Maybe ten minutes after I sent out the newsletter on Sunday, our expedition coordinator Shannon came back from lunch with an energy I could nearly describe as manic. That lunch was the egg salad and jello that broke the camels back (see image in the photo dump below). She cancelled the mapping for the day, we setup a hot tub on the O-2 deck, pooled together our rations, and had a morale boosting extravaganza. It also helped that we had finally left the tropical humidity behind, the weather was a perfect 75 degrees, and the ocean was practically as flat as a lake. Myself, Marcell, and Trey took to the deck with a speaker, set up some chairs, and bumped music like we were on a road trip, watching the tranquil blue waters pass by.

Whats next for the Okeanos Explorer?

As of Thursday night my stay on this ship is officially over!

The Okeanos Explorer, along with most other US ocean exploration vessels, has a cruise season that lasts from March-November. During the winter the boat receives repairs and the crew gets leave. Our cruise was the third of the 2022 expedition season (EX2203). The Okeanos is scheduled for 9 cruises in total this year, with the final cruise being off the coast of California in November.

We will disembark on Friday, and next week the EX2204 cruise will begin boarding, taking off a couple days thereafter. The crew (cooks, engineers, deckhands, etc) are full time, and most are on a two year commitment to the Okeanos. The officers (those actually steering and running the ship) are also on two year assignments. The science / exploration party will change from cruise to cruise, as will the expedition coordinator, although some come back multiple times in a season. Marcell, for example, was one of the mapping leads on this cruise, and will join the ship again for the expedition to the Azores Islands in June and the Channel Islands in September. He, along with most of the scientific party, is a private contractor for NOAA.

After speaking with the crew, most are pretty excited for the cruise to the Azores. The last two years have been drastically altered due to COVID, and the 2019 cruise season was heavily altered due to the government shutdown. As a result, the locations of exploration have all been relatively close to the continental US border. Interesting, and important, yes, but not very bold or adventurous. Additionally, the Okeanos has been operating almost solely out of the Atlantic since 2018 as a part of the Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE) campaign. In the coming years the Okeanos will shift its overall mission focus to the pacific to contribute to the EXpanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS) campaign. The goals of this involvement in the Pacific include characterizing the coastal region to inform potential offshore wind energy and seafloor resource use, and to improve hazard assessments for earthquakes, tsunamis, and other marine hazards.

And what about me?? Well I keep forgetting but I have a pesky little PhD to finish... Which is likely going to take another two years. And although what we do on cruises like this is novel oceanic science, it is not at all related to my specific dissertation and research (making ocean models to study waste water plumes and kelp growth in Southern California). Thankfully, our EC Shannon is a wonderful leader, and has given me great insight into how to stay connected with NOAA throughout the next couple of years. She is putting in a good word for me to be an onshore scientist for some of the upcoming cruises in California. In that role I would be on call onshore to provide insight and information to the scientific party at sea in case they find something interesting or have questions about the overall environment. Cross your fingers for me!

explorers log

Closing timeeee. 
As I write this we are sitting 30 min from the dock of the Naval station in Newport Rhode Island. Our trip is finally over. Feeling primarily excited at this point, but I am certain the feels will hit tomorrow when we have to actually say goodbye. As of right now I think all of us are just ready for a good meal.
We have FLOWN up the east coast the last couple of days. We reached 15 knots the other night, which for this vessel is unheard-of. The temperature has dropped 30 degrees in the past three days. Tonight I watched the sunset as we transited into Newport. It was absolutely beautiful and I was completely frozen.
The last couple of days have been really busy and really fun. We have to make sure all of the data we gathered is pretty, organized, summarized, and ready to take off the ship. We decorated Styrofoam cups and lowered them on the CTD to shrink them. I generated a LOT of maps and managed to fight off scurvy for another truly trying set of meals. I am ready to go home and NOT ready to say goodbye to this wonderful group of people.
My brain is jumbled and I need to pack so I'll call it here. Next newsletter coming to you from LAND!
XOXO Paigey

photo dump

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