95% of the time, all units on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson—the science party, the submersible teams, and the ship’s crew—are either working hard or sleeping (a lot more of the former than the latter). But on this jam-packed 16-day cruise, we still found a little time here and there to enjoy the experience of being on a ship. As we head back to port and get ready to call it quits, here are a few highlights from life at sea.
Fishing over the side was a popular pastime during the rare calm moments between deck operations. It looked like we might strike out on this cruise, but on Friday night, we finally caught 5 mahi in a combined effort between the ship’s crew and the science party.
This left us with about 35 pounds of fresh fish, which the Thompson’s fantastic mess team whipped up into poke (above) and fillets.
Thanks to Sarah, the Thompson’s steward, we got to celebrate Easter at sea by decorating eggs. When the ROV Jason had to pull out of a dive earlier than expected, we had a chance to attack egg decorating with the same intensity that we’d been applying to lab work.
Arne’s egg featured a sketch of Jason.
On the last night of the cruise, Sarah and Clara staged an egg hunt in the storerooms below decks. Prizes included a Thompson t-shirt and mug, a hard hat, and, for the person with the least eggs, a deck chair hand-painted with the words “TGT Loser Easter 2013.”
During periods between submersible launches and recoveries when the ship was holding a steady position, the science party was allowed to come up to the bridge (the control center of the ship on the uppermost deck) for a look around. 3rd mate Lucas walked us through the whole set-up: steering controls, radar and navigation monitors, radio systems, signal flags, and an assortment of mysterious buttons and knobs.
The plus side of having to stay up all night processing samples is that you might get to see a beautiful at-sea sunrise. Here are Anna, Sean, and Clara taking a break from lab work to check it out.
We finished up our last Jason dive ahead of schedule, which gave us time for a little something extra before returning to port. The Thompson’s crew obliged us with a drive-by past active lava flows on the coast of the Big Island.
We couldn’t get close enough to see anything glowing red, but the plumes of rising steam show clearly where the flowing lava meets the sea.
It’s been an intense, challenging, and rewarding expedition, with lots of deep-sea exploring, experimenting, microscope staring, electrode polishing, watchstanding, acid washing, all-nighters, teamwork, and more samples than you can shake a nano stick at. Although we’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the Thompson, everyone is looking forward to getting some rest back on land, and making progress on the exciting projects that got started at Loihi this year.
–Cat Wolner, NSF
Photo credits: Jason Sylvan (lava flows), Heather Fullerton (Arne with fish), Arne Strum (poke); all other photos Cat Wolner