The last few days before leaving port were spent on prep: securing equipment and supplies, troubleshooting (of course), and buying crucial items (chocolate and cable ties). However, Monday morning, everyone stopped to wave to a crowd waiting to see the ship off as we left port. This cruise is our captain’s last before retiring, and in his honor the ship even fired off cannonballs as we departed. The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, and the sailing has been smooth. Let’s hope this day is a sample of what will come over the next 30.
The main command center where the Jason pilot, additional engineers, and science team sit during Jason dives is called the ‘control van’. Along the front wall there are big beautiful screens to track what’s going on, a network of cables and wires that line the walls, and it is very VERY well air conditioned. We spent a few days testing communications between our equipment and the sampling gear on Jason in the control van. While we’ve checked this in the lab, going through the motions on the ship has, of course, has presented a few unexpected hurdles.
As I said in the last post, we’re heading to a deep sea observatory, but I didn’t really explain what that is. To study processes under the sea floor, equipment referred to as Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kits (CORKs) can be used. We are heading to North Pond where multiple CORKs were previously installed. This site is unique since the sediment in this basin stops seawater exchange from under the crust with the deep ocean, allowing researchers to focus exclusively on what is happening under the sea floor.
Clarisse Sullivan in the Rappé lab has been leading our group as we set up equipment to collect fluid from under the seafloor. As you might guess, we have customized sampling gear that connects to the cork, and using a manifold we can extract fluid and shunt it directly into specialized bags or pass it through filters as the ROV is stationed at each site.
We have a laptop with 3 key cables that hook into the control van, these three cables will let us (1) let us tell a pump to start and stop collecting water as well as regulate the pumping speed, (2) record data from an oxygen optode, and (3) let us switch the outlet of where the water being pumped will be sent to (e.g. either to a bag or a filter).
Sunday’s attempt to get our laptop to command the pump and sampling manifold on Jason was not completely successful, although in the evening we thought we had cleared up the problem. We ran into a similar hiccup Monday, and eventually figured out one cable needs to be replaced. The head electrical engineer for Jason also had to switch a few connections. In the end, we finally managed to get the pump pumping, data from the optode, and the manifold switching shunts, whew! It is still going to be a challenge to replace the cable but at least we know what the issue is.
On Tuesday evening, the winch that deploys Jason was tested in order to safely lower equipment into the ocean. In the meantime we have continued setting things up for our first dive at North Pond. It’s absolutely great to be out at sea with such a talented and interesting group of people, we’re looking forward to the days to come!