Day 9: All we could have hoped for
August 18, 2011
Location: Dockside at Newport, Oregon
Latitude: 44º 37.53 N
Longitude: 124º 2.67 W
The science team gathered for a photo by the remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts. Kneeling: Peter Brewer, left, and Peter Walz; Standing, from left, Nancy Barr, Laura Lapham, Liz Coward, Andreas Hofmann, Ed Peltzer, Michael Riedel, and Jon Furlong.
This ocean expedition has been a great success, thanks to the experience, hard work, and planning that went into it, as well as support from the ship and ROV crews—and a dash of luck in terms of good weather. Ocean chemist Peter Brewer’s team returned to shore with quality data and video that are sure to lead to several significant publications in the field of gas hydrates and ocean chemistry.
We greatly appreciate the professional and skilled ship crew who took care of our safety and well being all week: Captain Ian Young, First Mate George Gunther, and Second Mate Andrew McKee, on the bridge; Chief Engineer Matt Noyes and Second Engineer Lance Wardle; Electronics Officer Dan Chamberlain; Bosun Vinny Nunes; Steward Patrick Mitts; and our two relief crew members, filling in for those who could not sail on this leg of the expedition, Jason Jordan and Eric Fitzgerald.
The talented ROV pilots did a fabulous job chasing bubbles and oil droplets all over the deep ocean. Thank you to Chief Pilot Knute Brekke, Deputy Chief Pilot Mark Talkovic, and pilots Bryan Schaefer, Eric Martin, and Randy Prickett.
Some of the crew threw a few lines behind the ship in hopes of catching some tuna on the way home. It looked like Randy Prickett had a big one on the hook, until he pulled it in and found only seaweed.
Some of our cruise-mates offer their thoughts on the expedition:
Well, the cruise is over. As we make our final steam into port, I am reflecting on these past 10 days. It’s been pretty amazing to be out here with the MBARI group. As a guest, you always wonder whether you will fit in, or if your science will mesh with the cruise objectives. But as soon as I saw the Western Flyer, I felt instantly at ease. I remembered walking onto this ship 14 years ago as an MBARI intern, not realizing what my future had in store for me, but completely in awe of the ship and the ROV it held. I wondered if I would ever get to sail on the Flyer. But now, because of MBARI’s relationship with Canadian scientist Michael Riedel, and my longer term collaboration with Michael, this was now my second time on the Western Flyer (I was also invited to sail on the Flyer two years ago with Charlie Paull’s group). As I walked up the gangway, I was greeted by the friendly faces of Peter Brewer and Ed Peltzer, my mentors during my internship, and the rest of their science team. I also remembered the crew from two years ago, so it was like coming home. I was then pleasantly surprised to see the familiar face of the first mate, George Gunther, with whom I had sailed with in the Gulf of Mexico during graduate school. It’s nice to have friends in many places.
And as for meshing science, I couldn’t be with a better group. Peter was the reason I got into gas hydrates in the first place. And now, we were working together, side by side. Seeing the laser Raman system hard at work, acquiring in situ methane profiles instantly, was amazing. I have collected many sediment cores in order to measure such profiles, all along knowing that the concentrations are not quite “in situ” because so much gas is lost when the core is retrieved from the seafloor. But now, having this tool means we can learn so much more about these methane-rich zones. I look forward to seeing where they will take the Raman next. Heck, for me, just being able to see the seafloor and gas hydrate outcrops with the ROV Doc Ricketts was a special experience! The ROV pilots continued to impress me as they attempted some very detailed manipulator work. They skillfully put one of my instruments on the top of a hydrate mound, and placed the very small wand attached to it, into the mud. It was almost like watching a giant place a normal size tack into a very specific place on a cork board. When they finished, it was exciting to know that the samplers were down there doing their job, collecting water samples continuously for the next year or so. With this type of data, we will better understand how dynamic the gas hydrate system is, especially when we can pair it up with data from the cabled observatory, NEPTUNE Canada, which collects continuous earthquake, pressure, and temperature measurements. With continued collaborations like the one with MBARI, I hope to gather these boxes within the next year, and see what we were able to capture. Until then, I sail home with good memories from this cruise and look forward to the next.
Peter Walz packs up all the gear we used for our work this week.
Hello from the Western Flyer! I have been lucky enough to accompany the Brewer team on this leg of the Northwest Expedition, and I am so glad to be here! This has been an amazing end to the summer, witnessing the techniques I have learned in the laboratory executed on the seafloor, and instruments I helped build deployed 1,400 meters deep in the ocean. The Brewer team—Peter Brewer, Ed Peltzer, Peter Walz, and Andreas Hofmann—have been excellent mentors during my time at MBARI, and working with them at sea was no exception. I have, in eight short days, learned so much about the Flyer's operation, the ROV Doc Ricketts, and what it takes to conduct research on an oceanographic vessel. I've also met many inspiring people, including Nancy Barr, the Western Flyer crew, and our visiting colleagues, Michael Riedel, Laura Lapham, and Jon Furlong, who have all been wonderful to work with. Those eight days spent in the control room, eating delicious meals and record quantities of ice cream, enjoying the sunshine and calm seas, flying helicopters with the ROV pilots, and tying endless cable ties have only solidified my feelings that this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing. Thank you so much to all the staff at MBARI who made my trip possible, to the Brewer Lab, and to everyone onboard this cruise for making this journey so extraordinary.
My participation in this expedition was sparked by earlier scientific collaboration between MBARI and the Geological Survey of Canada, University of Victoria, and NEPTUNE-Canada. In 2009, I was onboard the Western Flyer with MBARI scientist Dr. Charles Paull investigating cold vents and associated seafloor gas expulsion in this area. Dr. Brewer, chief scientist of this expedition, invited me to sail on this cruise to help find suitable locations for his experiments of ocean geochemistry.
One of the most fundamental scientific questions we are pursuing is unravelling the linkages between tectonic activity and fluid expulsion, as well as changes in sediment geochemistry, and the biology of the vent sites at the seafloor. In 2009, we started a long-term observation strategy in collaboration with Dr. Laura Lapham from Florida State University, deploying instruments to study natural gas and oil expulsion. In 2009, two of these sampling instrument packages were deployed at Barkley Canyon and at a vent-field, informally named “Bubbly Gulch”. This year’s expedition gave us the opportunity to expand the time-series analysis on the same sites and help answer the question if earthquakes spark fluid expulsion and gas release... Read more.
We will be leaving the ship in Newport, but the crew will stay on and head out to sea in a few days with MBARI geologist Charlie Paull and his group. Stay tuned to read about their explorations of the muddy bottom.