Journal Entry for:
July 31, 2007
As the sun rose off of the bow of the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, the crew finished loading all of the needed gear and scientific party to set sail for the two-week cruise in the Pacific. There were heart-felt goodbyes for some, and excited grins on every undergraduate's face. We headed straight to Canadian waters to meet the staff of ROPOS, an ROV. In this particular cruise, the vessel will dive to the depths of the Endeavour Segment, and see the breathing hydrothermal vents. We sailed North and arrived at the Canadian Coast Guard docks of Victoria with anticipation for the loading of ROPOS. As the sun set, we all took to the streets to get our last tastes of land.
August 1, 2007
The next day, we were delightfully surprised to discover that the loading of ROPOS would take more than a few hours, thus we were allowed to continue wandering the streets of quaint Victoria. With the sun shining brightly over our heads, a few went site-seeing to the museums while others went for long walks and trinket shopping. When we returned to the ship, we could see the development on the fantail, as more and more of it had been loaded with the required gear. The crew continued to load the ship until dusk and then packed themselves to bed awaiting tomorrow, which would be the day we set sail into the Pacific.
August 2, 2007
Today we continued to work on our course website in the morning. In the afternoon we had a brief safety meeting on the ship, followed by Survival Suit introduction and try on session. Everyone looked like a family of GUMBIES. At 2 PM, We finally left the Victoria Coast Guard Station for the continental slope on the West side of Vancouver Island. Along the way the ROPOS crew performed a dunk test on the ROV, to make sure we were ready for travel. In the Hydro-lab, we were all briefed on our specific job training for the ROPOS dive. At 4 PM we had a brief introduction to the NEPTUNE Canada project from Brian Bornhold and Cheryl Katnik. After dinner we continued to work on the class website. The ship was headed toward the ODP889 site, estimated arrival time was 4:00 AM August 3rd, 2007.
August 3, 2007
First watch stood at 0400. Very first ROPOS dive took place about half way through the first watch. On the way down there was some excitement from the watch standers when a squid passed by the ROV. Throughout the morning watch, we saw so many ratfish that we just didn't even bother taking pictures. Most of them were pretty lethargic and just laid there on the bottom. The hardest part for this first dive was getting used to what to do at our stations and what the routine would be for the cable survey. For the most part the seafloor looked very featureless except for the trawl scars that we kept finding.
Second watch stood at 1600. We saw enough sea cucumbers to make a living off of the Asian food market. Again, we were still finding lots of ratfish and a whole lot of brittle stars as well as sea cucumbers. The most amusing part of the day was finding a beer can and a coffee mug. For the most part, the sea has been pretty calm. On occasion, the swells get large enough to not only lift the ship but also bring the ROV up a little as well.
August 4, 2007
The start of the midnite to 4 am watch marked the completion of the first 24 hours of the ODP 889 cable route survey. Within minutes of beginning our data logging duties, the ROPOS ROV came upon a large object that turned out to be a neatly stacked pile of military ordnance sitting on the bottom right in the proposed cable route. They were artillery projectiles that were once contained on a pallet or in a wooden box that had long since decomposed away. Two insights that I gained from this event were the importance of visual observation in ocean bottom exploration, and how mans actions of the past can influence our actions in the future. Obviously, the knowledge of unexploded ordnance will be an important action item to address before expensive cable laying equipment is used along this route. During our night shift we observed numerous bottom trawl scars, a large water logged tree with bare branches and isolated sightings of individual angular rocks and metal debris. Some notable marine organisms sighted along this fairly flat undulating soft sediment included, several octopus, rattail fish, skates, sea bass, sole, hag fish, crabs, sea whips , sea pens, jellyfish, brittle stars, starfish, seastars and anemones.
August 5, 2007
The survey of Barkely canyon was finished uneventfully. As soon as ROPOS was hauled up we headed for the next site, Endeavor. A full day of steaming brought us to the ridge itself and we prepared to deploy the ROV. About 1930 we spotted ocean bottom and honed in on the OBS acoustic sensor. Lo and behold the sensor was still there alas the weights holding the data logger had been dropped. Since ROPOS had come down light to the seafloor to pick up the weights, we had to find the weights in order for the vehicle to be properly ballasted. After 10 minutes of searching we found them and loaded them onto the “porch”, the platform on the front of ROPOS. The OBS was successfully recovered and the dive continued.
August 6, 2007
In the early hour of 3:30 a.m., I fell out of my top bunk and fumbled my way through my locker for my clothes for the day. I awaited four hours of navigation during recovery of the second seismometer of the past twelve hours. After arriving in the ROPOS van, I noticed the vast darkness stretching out ahead of the her cameras. She was preparing to surface and it would be another two hours before we arrive at our next destination. Such is the hit and miss of the shifts. One can be thrown into the chaos of the intense action or can walk into the satisfaction of a job well done and goals finally achieved. Here begins the waiting game for the next dive.
What was recovered earlier that morning made its way into the main lab at 4:45 a.m.We watched attentively as Wilcock and his croonies began the steps to recover the data from their sphere that had recorded the rumblings from the sea floor for the past two years. As they unwrapped the sphere, we awaited the deathly lunge of some alien creature that would infiltrate the ship. The alien had been a pipe dream, but just as intriguing was the gentle manuevering of the top of the sphere to gain access to all of the secrets of the deep earthquakes that had rattled the bottom of the sea. The process is not a quick one and requires steady hands and patience. The voice of the deep sea earthquakes has now become part of the waiting game...patience.
August 7, 2007
We spent much of the 7th exploring an area south of Mothra for a new hydrothermal field. Previous CTD work showed temperature anomalies in the overlying water column, but the Alvin had found only extinct structures on a dive last summer. ROPOS followed the valley wall, often along a 6 to 10 meter deep fault. The topography was far more varied than that seen on the other dives of this cruise. The basin to the east contained a thick lake of hydrothermal sediments, while the slope to the west varied between talus jumbles, steep scarps of truncated pillow and lobate flows. Hydrothermally altered basalts and massive sulfide edifices and chimneys proclaimed a once extensive and enormous vent field. However, none of the structures discovered showed current venting. Biological evidence also suggested the larger structures had been inactive for some time. Meter tall sponges and large fan corals topping the chimneys could only have grown after the rock cooled significantly, and expected vent species such as tube worms and mat forming bacteria were noticeably absent. However, at least one sulfide edifice showed animals suggestive of recent venting. Besides mapping the extent of the extinct field, the dive had other merits. We caught video footage of a rare deep sea lobster, one of a mere handful of sightings ever noted. ROPOS also brought a score of rock samples back to the surface, including altered basalts, sulfide, and minerals such as pyrite, chalcopyrite and malachite. These samples can be related to the prevailing conditions at the extinct vents, including temperature and flow rates, and provide further insight into the workings of hydrothermal vents.
August 9, 2007
I ventured into the ROPOS van at a quarter to four in the morning to step into my navigation role. We had already been in the Main Endeavour Field for at least a few hours as I could see by the transit lines already sketched on the map. There are so many details involved in this dive (See Main Endeavour Field dive narrative) but one set of details stood out among the rest. Before I began to untangle the intricacies of latitudes and longitudes relative to this marker and that structure, someone tugged on my arm and pointed to the monitor. Trapped on the underside of a shelf on the Smoke and Mirrors structure appeared to be a shimmering body, similar in shape to an air bubble caught underneath the hull of a vessel. It circulated within its own body yet did not seem to grow or shrink. It reminded me of a pool of mercury that may have leaked from an old thermometer. Was it a pocket ocean from an upside down world? I wondered, for a moment, if it served as a window into another realm, like some aquatic wormhole. I have never seen anything like it on land. Even the most beautiful sunset on a shimmering, crystal lake could not do this entity justice. It is alive.
August 10, 2007
Early this morning (after midnight) Justin and Andrew were playing ping pong in the lab. This was rather entertaining for a while, but it just couldn't compare to the ROPOS crew working on the fantail listening to some good classic rock. Bruce and I were sitting in the station bay watching them work and listening to the music when one of the ROPOS crew walks up and said, "You guys need beers." It probably wasn't too far from the truth. At around 0330, most of us decided to finally go to sleep. Later that morning was a science meeting followed by a meeting of all of the Ocean 411 students to work on the website. By this time our collective sanity could probably be called into question, especially when we met again after lunch to put together our photo galleries. It became a pretty large laugh fest as we started picking photos of just our daily ship life.
Today had perfect weather. The sun was out with just enough clouds to keep us cool. Bruce and I noticed a sunfish as well as some flying fish pass by. As the ROPOS crew put the ROV in the water, a pair of trawlers chugged along by. After taking a nap this evening, I woke up after having a nightmare about writing the dive narrative that I was assigned. Later this evening a bunch of us will probably be on deck to watch the meteor shower around midnight.
August 11, 2007
The Perseus meteor shower has arrived and we were treated to an early morning clear sky. Far removed from urban light contamination, we lay on the foredeck and shouted our ooooh's and awe's with each meteorite traversing across the sky. Although this evening's meteor shower is predicted to be even more spectacular, rainy weather may ruin the event. A group of us were treated to a tour of the engineering spaces of the ship by the 1st engineer. In the morning, Dr. Brian Bornhold gave the science staff a lecture on local tsunami events and in the evening Dr. Kim Juniper discussed thermal vent biology, ecology and vent field management topics. The ROPOS group has been busy all day, beginning with a 0900 ROV deployment to lay a one kilometer length of test cable, a follow up cable inspection dive and a test cable recovery dive. With a multitude of seabirds hanging out around the ship and a pod of porpoises swimming by in the distance, it was exhilarating to watch the ROPOS crew working methodically to recover the ROV with Super Tramp's "It's a long way home" playing in the background on the ROPOS stereo system. The ROPOS ROV cable test was an overall success and the NEPTUNE Canada team was pleased. We will soon be starting our transit back to Esquimalt and we will be busy placing the final touches on our assigned contributions to the ROPOS 2007 cruise report.