Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fog Horns and Whales

Greetings from the the California/Oregon border.

The deployment of the GoFlo.  I'm on the winch (left) while Chris
Ikeda (RTC-SFSU)  operated the A-frame (at right wearing black jacket).
I woke up this morning, thinking about a conversation I had with Chris Ikeda (RTC-SFSU) a couple of days ago...I mentioned to him, how amazed I was at the amount of non-science work put in before the start of a cruise. Shipping equipment to the port, packing glassware, ordering chemicals, and paperwork...lots and lot of paperwork.  Incubators had to be sealed, and their wooden stands were refurbished.  There was also a large pile of wood brought on board.  While we were docked in San Francisco, there was a lot of cutting, sawing and nailing had done.  From building walls within lab rooms, to designing frames for stabilizing equipment, this had to be done before hitting the seas.  Then there's hoses and tubing... Like a circulatory system, is spans the work spaces of the R/V Melville.  "We're not scientists," he said in his familiar laugh.  "We're plumbers.  We move water around."  (Disclaimer:  He said that he borrowed that comment from Julian Herndon, a colleague of his at RTC-SFSU.)

Keith Shadle of the R/V Melville
is seen here assisting with
the deployment of the GoFlo
To give you a feel for what timekeeping is like at sea, from now on I will use 24 hour time.  This ensures that all of our record keeping will translate to other scientists after we complete our cruise.  We record two different times, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  Currently, the time on the R/V Melville is 20:29, while GMT is May 23rd, 05:29.  

Joselynn Wallace (Univ. of Rhode
Island) is collecting samples to take
back to URI for analysis.
For most of the day, we were shrouded in a thick fog.  The air was wet and cool--a perfect day for wearing warm head wear. My ears were chilled in a matter or minutes.  The sea was calm and appeared blackish.   

We started a transect near the California/Oregon border.  During a transect, we sample from a line of stations near the coast.  Aside from the normal sampling schedule (a full CTD cast profile, a CTD cast to five meters and a GoFlo collection at seven meters) we also collected water using the "fish."   This instrument is towed alongside the R/V Melville and allows us to pump water on board.  The water is then drawn into a clean room, where it can be prepared for experiments.  The fish has been used on several previous cruises and is operated by Dr. Mark Wells (Univ. of Maine).  

One of many samples
I filter each day.
For today's GoFlo cast, Chris served as the A-frame operator while I worked the winch.  When we have on deck operations, we communicate by utilizing hand signals.  Sometimes, noises from the ship can make it difficult to hear each other, even when use raised voices.  This was especially the case today.  Due to the dense fog, the R/V Melville continually sounded off its fog horn every two minutes.  This was done to let other vessels know that inside the white cloak of mist, was the R/V Melville.  For someone not expecting this loud warning, it can be quite startling.   I know this from first hand experience.

The lab was busy from 08:00 to 20:00.  As a science party, we have found our rhythm.  Like a hospital, we are constantly tending to various activities, delicately balancing our time sensitive tasks.  There are times when an analysis may run into supper time.  When that happens, there's always a person who will offer to put a plate aside.  Tonight I continued to run samples, so Rachel Vander Giessen was nice enough to set aside a plate for me.  When I was able to sit down in a quiet mess hall, I enjoyed my chicken with Thai peanut sauce and veggies.  The food on the R/V Melville is exceptionally good.
Julia Matheson (Western Univ.)
is reading pH measurements.

The highlight of the day was a visit by two blue whales.  As the word got out that they were traveling behind the  R/V Melville, we rushed to the fan tail and gazed with amazement at these majestic leviathans. Thick sprays of mist marked where they surfaced.  With every exhalation, we let out oohs and aahs.   Even as large as they were, they too depend on the success of phytoplankton.

Tomorrow will be a very busy day.  We will start with our usual casts, followed by another transect, offshore to onshore, and finish the day with more sampling from the batch experiment.  Chris will have a very long day ahead and  will probably work late into the evening.  After sampling the batch, he will break down that experiment, and set up a new one.  For those long nights, there is always a pot of coffee at the ready.

The science party is on deck
to watch a pair of blue whales
pass behind the R/V
Heather Richard (RTC-SFSU)
is scanning for cetaceans.
Black coffee--fuel for mariners.  

We are assigned numbers that

correspond to our mugs.
I'm #61.

Be sure to check back for more updates!
Maybe...we'll have more whale sightings.  

Fog horns sounding off!

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