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Time flies

Written 7/19/2011

It’s hard to believe that our science on this cruise is almost over. This morning The sub picked up the last three iSmacs (my mineral samplers) that we had deployed and set out the three that we are going to leave out there. We are hoping that a colleague who will be working in the area in a month or so can pick them up or that we can get back out here next summer to collect them. I hesitate to write this because I don’t want to jinx things before the last 3 are in hand and sampled, but it’s pretty exciting how well things have gone with these samplers so far. Who knows if I will be able to extract DNA from them, but the deployment and collection has been pretty smooth. A couple have gotten broken by the sub arm during deployment, but nothing that I couldn’t fix.

This afternoon we take the final sample with the big instrument (the ESP) and tomorrow the instrument gets pulled, and the remaining couple of dives are not ours, so we will begin packing things and making sure we have all the necessary data files etc.

We have been able to collect lots of different types of samples at the same time or at least in the same area. Between ESP, iSmacs, niskin water samples that get preserved in a variety of ways, sulfide rocks, and tube worm collections we will be able to put together a nice picture of the microbiology of the area with good geochemical data to go alongside. Hopefully this will form a compelling story and translate into a nice paper or two.

It has also been fun to peek over the geologists shoulders. There is a group out here studying lava flows, so I have enjoyed talking with them and seeing how they do their science. The portions of the dives that they have controlled have been fun t watch too, because they go away from the vents and look at the area surrounding the vents that I would probably never see otherwise. Believe it or not, those lava flows are beautiful and very diverse in terms of shape and size of features and general texture.

I have to say that I am feeling scientifically rejuvenated. It’s easy to get discouraged after a year of lab work with out any great successes, but being out here watching the video feed from the sea floor every day gets me excited, once again, about the work I am doing. This is probably a good mindset to be in right before my qualifying exam (scheduled for September 6th).


Written 7/16/11

No dive today. Something happened with the cable getting caught this morning and they had to pull back Doc Rikits. Hopefully they will be able t make the repairs, and we qcan dive tomorrow.

Yesterday was a great tive. We deployed all 9 iSmacs: 6 in one location near the ESP, and 6 right near a chimney called Marshmallow. S nice the dive today was cancelled, there will not be a 42 hour deployment, but that is probably fine. The question is when to collect and which ones to leave out there. As soon as I get the first few back I can start to prepare the last 3.


Yesterday was an exciting dive even though we spent more than 6 hours sitting in one place charging the big instrument that this cruise is focused on. The instrument is called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), and is really cool because it does molecular biology that we normally do in lab on the sea floor. The downside is that it takes hours each day to charge, which is a bit boring from the control room side of things.

Anyhow, the dive was exciting because we brought up 3 of my iSmacs.


One of my samplers ready (almost) to go.


Nice clean “ship-shape” lab space, we’ll see how long it stays that way.

Written 7/12/11

We set sail tomorrow, and despite frustrations 24 hours ago, I feel pretty good about things. Charles (aka Dr. C) spent most of the day helping me repair and prepare my samplers for deployment, and I think we are just about good to go. I even had a couple of pictures to show you, but of course I am having Internet issues. I am thankful that I had today to get things organized, and didn’t have to do it while traveling and seasick!

Luckily for me (although maybe problematic down the line if bad weather continues) we have an extra day in port.  We set “sail” tomorrow morning, and I have no doubt that by tomorrow around noon I will be feeling un-awesome.  The first dive of the cruise is scheduled for Thursday around noon, and the microbial samplers that I have built over the last few months need to be ready to go by then.  The only problem is that the epoxy that I used seems to have been screwed up when I soaked them in ethanol to sterilize, so I have to re-do a lot of the creation of little mineral tubes that I did in lab weeks ago.  Awesome.  We can’t get on the ship until 10 am because they are re-fueling.  Awesome.  It’s cool – I always love a challenge, and what better challenge than drilling holes, working with toxic epoxy, and not spilling tiny mineral grains while steaming out in no-so-great whether, while sea sick.  Bring it on.

It’s that time again!

I’m sitting in Logan airport, waiting for the flight to Phoenix, where I will wait for the next flight to Portland. This year I will be sailing on the Western Flyer rather than the Atlantis. It is a smaller boat, which probably means I will be more seasick…sigh.

This year we will once again be on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, but we will be further South at Ashes vent field in Axial caldera. I’ll see if I can find a map for the next post. We will be deploying an exciting instrument to do some molecular biology on the sea floor in a hydrothermal diffuse flow. I also have a side project planned that involves deploying microbial samplers filled with diffrent minerals to see if different microbial communities grow on different minerals commonly found in vents.

More soon… Hopefully the boss shows up soon and doesn’t miss our flight!

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!