Archive for July, 2010


The Melancholy Penetrates

I am in the Portland airport.  I have had a few Rogue beers, so forgive the typos!  I am staring out over a runway and am struck by the amount of evergreen trees that I see in the background.  I was also struck by this simply while driving around Portland… you get on the highway for about 10 minutes and you are somewhere beautiful.  I think the Portland would be a really cool live, and I think that the West coast might be my next move.  Anyhow, I am getting nostalgic thinking about the Atlantis and her crew and the Alvin, and all that we did over the last few weeks.  The day before we left the Boatswain apologized for the number of dives that we had to give up due to weather.  It was clearly not his fault, but he felt bad that we had missed out on an inordanate ammount of science.  “when you dont succeed, we don’t succeed” he said.  This really epitomized for me the attitude that the crew of the Atlantis as well as the Alvin guys had throughout our cruise.  They were there to help us get our science done, and if that meant they had to work through the night doing CTD opps so that folks could dive the next day there were no complaints (that I heard anyways).  I was lucky to get to know an awesome group of scientists, deck hands, engineers, Alvin pilots and techs, galley folks, and other sailors that I dont know the right title for.  They were all there to help learn more about the deep sea, and all of us science folks would not have been able to accomplish our work without their help.

I look forward to meeting the boat in Wood’s Hole in September!

A silly movie

Throughout the trip, Octavian was great traveling companion.  He wasn’t able to go down in the sub (apparently they don’t like flammable materials, go figure) but he did help out in many ways.

Octavian reconnects with a long lost relative in Portland before the cruise.

Octavian enjoys Alaskan Amber at the dock before heading out to sea.

Octavian, photodocumentarian.

Octavian helps set up our equilibration column.

Despite a lab motto that is not fit for public consumption, Octavian is all about the safety!

Octavian keeps an eye on the syrum vial and Kiana filters some seawater.

Octavian tries to spot me as I climb around the van in rough seas… I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wouldn’t do much good if I fell.

Under Kiana’s spell, Octavian experiments with Hawaiian traditions.

Octavian really wanted to be part of the science, but I had to explain to him that the pressure vessels really aren’t the best place for a small octopus.

Octavian checks out the styrofoam art being prepared for deep sea shrinkage.

Octavian and BaBaBaBa (Charles’ stowaway friend) check out the contents of our awesome Hump Day Box!

Octavian, being the gentleman that he is, does some sketchy electronics so that I don’t have to risk getting shocked.

Octavian hasn’t undergone radiation safety training, so he can’t come into the rad van.  However, he likes to make sure we’re ok while we’re in there.

Octavian and his pal Charles.

Octavian enjoys the sun on the way back into Astoria.

Unfortunately I did not have Octavian with me at dinner last night, but I did see evidence that one of his family members was an important part of the brew pub.

The cruise is over.  About 80 mason jars of sulfides, and 5 coolers worth of frozen samples are waiting for us experiment on or analyze them.  This is a daunting task, but one that I look forward to.  I am in Portland now and have a much faster internet connection, so I figured I would post some more photos.

I think I mentioned a while a go that one of the cores we took came up all clay-mud.  We had fun doing some deep sea pottery.  Apparently someone in Woods Hole actually sells the stuff!

This is another picture from one of our rough seas, non-dive days.  You can’t really tell from this image, but the stern of the ship rising and falling below the height of the waves was pretty cool.

Kiana and I at work in the rad van.

Another image from inside Alvin on the day of my dive.  This is the pilot Dave, my dive-buddy Ben, and myself on the way back up to the surface.

copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Another image from the botton.  This is a deep sea spider crab that was hanging out near one of our sampling sites.

When the sub surfaces, two swimmers are needed to help connect it to the A-frame to be craned on board.  Here Ronnie and James are the swimmers here.  They were lucky this day with a little bit of sun.  Most days it was gray and windy… I did not envy them!

Some more photos

Octavian gets some exercise while Kiana and I clean out the isotope van.  Thankfully, Charles was keeping and eye on him.  I have a feeling he really wants to take a swim.

A beautiful Juan de Fuca Ridge sulfide!

This is what all the fuss is about.  These rocks can be pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself (and I do)!  Minerals and microbes… woot woot!

Samples awaiting transport back to Cambridge for more experiments

It looks like a bizarre canning session, but not as tasty.  We have about 90 of these jars ready to be shipped back home.  I hope the communities survive until we can run more experiments.

I haven’t only been dealing with sulfides out here.  These vent tubeworms are pretty neat too.  Many of them survive the trip up to the surface, which is pretty amazing considering the changes in pressure.  Getting them out of their tubes is pretty interesting.  The easiest way is actually to blow on one end like a straw… yummy!

I came out of the van tonight to dump some water overboard from one of the water baths we were taking down and noticed the tail end of a beautiful sunset.  It was just the purple-orange glow that remains after the sun is below the horizon, but I could tell it had been beautiful about 30 minutes before.  It occurred to me that I haven’t seen a single sunset out here.  I am not sure how that happened.  I guess I have just been busy with work and didn’t think to make the time.  I made my way to the bow a bit later to take in the moon, and it almost made up for missing the sunset.  It was huge (I think full last night) and masked behind a bit of fog.  Being able to turn 180 degrees and see the remnants of the sun in contrast to the moon is one of those things best experienced at sea.  The last day or so has been full of some pretty big waves, and standing outside watching them – watching the ocean move as it does has been very therapeutic – kind of washes away some of the stress of packing, organizing, and whatnot.

Tomorrow we get into shore at three, and the packing will continue, without the expanse of the open ocean to take the mind wandering… I almost don’t want it to be over.

A few photos!

Me in Alvin... sporting my Williams-Mystic t-shirt! (July 11, 2010)

Whoa, a photo!!!

Octavian hanging out on the door to the the rad van.

Dive 4622, 7/11/2010, copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This is a shot from my dive.  In the foreground (right side) is a camera arran that was on Alvin’s basket.  You also see Alvin’s arm taking the temperature in a black smoker.  This one registered 290 degrees celsius!

life near hydrothermal vents, Main Endeavor field, Copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Here I am chiseling away at one of our sulfides.

Today was a good day, we caught up on some sleep, shook tubes in the rad van (we sang disco while we were doing it – shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your toobies), crushed some final sulfides and started packing up.
It is hard to believe that we have finished collecting samples (there are a couple of dives left, but our stuff is all done), and have transitioned into thinking about cleaning up. Kiana and I got our last sulfide sample today. They were not able to remove the instrument from the chimney as we had hoped, which was a bit of a bummer. Apparently, when something is stuck into a chimney for 2 years it gets pretty stuck… go figure. Other than that, we can’t complain. Our last sets of experiments are in wrapping up in the next couple of days, and we have already started packing things away and making lists of what needs to be done to get samples and some gear shipped back, while the majority of our stuff is going to ride the ship back to Wood’s Hole in September. I am looking forward to driving down to meet it.

Also, I have been given permission to take a few days off when I get back. Hopefully I can head up to Maine for the weekend of July 31st.

Finally… I received an awesome compliment from one of the crew the other day. He referred to me as an “unassuming badass”. I like it.

(still no luck uploading pictures, I promise I have been trying)

feeling good

It is before midnight, and I am done with the day’s work.  This feels strange… whatever should I do with my time?  I suppose sleep would be wise, but I think Roxie’s vampire book will win out.  Anyhow, I am feeling really good about things out here on the Juan de Fuca.  My only real complaint is that internets are still too slow to share photos (grrrr), but I will keep trying.

We have run a few experiments.  We have a couple more planned.  We have tons of samples to bring back to the lab and work with (Mark, we got you covered!).  Kiana and I are both confident that we will have enough material to write our theses!   Kiana dove today, and we both agree that the rock structures were the coolest thing we saw.  It is hard to picture the size and scale of these chimney’s without seeing them first hand.  Now that we have actually been to one of our main study sites (we both dove at Main Endeavor) I think we both have a much more visceral understanding of the environment. Geoff has more worms than he can process at the moment, and we have lots of mud (and even some experiments) to bring back for Melissa.  So, all in all, life for team G-BAC is pretty good.  It is hard to believe that we are approaching the end of the cruise.  We have already started planning the packing, cleaning, and transitioning back into lab life.

Tomorrow the sub dives to one more site of importance – trying to retrieve an experiment and replace it with a new one.  If things go well, team Sulfide will have accomplished virtually all of our science objectives.  Giddy up.

Photo upload fail!

I have spent the last 30 minutes trying to upload a few photos to share with you all.  Unfortunately, the internets out here are so slow I am giving up for the night.  Sorry.  I will try again tomorrow.