Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lacktivation Energy and Heavy Sees

Deer Deep Reeders,

Well its been three days since my last post. We are currently smack in the middle of a 5 day Drilling Project leg. This is the other group whose site is about 120 miles from ours. After much rangling and negotiations, it seems our group will get two more dives on the Axial Volcano. There hasn’t been much going on for me here, except a lot of down time. Well, down time isn’t quite the right term. Fix time. Everytime I try to fix something two other things break. It really takes the motivation out of blogging and whatnot. To give a quick numbers run by of problems faced by me, either fixed or not right now:

-2 problematic low pressure pumps
-5 faulty high pressure pumps (2 repaired so far)
-1 freezing up data collecting computer (replaced with my laptop so I’m typing this on Scott’s Laptop)
-2 water baths that don’t reach full temperature (out of 2, but I think I have a work around)
-Instrument issues, reading that I have more oxygen at the outlet than the inlet (not physically possible)
-Oh, and the partridge fell out of the pear tree.

Sigh. Other than constantly challenging my underwhelming electrical and plumbing skills, the cruise is going pretty smoothly right now. I can’t do all the controls and calibrations I’ve been trying to get, but a 5 day downtime means I probably can get to the bottom of some of these issues. And currently I do have a working system. I have absolutely nothing in back up right now that works, so I’m hope hope hoping the rest of this holds on for a few more days. I think of this as trying to coax a 300000 mile, 1981 honda civic through the Sierra Nevada mountains on a one way trip to California. If you can get through those last few uphills, it can pretty much coast into the driveway, and you can sell it for scraps if necessary.

Also, we’ve had some heavy Sees out here, with sets coming through up to 15 feet. The Alvin recovery two days ago was impressive to say the least. The roughest I’ve ever seen. Here, I’ll show you. Oh, and Dave the pilot had his very first full fledged dive in it! He got hit with buckets of icy water by the whole Alvin group, and was given one to douse himself.

You know its a rough day if you need hard hats to drive around in a little boat.

This is Mark's High Pressure System. He's had some pressure issues, but now he's up and holding. Go Mark!

May your days low pressure and low stress, unlike mine (haha double pun).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back on Track

Hey folks,

Repairs and sea trials are complete, and we are headed to the other group's site, which is a borehole placed by the Ocean Drilling Project. They are going to collect a number of samples, deploy some new sensors, and recover a hole cover they call a "cork". I will not be getting any new samples, so i completed another series of comparative studies today on a species called Paralvinella palmiformis. I normally work on P. sulfincola.
With luck and good weather (*knocking on every piece of wood i see*) we should be able to get a total of 9 dives, one more than the best scenario we were given a couple days ago. So, woohoo!

This is a quick update cause i'm tired and i'm gonna try to make breakfast tomorrow. I'm going to use the "down" time to do a number of control trials, testing pump flow rates, probe calibrations, etc. Fun times. Oh, I went out on the bow tonight. The stars were gorgeous. I could see the Dipper, Casseopea (sp?), Scorpio, Mars (i think), and the band of the milky way. It was awe inspiring. Nature rox!
Ciao 4 now.

My cute little worms! Their gills are red because they are filled with blood like us.

A glassy day on the Juan de Fuca. Rare, indeed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Contingencies, Seawater, Heroes, and....Seels!

Hey Reeders!

Geoff's Back! I figured it would be more fun to tell the story through pictures this time. Enjoy!

As Mark mentioned, yesterday was my birthday! I'm 28 years young and as was pointed out, only 2 years from 30 and halfway to 56. Other than pointing out that i'm getting old, Kiana made me a reeses peanut butter cup "cake" complete with post-it note candles.
So, we got into Astoria Oregon at 7am this morning to work on the broken thruster. I had to do a lot of juggling and trimming of my experiment list to figure out how to deal with this extra down time. One major problem I had was we ran out of seawater last night to filter. No seawater! On a BOAT! crazy. We were docked in brackish river water and I needed new seawater for the worms. Sooooo.... after a bunch of calling around, we found out the best place to get clean seawater would be.....

The Seaside, Oregon Aquarium! If you ever get a chance to visit, take it. It is small, but privately run and really sweet! Tiffany, an aquarist there, was our hero of the day withher seawater hose hookup. After filling up a bunch of buckets and a carboy in our pickup truck, she gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility.

And they have harbor seals! Or should i say, harbor seels. And....

We got to feed them! That's me tossing a fish to the hungry seals. They were doing various tricks and stunts to get us to feed them. There were 11 of them, most of them born there in captivity, even 3rd or 4th generation- some of them. Tiffany told us that one of their females had lived over 30 years! That's quite a long time for seals.

After Tiffany (Hero number 1) hooked us up, we headed back to the ship, with a stop demanded by Suni for more chocolate. Back at the lab, Kiana and Mark set about to try and filter the water, and we only had hand pumps. And it took, well...just shy of forever. Enter Brandon, hero number 2! He had a big filter system, and it was automated. So we got lots of fresh clean seawater for my now happy worms. There were no more sulfincola alive (T_T) so the contingency was to work with palmiformis, the other species with slightly lower tolerance.

After getting the system up and running, it was time to hit the town with the successful team. Upon recommendation by Tiffany and the gate guard, we headed over to the Fort George Brewery. Oregon has some pretty awesome breweries, including Rogue right in Astoria, but Fort George ranks pretty highly even among them. I recommend the Victory IPA. Delicious.

On the 2 mile walk back to the ship I saw this sign by the train tracks. Awesome. Note the hair toupee or something like that on the stick figure. It seemed to be speaking to Mark since he kept getting beat up by lamp posts, side view mirrors, uneven pavement, and random things that seemed to jump into his path. He may love Astoria, but it seems to be displeased with him. Anyways, we're headed to sea again tomorrow at noon to test the thruster and hopefully back to the vents. Optimistically, we might only lose 3 total dives, and still get 2 more chances to get samples. And Kiana and I might still get a chance at Alvin. :)

Smooth Sailing Deep Reeders.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rigging for a flip...

Hey Folks,

My name is Mark and I'll be your guest blogger tonight. Today is Geoff's birthday so he could not be bothered to write a blog.

Unfortunately we are headed to Astoria after only two dives. It's strange to be headed in because we are just getting into the flow of the cruise. So it goes in the world of oceanography. On a more positive note, we've had two dives and gotten useful science from each. Suni went on the first dive and I went on the second. It was my first trip to the bottom of the ocean and it was amazing. I felt like I was in the world's largest tide pool. There were anemonies, sea cucumbers, big fish, and worms everywhere. We visited three hydrothermal vents named Inferno, Hell and Mushroom. We used an underwater mass spectrometer to measure dissolved gasses in fluid flowing from Inferno and Mushroom. At Hell we scooped some worms into a mini-wok and then cooked them with hot water. The biologists tell me that they want to study the thermal tolerance of worms...I think they just want to invent new ways to torture the poor critters. Finally we collected a bunch more specimens for the biologists on the ship.

When I got up from the dive the two Geoffs (Dilly and Wheat) were ready to douse me with six buckets of ice water. Brrr...but worth it!

This unscheduled trip to Astoria is a blow to our plans for the cruise. However, we can be thankful that we have gotten some good results. Geoff got worms from both dives and he is busy torturing/studying them as we speak.

Tomorrow we will wake up in port. However, before we go to bed we need to secure all our equipment. We will be crossing the Columbia River bar which is notorious for rough seas. I used to be a raft guide and since I was not very skillful, I flipped a lot. I quickly learned how to rig for a flip in order to not lose all my gear. My labmates are all very impressed with the rigging of my work bench.

The very best case scenario for this interruption is that we get back to sea in about three days time. That would give us time for 8 more dives. It has yet to be determined how these would be split between the two groups sharing this expedition. We are hoping for at least one more and maybe two. If the repairs drag on then we will probably not get any more dives. We shall see.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates.



The Girguis Group- 8/24/09 on the bow of the Atlantis.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


A series of problems have befallen our cruise. First we didn't make it out to the site fast enough to get in our extra "insurance" dive that wasn't scheduled but that we might have had if we had gotten out easier. Next, seasickness claimed Kiana and a few others for a couple days, unfortunately. Day three now and she's up and seeming a bit peppier again, which is good.

I may be burying the headline here, but worst of all, one of our thrusters blew. Now this ship only has 2 thrusters, so instead of going 12 knots we can only go 5 now, which makes overnight transits between sites impossible. Even worse, they are probably going to go to shore to fix it during the cruise. This will cause us to lose a minimum of 4 days. We'll have to limp very slowly back to shore, then get the part, and hook up with technicians then head back out. This means both groups lose 2 dives.

Our group is down to 4 dives, which is just enough for each of us. Originally I planned to go third since we were going to split our dives up, and therefore I wouldn't have a system to maintain during the day while I was diving. Now, since bad weather is coming in over the next couple days, we are going to have only 2 more dives before we head to port. When we go back out, we'll go to the other group's site for all of their dives. If (and on this cruise that's a dirty word) there are no more mishaps and everything goes hunky dory we'll get one final dive. This would be my dive. But its unlikely I'll get it. So, like last year, I'll probably get screwed out of a dive. I understand science comes first and that's why I am not taking dive 3 so that i can maintain the system, and I would definitely trade an alvin dive for graduating faster, but it sucks. I started this cruise with the opportunity at a possible second dive, and now it looks like i won't get a first.

Well, enough ranting. Now for some good news, first dive was today and Suni had her very first dive! We got her wet with icy cold water, and then pranked her by tying different types of cables all over her bunk (she had needed a crucial one earlier in the morning). Also, I got plenty of worms! They are hopefully happy in my chambers. I have a pretty ridiculous setup, that i'll show you here...
More to come, and guest bloggers! Stay tuned...

Setting up the buckets of icy welcome for Suni's Return.
One second before she was soaked. Water baptism is a ritual for each Alvin first timer.

Late night snacks!

My set up! Heat baths, pumps and most of all.... TUBING.

My worms in their steel homes acclimating overnight in the heat baths.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deer Deep Reeders,

I may not be able to tell which day i'm on after a couple weeks, but I sure got it down this time. We are on Day 1, and we left the dock at 8am. The lab set up continues. Some good victories- computer secured, shipboard balance set up without instructions (after we jimmied the lock that didn't supposedly exist and had no key or code with a dremel tool and a couple screw drivers), and got through the science briefing, alvin briefing, safety meeting, fire and boat drill, put on survival suits (only Kiana this time), and made it through the first day of rolling waves, stomachs mostly intact.

The internet is actually moderately un-fail right not so I'm going to attempt to post a picture or two of our antics out here.

Our team is Mark Nielsen, Suni Shah, Kiana Frank, and yours truly. Scott joined us for a couple days in Seattle to help set up the Mass Spec but he's headed back to his family today. So I've tried to include a picture of everyone involved. Total there are 26 scientists, 22 crew, and 8 alvin staff/pilots on board this trip, so its a full boat. A few old faces, and a lot of new ones to me. More about the life out here and the science when we get started. First dive scheduled for saturday, with Suni and her Mass Spec. Yay!

Ok Pictures...

Scott and Suni (Team Mass Spectators) at the dinner the evening before sailing.

Mark and his snazzy unistrut "rigged to roll" system.

Kiana demontrating excellent dexterity in the survival "gumby" suit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

T -14hours

Hey Deep Reeders!

Its about 6pm the night before we ship off. I am sitting here in the biolab near the front port side of the Atlantis. We are about to head off to dinner, home depot, and walmart to pick up some last minute supplies. The lab is a crazy mess of wires, tubes, pumps, sampling containers, and general supplies as we set up for our sail. The Atlantis ships off at 0800 tomorrow morning.

We've already had our Alvin briefing, and the oh-so-fun Safety Briefing happens tomorrow morning as we cruise out of Seattle. Speaking of, Seattle has been gorgeous! Been here since monday, and its been sunny and mid-70s every day. I know this is the best time of the year to visit, and it shows. I got to hang out with my college roommate since he lives up here, and we got lunch today at Pike's Place. So pretty! Also, the location of the thrown fish and the first Starbucks.

So, shipping off tomorrow, and I'll post from the sea next!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deep Sea-er

Hello Deep Reeders,

As you can probably tell from the title of this blog, I'm going to attempt to update everyone on my deep sea travels. I'm headed out August 20th on the Atlantis Cruise 15-51. It has 14 scheduled dives, and returns to land September 6th. This will be my 4th cruise on the Atlantis, and my 6th multi-day research cruise on any vessel. I'm hoping to get a bunch of awesome data from my cute little worms of which i'll talk about soon. For now, here's a picture from a previous cruise, from my first and so far only Alvin Dive in 2007.