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Day 3 on the R/V Atlantis

Dean Livelybrooks here, blogging in English


I’m writing from the computer lab in the Research Vessel Atlantis.   We are at sea in the Pacific.  This is our offical blog. Among us there are English, Spanish, French and German speakers, and we will identify our language as we post.  There are 22 of us among the science crew on this cruise.

The clock just turned over to day 3 on the Atlantis.  To date we’ve recovered 3 ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs) that have sat on the ocean floor off the coast of northern California, Oregon and Washington for the past year.  Our job on this cruise, leg 3 of the Cascadia Initiative is to recover the remaining 30 of the 70 OBSs deployed last year.  The next 3 cruises this summer will re-deploy those OBSs in the northern part of Cascadia to record until next year.

What’s “Cascadia” you may ask.  Its bounded by a spreading center on the west, a place where brand-new Earth’s crust is made and moves towards the coast.  To the east are the volcanoes created by this ‘oceanic plate’ moving below (or ‘subducting’) the less dense North American plate that people in the U.S., Canada, and part of Mexico live on.  Why study Cascadia?  It is known to have very large earthquakes, just like recent ones in Japan and Sumatra.  And just like in those places, Cascadian earthquakes (scientists call them ‘megathrust events’) can cause large tsunamis.

So we place seismometers and pressure gauges on the ocean floor to study Cascadia, with an eye towards improving our understanding of what could happen during the next big ‘megathrust event.’

First Impressions

Hey all, Lexi here. I’m a freshly minted undergrad graduate of Scripps who applied to the cascadia iniatitive through the apply to sail program and luckily got chosen! This is my first time on a ship of this caliber and size and therefore had no idea what to expect.  Here’s a few of my first thoughts on the whole experience:

-Sea sickness is a total luck of the draw.  I was one of the fortunate few who experienced very few symptoms, others were  out for the count for a day.  Luckily plenty of hydration cures all.

-The food is way better than i expected.  I had originally thought i would be eating sandwiches and salad all week. the cooks are amazing and friendly and make great food and theres plenty to go around. limited exercise and tons of food may have adverse effects.

-Sleeping on a boat is more soothing than you’d expect.  It’s like being rocked to sleep. Need i say more?

-The crew is really positive and friendly and it’s great to be in an environment where everyone is as excited about the science as I am.  Asking questions about different processes is welcome which is a plus.


This is just a few of my ideas. Hopefully some of my crew members will emulate my sentiments, otherwise I’m the crazy one on the ship. Hope we can keep you entertained and impart a bit of cool science information while we do it!


Under the sea….

Day 3 on the Pacific, cruising on the research vessel (R/V) Atlantis.  We’ve all had a long day.  First recovery this morning the mechanism for releasing a float tied to the ocean-bottom seismometer failed.  ROV Jason to the rescue however.  A bit of a ‘thunk’ with one of Jason’s remote-controlled arms and the OBS released it’s ‘pop-up’ buoy.  Reminded me of how my dad used to ‘fix’ our old-style TV when it malfunctioned, a whap to the side applied just so.

Our second recovery posed other challenges.  There were strong currents at the site, some 900 meters below the surface off of Waldport, Oregon.  The Jason crew had their work cut out for them to tie a rope on a spool to the OBS so that the rope would surface and we could haul the OBS to the surface.  Thanks to the expertise of the (crackerjack) Jason crew, problems solved, OSB recovered.

Day 4 – Friday the 28th

Hello everyone. It’s Katie blogging in English.

Its Friday morning at 00:47AM and I am currently working the graveyard/night watch (00:00 – 04:00). As Lexie mentioned, people that get sea sick is random and unfortunately, I was one of those people. I am happy to report that everyone who got sick seems to have gotten their sea legs and acclimated. Now that my health is back, I have been enjoying the delicious meals prepared for us – a huge upgrade from the saltine crackers I was living off of before. I also enjoyed observing the Jason recovering yesterday (Thursday 27th). I sat with several other people in one of the science labs watching the feed from the cameras that are mounted on the Jason. It is pretty amazing to see all of the wild life as the Jason descends throughout the water column. We saw a squid swim by the main camera, lots of clear gelatinous creatures, sea stars, crabs and various species of fish. The ocean floor at ~900 m at the station yesterday was quite soft and the OBS that we had to recover was slightly burried around its edges. We also noticed flakes of the white paint of the OBS on the sea floor – someone on the OBS team explained that the biofouling paint is designed to flake off when algae attaches and accumulates on the OBS. The recovery went successful and now we are currently in transit to our next station and hoping to begin another recovery around 05:30.

On to the next OBS!

Hi everyone, this is Haley!  We just picked up J17B (another TRM Ocean Bottom Seismometer) using the Jason ROV and Medea’s assistance and we are on our way to the next one, M10B.  The water is extremely calm and smooth out here today and the weather couldn’t be better, lots of sun and not too much wind.  The trip is going by so fast, there is constantly something to do on the boat between filming, watching bathymety surveys, helping on deck, and trying to fit in sleep somewhere!


I have attached a picture of a grapefruit sized cluster of fish eggs that were attached to the antennae of the very first OBS we pulled up as well as a photo of a few dolphin friends we have made along the way, I’m surprised they aren’t out and about today!   I also attached a picture of the Jason being brought back onto the deck after a mission as well as an OBS elevator in the water.  Enjoy all!!


What is the Cascadia Initiative?

Dean Livelybrooks here blogging in English.  You may wonder why we are out at sea dropping and recovering ocean-bottom seismometers and pressure gauges.  One of our scientific goals is to collect data about small earthquakes and seafloor uplift or deformation that, in turn, tells us about the ‘locked zone’ where the next big Cascadia earthquake will occur.  We can’t detect these earthquakes from on-shore.

While this won’t help us predict exactly when this earthquake will occur, it can help us understand HOW that earthquake will happen, including providing upper limits on the extent of rupture, for example.  This, in turn, can give details to scenarios involving tsunamis, including predicting the size of a tsunami that would innundate the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

A practical application of this is for the city of Seaside, Oregon.  Seaside lies within a tsunami zone and is at risk of submersion and damage from a Cascadia-related tsunami.  Their city web site has a map giving practical escape routes should an earthquake or tsunami warning occur.  These are over bridges that are seismically retrofit to stay intact during a large Cascadian earthquake.  City leaders considered building a structure within the zone that would stand above an incoming tsunami.  One question is, how high off the ground does one make this structure?  Engineers considering this would use ‘the best science available’ to address this question.  One of Cascadia Intiative’s jobs is to make ‘the best science…’ better.

Short Musings of an Experience at Sea

Hey everyone, this is Jonás Cervantes

It’s day 5 of the R/V Atlantis cruise. Honestly, it feels like we’ve been out at sea for a little over a week, but at the same time it feels like we’ve barely left Astoria (Oregon).

The days just seem to slide into each other, not bothering telling you their names, nor their hours. All there is the work, the research and the seismometer recoveries. Each melding into the other, like some sort of sweet smelling, salty tasting stew.

I’ve been working on the educational outreach aspect of our mission. This means that I work on the video systems, multimedia presentations and the multi cast/live streams from the JASON. The last one is particularly fun, mainly because I get to see what lives at the bottom of the Pacific from a semi first person perspective. It’s also fun seeing a room full of physical science and engineering majors/professionals try to name the various animals that they see without having any particular background in biology. Futility has its entertainment values in specific conditions, I suppose.

The weather in the open sea has been amazing, I must admit. When I first set out, I had this image in my head where we’d be battling 40 foot swells and fighting the elements everyday. The first few days of sea sickness cured me of this fantasy.

Every morning after that has been more beautiful than the last. Calm seas so smooth that they look like the most reflective polymers; The sun so bright that its light seems to caress every cell in your body, like the beams were crafted just for you; The clouds so distantly soft that you almost want to pluck them from the sky and use them as a pillow; The wind so sweet that you can almost hear the songs that you want it to sing.

Sometimes I look at the water from the side of the Atlantis, and I have to resist every urge to jump into the water. The water laps at the hull of the vessel, every gentle touch acting like a siren’s song. If I were to jump in, I’m pretty sure that would be the end of the mission for me.

Overall, I’m appreciative of the experience. I’ve learned much about how research is conducted in the field, and it’s nice getting to know other people who have similar academic interests as mine. I’d recommend it for anyone interested.

Until next time

Jonás N Cervantes

Styrofoam cup experiment!

Hello everyone!  Haley here.  We sent down a few styrofoam cups with Jason to about 900 meters below the surface in a mesh bag, and what came back was a styrofoam cup the size of a small Dixie cup. The reasoning behind this?… When styrofoam is STP (standard temperature and pressure) on the surface, it isn’t actually completely solid and has air trapped in between the bits of styrofoam.  The high pressure in water this deep caused the air to be pushed out of the foam and shrunk the cup down to its now miniature size.  This is similar to when you put apple slices into a food dehydrator.  The slices shrink down when the water is evaporated from the fruit just as the cup shrank when the air was pushed out.  Just a little fun experiment we had to try and wanted to share with you all!

A Whirlwind of Jason Dives

Hey all,  this is Lexi blogging from the midnight mauraders shift, as we like to call ourselves. Working from 12-4am means we’re awake and sleeping at strange hours and mischief is bound to occur. Or in all honesty we doze off and send lots of emails.  However today we have reason to be sleepy because we had a very eventful day.  We recovered 1 Jason dive OBS and 3 Popups.  The Jason dive today was particulary eventful based on the biology we saw and the ease with which we found the TRM and send it to the surface.  The sea floor was full of worm like creatues popping out of the bottom, as well as numerous flounder, rock fish, anemonies, shells, sea stars and even a shark.  After finalizing the attachment of the TRM to the elevator we spend 10 minutes exploring the ocean bottom, which was one of our deepest dives of 825 m.  We followed our shark friend around for a while, zoomed in on an enormous red snapper, and plenty of shells.  At the end we decided to grab a rock of about 20 cm.  Atop of it was a big, fatty seastar which refused to leave.  So the rock with the seastar got hauled to the surface by Jason.  I excitedly hauled the seastar around the ship to let everyone take photos with a deep see starfish and touch it, then threw it back into the ocean, here’s hoping it survived.  The rock we’re keeping for further chemical and geologic evaluation.  All in all an interesting and exciting Jason dive, with hopefully more to come!


Lexi from the Atlantis Team

Lots of recoveries, vent survey

This is Anton Ypma from the midnight shift – we had a great day and recovered a lot of seismometers. Only one failed to release it’s buoy, so we had to send the Jason down to help it out. The sea is getting a bit rougher than it has been, and due to the fact that the seismometers that we’re recovering now don’t have light beacons or radio transmitters on their buoys, we can’t recover them in the dark, so we’ve stopped for the night. We’re passing the time by scanning a (methane?) vent on the seafloor with the ships bathymetry equipment, and will begin recovering more OBSs at 6am tomorrow.