Thursday, July 29, 2010

First 2010 Pictorals

My friend Chip, helping me watch my system. Make sure the pressure gets up to 2200, Chip!

This is a picture of me opening up the very last chamber (hopefully) of my thesis!

Farewell, JdF - 2010!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Afternoon reeders!

We have arrived from See after three cruisin' weeks. I am currently on sitting on a bed in Portland, and I'll catch you up one last time. In our last three days of sea, we only had one more dive.

By the numbers:

Total days at sea: 21
Total scheduled dives: 16
Total potential dives: 19
Total actual dives: 10
Lost to weather: 8
Lost to transit: 1
Worms processed: 465
Pumps Lost: 4
Pumps Rebuilt: 3
Dry Ice Coolers Mailed: 6
Coolers as Checked Luggage: 4
Worm Experiments Run: 16

No worm experiments left: Priceless.

After we got everything packed up on the 26th, we went out to dinner at a nice Thai restaurant and a local bar I've gotten to know pretty well over the last 4 years - The Portway. The tab was picked up by the PI's, as is cruise party tradition - Thanks Pete, Ray, Marv, and Norm!! We definitely did some damage to those kegs, as our party hit four figures over the evening. Wowzer. This was followed by an inebriated game of ping pong against my towering scientist friend, Ben (6'6") whose reach gave him an advantage so large against me that I had not won a single game against him under normal conditions. However, thoughtfully subdued by whiskey and physically mellowed by beer, he succumbed finally, and tarnished his perfect record against me. Horray!

The next morning we packed up the remaining materials into the van and split up into two groups. Pete, Adrienne and Charles picked up a Uhaul and drove to portland - mailing off frozen samples and getting a hotel room. Kiana, Heather, and I stayed one more night on the Atlantis to both save some hotel money and be on standby for any sort of last minute cover. Heather and I checked out a cute, but tiny and overpriced maritime museum in town and then went to dinner with Ben. Afterwards we found the Goonie's house - filmed there in Astoria, and climbed the tower to have a panoramic view of the vast foglands of Northern Oregon. With a fog ceiling of only a couple hundred feet, it was like a horizontal disk of Avalon stretching for 10 miles in every direction. Tired from weeks of work, a night of drinking, and little sleep on any night, i packed it in before 11pm, and slept past 9am the next morning - marking the most sleep i'd gotten in almost a month by many hours.

The next morning, we had one last breakfast at a cozy local dinner called the Pig 'N Pancake and then headed up to Portland. It was a (mostly) beautiful 3 hour drive down through the mountain trees and rolling hills and foggy cliffs of Oregon. There we met Charles and Pete (Adrienne was with her family who lives around here) and dropped off the U-haul. We said goodbye to Pete who flew that night and then we checked out 29th street in Portland. There were funky bars and coffee shops which we patronized before heading back to the hotel and lamely passed out. I was asleep checking my email, sitting up, by 11:30pm again. This time I slept all the way to 10am. I feel mostly refilled today, so I think I've recovered the sleep deficit finally.

Today we went to the Rose Garden and the truly lovely Japanese Tea Garden of Portland before having some scrumptious pizza before picking up our monster luggage (we're transporting roughly 200 pounds of samples back with us- which turned out to be monumentally expensive and quite a hassle at the airport), dropping off the rental car, checking in said monstrous luggage, and proceeded to the local rogue brewpub house where I am now typing. This. Right now. You're caught up. In fact you're in real time. Right now! Crazy right? Well that's it for this update. The next update will be a post wrap up with LOTS of pictures when i have faster upload speeds.

For now, gentle Sees to you and safe travels,
Teflon Geoff

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weather or not....

Hey all!

Well, the weather has just been a bugger this cruise. We lost two more days straight to weather. Today was a dive from Marv's group, and they got some sulfides that Kiana and Heather did some quick processing on to work on later in the lab. No worms this time, but that's ok, since I am still working on those worms from the motherlode haul from four days ago. I've been keeping them alive in my bank stocks upstairs thanks to a pump i borrowed from Ray's group. Most of them were doing pretty well when i started another experiment today.

I only have a few more runs to finish (four to be exact), which should be done tomorrow night. I'm pretty busy right now, planned down to the half hour, but its good work which should give us some interesting insights into short term and long term tolerance patterns in these guys. Kiana, Charles, and Heather have started packing already, as well as getting data off the server and so forth. The end of the cruise smell is starting to permeate the collective conciousness i think. People are a little antsy, counting down the days -- 3 till land right now! For me its exactly a week until I'm back in boston. Cruises are like a weird mix of boot camp, summer camp, and cowboy science. Its made the experience thrilling, draining, aggrevating, and exhilirating all at once. I don't particularly like working 16-20 hours a day, but if I was going to do it anywhere, it would be here.

I'm a cowboy, on the steel ship i ride.......

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sleepless somewhere near Seattle

Hey Reeders!

Sorry no pics as of yet, been super busy. I got 2 hours of sleep last night, but i should be able to get 6-7 tonight. I got a few hundred worms up and running, and am doing a variety of experiments right now. Hopefully these samples will keep me quite busy for the next few days, but I should have some time in the next couple to give a more proper update.

Helpful tips to those doing deepsea, high pressure work:

- Air is the Enemy!

- Saltwater is bad for everything that isn't biology

- 7/16 is the wrench of choice for connoisseurs of high pressure worm work

-Death IS a data-point

-Rotten egg smell - good. Rotting animal smell - bad.

- The pump clicks will either drive you insane or to a higher plane of consciousness.

That is all for now.


Monday, July 19, 2010


Marv and Gretchen from a different group went down to the main field and got an ENORMOUS sulfide. The best part (in my biased opinion) was that there were tons and tons of worms!! Hurrah! Its like christmas! Well, as long as you asked Santa for deep-sea thermotolerant annelids.....

Back to processing, more of an update soon. With pics!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing...

You know that Jack Johnson song? This verse seems perversely apt...

I can't always be waiting waiting on worms
I can't always be playing playing your fool
I keep playing your part
But it's not my scene
Wont this plot not twist?
I've had enough mystery.
Keep building me up, then shooting me down
Well I'm already down
Just wait a minute
Just sitting waiting
Just wait a minute
Just sitting waiting

Except I took some artistic interpretation license there, interpreting the subject of his lament as worms, rather than some ex-girlfriend or whatever. He probably wasn't thinking about collecting deep-sea worms, but have you asked him? Neither have I, so i'm going with the worms.

Priorities are a fickle mistress at sea. One moment you're on top of the stack, next you're not even on the list. There's a lot of equipment to fit on the basket (platform on the front of Alvin) and dive priorities make or break your chances to get your particular sampling equipment on the sub. Additionally, ship-side analysis times can affect the dive schedule, and of course seniority is a big part of the game. The last collection of these worms was on Heather's dive on the 12th. That means i haven't had a chance to refill in a week now. A good portion of that was weather, but its starting to come up towards the end of the cruise (8 days left) and the equipment needed to large scale collections of worms (the slurp- it works just how you think it would) has been bumped for the next two dives. Thus, the earliest I'm likely to get started again on my projects will be the 20th.

While not fatal, this cuts pretty deep into the amount of work i could do. If we did a collection now, i could be set for a few days (with a new water bath hooked up to the bank stocks). However, if all the collections all come together at the end, i don't have enough spacing to process all of the samples. I'll probably be running experiments even a day or so after i get to port with the current schedule to try and catch up. From my point of view, it's an undesirable dive strategy. However, i keep reminding myself that there are 20+ scientists on this ship, with 30+ project priorities (its like the joke about rabbis and opinions). So i will continue sitting, waiting, wishing...

Apologies to Jack Johnson- He can redeem himself here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Weather

Hey reeders!
Sorry its been a week now, but i've got a lot of news to fill you in on. Hopefully some pictures too, if I get a few kbs of bandwidth here. Right now i'm sitting in the computer lab, taking a break between watching the winch uncoil and recoil (boy that's an interesting whitewashing the fence on the mississippi- you wanna try? Just give me your marbles). The rest of the crew is in the lab and the van working away at various maintenance and calibration projects. Right now, the sub is in the hangar, where its been for 4 of the last 5 days, and we have one less Girguis member on the boat. Why? Well first lets go back to when we were in ....

The Good:

Dive 2: Charles goes down in the sub, and the mass spec works really well. The worm collection is a bit thin so i can't run my system, but that's all good because we're told that I am getting to go down on the third dive! Horray!

Charles getting a cold bucket shower reunion with the lab. Welcome back.

Dive 3: I went down in Alvin with Katleen from Kim Juniper's lab, and Bruce as pilot. There were a lot of objectives on the dive, and because of a number of things that became increasingly difficult to do as the dive went on, including moving a heavy elevator out of a crevasse it fell in, and trying in vain to find some suitable spots for Ray's camera apparatus, as well as some drained batteries. I did manage to get a bunch of worms for my experiments, so that was good news. Kat however, who wanted to do surveys for future deployments of deep-sea monitoring equipment, did not get a chance to poke around unfortunately. Sorry Kat!

Palm and sulfur worms from the JdF vents

That evening went quite late as I got some worms directly into my system for work, and was able to bank some extras in a holding vessel we keep in our pressure van on the upper deck for rainy (or windy) days. This will play heavily into the next section of my blog.... (*cue forbodding foreshadowy music*). After everything was in and set, I had a nice chat with Melissa and unwound for a bit. Then, because i was up late, i slept into about 10am the next morning, missing Heather's first introduction into the sub on the 4th dive. I figured it would be fine, since i'd be there to meet her with an icy embrace when she reemerged from the darkness below. So, at 10am i got up, made a coffee and walked into the lab. All systems were green on my worms- the cruise was looking good. Then Charles walked in and asked me "Did you hear what happened this morning?"

The Bad:
Actually there were three pieces of bad news. He told me the worst first, but i'll build the tension here instead.

1) The chief scientist got upset about a basket not getting cleaned out by the science party before the sub was scheduled to dive again. There was a miscommunication as to which lab group was supposed to clean it, and instead of talking to us, he proceeded to walk into the lab and shake out the remaining limpets and worms onto my system while it was running. No actual damage was done, and Charles moved my system anyways because of a time point so it wasn't sitting in the muck when i saw it, but at first i thought a chamber had exploded and spilled animals i didn't remember putting in. Needless to say, i was ticked off.

2) Poor Charles. The alvin computer that runs the mass spec was forgotten topside, so they weren't able to get any mass spec data during the dive with Heather. Compounded with the fact that i failed to get good data the dive before, this wasn't good news for the project. Fortunately, there were many dives still to come.

3) And here's the real bad news. Melissa has a habit of moving a fair amount in her sleep, and even sometimes sleepwalking. She was on the top bunk on this cruise, above Adrienne. At 8am, that day, she fell out of bed, hitting her arm and face on the desk on the way down the 6 foot fall. By the time I got up, she had been bandaged, the blood cleaned up from the room, and she was resting in the hospital. At first they thought she had broken her arm, but fortunately that turned out later to just be sprained. What she did do, however, was break her nose in two places. She's ok now, but we had to get her back to shore to get proper medical treatment. So, after Heather came up, we immediately set course for land. My cruise curse continues. By the next morning she was in better spirits, mostly upset she didn't get a chance to dive. We said our good byes and she got off onto a pilot boat helmed by the coast gaurd in northern washington state. We got close to land, but never docked, and I never got cell service to make any calls. So, sadly, with one fewer Girgoyle, we set sail to return to Juan de Fuca.

Bye Melissa! We miss you!

The Weather:
The trip back out to Juan de Fuca was one of the heaviest rides i've experienced at sea. I was running experiments so I couldn't just rest for the day, but fortunately i didn't feel the effects. I was in the minority however, as the 10-20 foot waves proceeded to take down a majority of the labs including some people who rarely feel sick.

The transit lasted all night, and we weren't on station until 6am the next morning. Needless to say, between that and the timepoints, i didn't get much sleep. However, that wasn't the end of our bad luck. The next day, the winds blew at 30 knots, and the dive was cancelled because they don't put Alvin in the water in those conditions. The day after another group went down to collect different types of measurements on deepsea gas composition, so i didn't refill my worm stock. That's when something really unfortunate happened to my system.

The refrigeration unit (reefer) that had been chilling what i call my bank stock (or large chambers holding worms at pressure and low temperature until i use them in my system) went down. The worms heated up enough that they used all their O2, and by the time i went to go reload my system, all 200+ worms i had ready to go had died. This meant i was out of experiments to do until we got more dives, and the next two were not for our group, and therefore unlikely to be getting me worms.

And then, the weather hit again. The last two days were both lost to 25+ knot winds. One group ended up rescheduling their dives, so we'll be diving where worms on the third dive, but at this point, we've lost a total of 5 dives - 4 to weather, and 1 to Melissa's dropoff transit. Now, because of a buffer day on the beginning and end of the cruise, and the one reconfigured dive by another group we're only technically down two dives. However, even though the sub is in the water today (with another group), the wind is up at roughly 20 knots. We'll see if it stays below the cutoff of 25 for the rest of the cruise.

So that's the quick catch up. I'll have a few more shorter detailed blog posts to follow in quick succession over the next couple days to catch you up on the more interesting moments over the last week, but that's the 30000 foot view of it. So in the last week, we've dove three times, lost a Girgoyle to a broken nose, transited to shore and back, and lost three days to weather. Yesterday was humpday, the halfway point of the cruise. We enjoyed candy packed by Mark and Suni (thanks you guys!!!!!!) after a clever but malicious prank was pulled on us by Kiana and Heather who opened the box up early (there were instructions not to open it until humpday) and replaced all the food with sample processing supplies. They thought it was hilarious to watch our crestfallen faces when we thought Mark and Suni had played the prank on us. I've learned my lesson. Never trust those girls. Also, they'll deserve what's coming - revenge plotting commences. Truly the only thing predictable about cruises is that nothing ever goes as planned.

It is a wild ride though. ;)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Advisor down!

To the vents, that is. Dive 1 completed yesterday, and we got science rolling full steam here.
Pete went on the dive with a first-timer from Ray's group, taking the mass spec and getting some collections for us, and putting out some camera equipment for Ray.

And now for a little insider baseball primer on how cruises work:
***Spoiler Alert! If you want to be surprised on your first research cruise, don't read ahead!!!***

Each cruise on a ship this large is usually made up of a number of labs each given an alloted number of dives to locations that are within 1 night's steam of each other. This way, the Atlantis doesn't have to burn through time and fuel to get back to port to exchange groups for 3 or 4 or 6 days at sea. This works to the advantage of some who do time series out here - like with two-week deployments, or on-board experiments with projects like my worms. Of course, people just out here to toss a rig down with the sub, or take a core and head home, end up twiddling thumbs, watching movies, helping others, or if they're really productive- writing manuscripts out here. We are currently out here with 3 PI's, and a couple of other people who came along because there was space. When you get a cruise spot without being tied to one of the main projects, its called a cruise of opportunity - and its a common courtesy offered between many scientists as a way to get preliminary data for future grants and cruises, or pick something up that was dropped off on a previous cruise.

When you're out at sea, there's some wrangling to figure out who gets dive priority - usually the PI with the most dives gets to set the schedule, but there's lots of give and take. For our particular project, Ray Lee and my advisor Pete Girguis are co-PIs. Thus, on the alvin dives - with two science spots, its almost always been one from each of our groups that goes down, and we split the particular dive priorities. Sometimes its a Lee lead dive - which means his projects come first, and sometimes its a Girguis priority dive. Either way, we both get some stuff done, but the site may favor one group's projects or the other.

This year we've got 8 dives, and the other PIs combined have 6. This means that 6 days, I can expect nothing, 4 days i can hope for worms, and 4 days i can mostly expect them. Yesterday was a Lee priority dive, which meant that we dove on a site that was best for his projects. Unfortunately, the site wasn't optimal to get my sulfur worms, but they did recover LOTS of palm worms. This is a closely related but cooler temperature species. Even within the group, there are priority lists of course. Today, Charles is diving with the mass spec, which had some failures last dive, and that will take precedence. We're hopeful that we'll get sulfur worms, but this location may not be optimal for them. Luckily, we'll be heading to a better sampling area tomorrow, so I can try for them again tomorrow.

There were a lot of problems getting the palm worms up and running, but I have them up in my system now. (I'll explain what my system is on another post). This feat is due in great part to the help I got from nearly the whole lab at one point or another - Thanks to Pete, Heather, Adrienne, Charles, and Melissa! The worms are alive - for the moment - thanks to you all!

Well that's about it, gotta get to the samplin' now. Also, to the plotting about the shenanigans we will plan for Charles' first dive hazing this afternoon.


PS- There are rumors i might dive soon, but i don't want to jinx it by pinning down a date...

PPS- Pictures will be added throughout the day

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rough Sees

Hey reeders,
Day 2 at see here. The wind is blowing at 25-30 knots so we have a weather day. Thus, no Alvin today unfortunately. As long as the wind dies down by the evening, it should be good for tomorrow, but that might not happen unfortunately. We'll sea i suppose.

Yesterday was a bit green for everyone, the crossing
wasn't necessarily rougher than previous years, but the wind was up and the crosscurrents made the ship movement very unpredictable. And unfortunately by the evening, just as I was feeling steady again I starting coming down with a head cold. So far it seems to have come and gone
in one unpleasant night of sleep, but i don't wan
t to speak too soon.

So, the recap is essentially we're in a recovery holding pattern, as we get back up to speed on health, finish building our systems, and prep for the dive tomorrow (crossing fingers). I have uploaded a few pictures from the prep work and our bbq to share here below in the mean time.

Talk to you later folks,

PS- photos can't get uploaded right now, bandwidth is tight. I'll try to add them tonight when less people are on.

PPS- Resizing photos is your friend. Sorry they're a little tiny, but better than nothing.

Melissa and Pete try to warm up by our tiny bbq grill. 50F, high winds, drizzly, and overcast. Happy 4th!

Heather unpacks dyslexically.

Start with water, add a little fire and a lot of wind, mix heavily- cue the oooo's!

Adrienne with a salute to quiet American life. I think cropped this could be the movie poster for a film about breaking out of a box and grasping at stifled dreams in a down-on-their-luck community in a well-meaning but little means working family. Or its just a 4th of july bbq sparkler on the docks....

Our not-very-grand fireworks finale!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On our way!

Just a quick post at 1am here to let you all know we sail in 6 hours. Barring greenface tomorrow, i'll bring you all a photo tour of the lab, and some fun shots of our July 4th fireworks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Flashback Scenes from the Journey

Hey Reeders!

I apologize for the lapse in communication here. I have been in the middle of traveling, and have now settled in Astoria, Oregon, sitting in a familiar chair in a familiar lab with a fresh set of sailing companions, prepping for the sail in 2 days. The adventure started three days and 3000 miles ago, however, so lets do a dramatic flashback.

*cue wavy fade out 70's effects and harp music***

July 1st:
Scene: Charles, Adrienne and I are at the lab getting ready to get in the taxi to the airport around noon.

Geoff: "Charles, you have your passport and your papers to travel?" (He is Swiss)
Charles: "Yes, I have everything I need."
Adrienne looks a little nervous...
Geoff: "You're all set too, right?"
Adrienne: "I didn't think we needed a passport..."
Geoff: "Alright, first stop Adrienne's house."

Cue comical scene in taxi realizing Adrienne doesn't have keys since she shares them with roommate, unsuccessful calls to try and get said keys, and a drive to the Somerville Apt.

Scene- Adrienne and Geoff at the apartment, looking with mixed amusement and trepidation at the second floor balcony.
Adrienne: "Well if you put your foot there on the railing and then climb up and reach out over the gutter and grab the gaurdrail, you should be able to pull yourself up and over the balcony ."
Geoff: "uh....yeah. Hold these. You owe me."

Cue B&E, triumphant passport retrival, and airport reunion with the rest of the group. Flight is uneventful, but stopover scene in san fran proves exciting.

**End plot treatment, begin summary for expediency **

Two people were requested to reliquish their seats on the leg from SF to Portland, so Melissa and I grudgingly ran to the counter and dutifully helped strangers, completely out of the goodness of our hearts, by sacrificing our evening for a free evening at the Crown Plaza in SF, with not so much as anything more than 400 dollars of free travel tickets and a meal voucher. It was difficult to be so magnanimous, but we were barely able to distract ourselves from such misfortune by heading to a snazzy cocktail bar with Melissa's friends in the Mission district and ordering a few delicious drinks to honor the patrons who we so selflessly let go to Portland in our stead. (read with minor sarcasm).

July 2: Woke up, took a quick dip in the hot tub (still out of the goodness of my heart, of course), and then flew up to portland, meeting the crew at the hotel downtown. After a bit of equipment check and collection, a few of us headed to the bluesfest by the river. Despite some rain, there were some really good bands and it was a great time, all for charity - a local Oregon Food Bank! After rockin out, we headed to a delicious Hawaiian restaurant, meeting Beth! from last year's cruise who is working with another group out here, and then to a funky brewpub called the Lucky Labrador for a couple beers. I was pretty beat, so I was in bed before 11 that night.

July 3: Got on the road by about 8am, to get to Astoria by the rental car return time of noon. It started out pretty standard, with socked-in clouds and quite a cool breeze. But, by the afternoon, it was downright sunny and pretty warm! Over 70, which for Astoria at any time of the year is impressive. We got on board the ship, met some new crew, reunited with some friends of cruises past, and started the job of unloading the ship. I'll spend some time in later blogs talking about the science and the set up for our lab members, but for now I'll explain that my set up will be very similar to last year's so I've spent most of the last day rebuilding from pictures taken last year. We had a brief lab meeting on the bow and some good cafe at my favorite joint in the world - Kick Ass Koffee - and the went to (alas!) a seafood place for dinner. There were a few dozen clams, mussels, crabs and a chicken at the table. It was great food though, and we all left in a near coma. Charles and I worked on the ship for a bit after that, and everyone else went to bed. We joined them by midnight.

Happy America the 4th day!: We started the morning at a delicious breakfast place called the pig and pancake, and then got back to work on the labs. I'm about 60% set up now, and Adrienne's been a big help with the system. The rest of the gals are up setting up their van on the upper deck, Charles is working on the Mass Spec, and Pete is flitting about meeting with the other groups and helping us out. I'm glad to find the meals on the ship are as awesome as last year, as our lunch included pork potstickers, pesto ravoli, lentil soup, and chicken spring rolls. YUM. Anyways, back to the unpackeroo. My next update will include our 4th of july antics, and some photos of the funness and workness out here.

Ciao 4 now,
Teflon Geoff