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Facilitating Science

Category: General Article

Back to Axial Seamount Eruption Response

Tuesday August 25, 2015
Submitted by Rachel Teasdale

Summary: It takes more than the science team to make a scientific expedition successful. In this blog, Rachel Teasdale discusses the other operations for the Research Vessel Thomas G Thompson.

The crew of Research Vessel Thomas G Thompson operated by the University of Washington is a dedicated group of mariners who are keen on ensuring that the ship serves as a floating research station where diverse scientific research projects can be completed successfully and efficiently. Each crew member brings their expertise and creativity to accomplishing tasks dreamed up by scientists on the cutting edge of Marine Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering and more.

The crew on this expedition is led by Captain Russell DeVaney who is essentially responsible for everything that happens on the ship, but he considers his most important task to be the safe operation of the ship and scientific activities. The team of ship’s Mates stand navigational watches around the clock to keep the ship on course.

Chief Mate Bree Ogden-Bennett, a graduate of the California Maritime Academy, has worked at sea for six years. Among her many duties, she stands navigational watch and oversees all deck operations. One advantage of working on research vessels for Bree is that the point of her work is to conduct operations at sea, whereas other maritime industries are focused on racing from port to port. Bree, Second Mate Tom Drake, and Third Mate Josh Woodrow stand two four-hour watches each day (e.g. noon to 4 p.m. and midnight to 4 a.m.). In addition to standing watch on the bridge, Tom also maintains navigational information and nautical logs.

With its specialized “Z-drive” propellers and dynamic positioning system the ship can maintain position with great precision, which is necessary for ROV Jason to work on the seafloor. The Z-drives allow the ship’s propellers to face any direction, for 360° propulsion. With the help of the bow-thruster for lateral positioning, the ship can move in any direction or hold a specific position, even against the wind and waves. The Z-drives and the ship’s engines are maintained by the eight member Engineering Department, led by Chief Engineer, Mark Johnson. Oiler, Mario Yordan runs the diesel engines that produce power to run generators that power the ship.

Third Engineer Doug O’Neill oversees the water for the ship, which is desalinated seawater. He first sends seawater through a strainer then pumps it at high pressure through five stages of reverse osmosis in which the salt is removed from the water. The final purification comes from a dose of 0.3 ppm chlorine. The ship can make 4,000 gallons each day and can store up to 12,000 gallons, but Doug says we typically only use 3,000 gallons per day. The ship undergoes almost constant preventative maintenance, but the Engineering Department has a machine shop in which almost any part on the ship can be fixed.

Deck operations include launching and recovering instruments with cranes and winches as well as assisting AUV Sentry and ROV Jason launches and recoveries. Dana Africa has worked as one of the able-bodied seamen (AB) on the R/V Thompson for nearly eight years. She and five other on the deck crew says the job is to “sweep, swab, paint, chip, run cranes and winches and sometimes steer the ship.”

In some cases scientists at sea attempt to use existing methodologies in new ways or are inventing brand new methods for investigating biological, geological and chemical characteristics of the world’s oceans. Brandi Murphy and Jen Nomura help facilitate their work as marine techs on the R/V Thompson.

They help scientists do their work on the ship and serve as the liaisons between the ship’s crew and science party. Most days Brandi and Jen spend time on deck (see photo right) helping launch or recover vehicles and instruments for work on the ocean floor. Brandi is familiar with the scientific equipment from her work on research expeditions in graduate school. She and Jen help develop and implement work plans to deploy or recover sensitive instruments.

In addition to accomplishing scientific goals, a constant morale booster comes from the kitchen. Not only are India Grammatica, Liz Zacharias and Kelly Darrah always happy and outgoing, their food is amazing. When not talking about science, the main topic of conversation usually pertains to the previous and next meals — or both!

The science team of the Axial Seamount 2015 Expedition is grateful for the hard work and dedication contributed by these folks, and all of the R/V Thompson crew who ensure the success of the scientific goals of our work at sea.

Images and video courtesy of the 2015 Axial Team.

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What's It Life to Live and Work at Sea?

Two Oceanscape Network youth volunteers tour the blue water research sailboat OCEAN WATCH and discuss with the crew what it's like to live – and learn – at sea.

A Cooperative Program

The Axial Seamount Eruption Response is a program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation in cooperation with Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oceanscape Network and others.

Do You Have Questions?

During the duration of this expedition, the science team will answer your questions. Return to the main Axial Seamount Eruption Response page to find the online form for this activity.