Settling in and the Axial Seamount


A couple of weeks back I reported to the University Of Washington pier to pick up some other crew members and drive to Newport Oregon. Newport lies along the central coast of Oregon and is also the recent home to the NOAA fleet (that was previously located in Seattle and moved by Sea witch Jane Lubechenko to Newport). It took me a bit to find my assigned room, settle my bunk and find the chief mate. The chief mate told me to report for duty at 0800 the next morning. I stowed the rest of my gear, then hit the pier to take a walk over to the local brewery for a refreshment and dinner. Unfortunately the brew house was jammed with people and a wait time over an hour, so I made it to the local watering hole down the road and a burger. I met some of the other crew and got to know one of the AB’s for a couple hours and get some of my questions answered. Our ship’s crew is 24 and with the science party and students onboard, the total is around 70 total.

The R/V: Thomas G. Thompson:









The next morning instead of reporting for duty, the mate sent me on a grand tour of the ship with the 3rd mate. He was very thorough and showed me all of the spaces, safety equipment, set me up with the appropriate sized survival suit, went through the orientation papers, etc. After a couple hour tour, I was set to start working. The ship has been busy over the summer working at the Axial Seamount, approx. 300 NM off the central Oregon Coast. There is a large project being constructed in conjunction with the Canadians that is laying cable and instruments to observe the Juan De Fuca Plate. The Juan De Fuca Plate is one of the smallest plates of the earth’s crust and offers some desirable traits that makes the science party all hot and bothered. It is physically located close the NW coast of the USA, it is active, and is being pushed under the plate further to the East (name unknown). The project is constructing a cabled observatory that will run a main cable from a station at the beach and out to the edges of the plate and including the Axial Seamount which is one of the main focuses of the project. Branching out from the main cable are branch cables that include various instruments, cameras, sensors, etc. One example of the instruments being deployed is an inclinometer that can measure changes in angle as much as one-millionth of a degree. Another example was a seismometer that detected an earthquake one hour after it was placed beneath our ship. Click HERE for more information:

I arrived in time for the fourth leg of five legs planned for 2013. The 2014 season should finish the construction phase and finish testing and go live. The first through fourth legs of 2013 were with the Canadian ROPOS ROV team onboard. This of course is the first time I’ve even been exposed to ROV operations other than watching them on TV. They are engineering marvels up close. We probably launched and recovered the ROV 15-20 times during the two weeks of this leg. The ROPOS ROV uses a series of football shaped floats named lemons that attach to the main winch cable. The floats are calibrated for depth to 3000 meters and hold the majority of the cable’s weight so the ROV can roam freely near the bottom, much like a dog on a leash. As an AB, it was our job to attach or dismount the lemons each time the ROV was launched or recovered.

Here are some pictures of the ROPOS ROV and the control station:


















As the fourth leg started to wind down, word came down that a quick trip back to Newport would be in order to pick up two science party members and an important piece of equipment. We arrived into Newport on a perfect evening, tied up to the dock, put out the ramp, welcomed the two people onboard, craned the part onboard, lifted and stowed the ramp and threw the dock lines and headed back to sea.

Newport Oregon:



We went back to sea about 50 miles off the coast and made one 18 hour dive to place the sensor and then high tailed it towards Victoria Canada to offload the ROPOS ROV and ROPOS Crew at their home base. About two hours into our northbound trip, word came down from the bridge to put out some trolling lines as there were several sport boats in the area fishing. Me being the tuna fanatic watched the hand lines the rest of the day. The hand lines I brought ended up being too short, so I combined four into two longer lines. The ship was going twelve knots so even a 20 pound tuna would prove challenging to keep hooked. I did get a bite from a tuna, but with the two hand lines combined into one there were two bungee cords inline and the tuna got sling-shotted out of the water about 3 feet high. Before I could get to the other side of the stern the fish was off. I pulled the lines in just as it got dark.

We arrived in Port Angeles, WA in the afternoon and anchored up in the bay. We had to clear out of the U.S. before we could enter Canada. We also had a 0700 appointment with the Victoria Pilot. We arrived, picked up our pilot, docked and offloaded the ROPOS ROV and Crew before dinner time. I went for a walk around the town and snapped the inner harbor and a few of the landmark buildings. At 10PM we departed and headed towards Seattle.

Victoria Canada:








The next morning we were just off the ship canal in Seattle and had to wait until 0900 before we could enter the canal and the Ballard Locks. We can’t get the bridges open during rush hour, hence the wait. The weather was fabulous for trip through the lock into Lake Union:

Seattle from Lake Union:




We now wait for our next science party and the U.S. ROV named JASON for the fifth leg. JASON should be here next week and we can depart sometime after just around Labor Day. Stayed tuned….


4 thoughts on “Settling in and the Axial Seamount

  1. R

    I’ve seen the Mellvelle from Scripts in Seattle a couple of times this summer including this week. Are you working with them too?

  2. lifeat6mph

    Great pics and a neat report. it sounds like you have landed a very cool berth! is JASON the same unit ( or type of unit) that Ballard used to find the Titanic? I am looking forward hearing about your next voyage..

  3. towertodd Post author

    I do not know for sure what type of ROV Robert Ballard used on the Titantic. I would be surprised if it was similar to JASON. JASON is fairly large.


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