring. He spoke about ways that we could gear our projects towards an audience more similar to middle and high school kids such as his own. We brainstormed about possible ways to do this and are going to try to make our educational videos available to a wider variety of people for outreach purposes. He also said that if any of us would like an audience to speak about any of the things we’re doing here, his school is always all ears.

Today was more of the same, but we were able to start making better use of the rough seas by deploying the CTD in order to take water samples and make a few measurements. CTD stands for ‘conductivity temperature depth,’ which are the main measurements it takes. However it also has 24 Niskin bottles that it uses to obtain water samples at various depths in order to determine the water’s chemical content or amount of chlorophyll. Basically, the tops and bottoms of all the bottles are open, making it a tube, and when the CTD is on its way back up from the seafloor, the bottles are closed with the click of a mouse from the ship’s lab at a predetermined depth. I’ve attached a picture of it just before it goes in to create a better illustration.


14 July 2014

If there were a theme among the students for today, it would be seasickness.  Thankfully, however, my stomach has not yet been turned upside-down by the ocean! Knock on wood… An hour rarely passed without a person walking by in a wave-induced zombie state. And to top it off, none of us had gotten much sleep. Once we made it through the straights of Juan de Fuca and were sailing on the Pacific, the ocean did not let us forget our rooms’ proximity to the front of the boat.

It was another early morning, as John presented the last segment of his two-part lecture at 06:00 so that we could fit it into our busy day. He continued to remind us of the importance of the ocean in virtually every process on this planet, to which we listened in amazement despite the early hour. We found out that we’ve been tasked with finding various people aboard the ship to give daily lectures about the subject of our choosing, which is awesome. Being able to choose what we learn from who we want should be a welcome change in the cringe-worthy emotion brought to mind from the word ‘lecture.’ Our list includes themes ranging from deep sea mass spectrometers to Captain Cook. Also, our watch times were shown to us today. The duty of the person on watch is to look at a screen displaying the ROPOS camera footage and record on a program called IRLS any important or interesting incidents with a short description. Apparently, each person only has one 4-hour watch a day. Since we had all planned on having two of these sessions daily, this came as quite the wonderful surprise! At least it did before I saw some of last year’s incredible ROPOS footage, which almost made me want more.

For our biology project, we spent all day looking at the logging system for last year’s ROPOS dives in order to compile a species organized list of all the macro fauna spotted around Axial Seamount during VISIONS 13. This footage has been absolutely stunning and I cannot wait to start editing it into some of our videos. The reason for doing this was twofold. It allowed us to get a better feeling for the type and abundance of the animals, along with providing us with back-up footage in case we can’t get the video we need.


13 July 2014

Waking up at the crack of dawn to the sun rising over downtown Seattle was a perfect way to start this journey. Most of the undergrads on the ship got up at 4:45 to help Don get a time lapse of the beautiful morning views, and the footage we captured made it worth the lack of sleep. Before the ship even set sail, Don made around 8 time lapses of various shipboard activities, from the sunrise to the loading of ROPOS, which is a submersible used for scientific research. Anyway, after we all ate breakfast and recovered with some naps, we attended the onboard safety meeting while the tail end of the World Cup played out. I suppose the fact that I forgot about the game until the very end is a testament to the many curiosities of the Thompson! As Messi is my favorite player, I cringed when Germany scored in the final minutes of overtime.  Granted it was quite a nice goal. In the midst of the safety and fire drills, the ship headed out to sea and we officially began the trip. Katie, Sam, and I started planning out a timeline for our biology project after a meeting with all the big wigs of the VISIONS 14 mission. It is wonderful how approachable everyone onboard is. No matter if it’s a student or the chief scientist, everybody is a part of the same team. Once we finished dinner, John Delaney gave the students aboard a ‘goodnight’ lecture about the importance of the oceans, but in a very different approach than any other lecture I’ve been a part of. Instead of only using facts and statistics to explain the importance of the seas, he integrated into his speech the significance of the oceans in culture. Through art and music, we saw how much of an impact the oceans has had, and continue to has, in people’s ways of thinking: in their relationships, fears, beliefs, sense of adventure, the list goes on. The human element invokes a feeling no graph ever could.