Walk the Line, P: Day in the Life

by Sara Zeidan

A few days ago we reached Station Papa, the farthest point on Line P, marking the end of our vigorous sampling and are currently steaming back to shore.

A conductivity, temperature, and depth (commonly referred to as a CTD) rosette with water sampling bottles on the upper portion that can be remotely triggered during the “cast” or lowering through the water. Electronic sensors measuring conductivity (a prime factor in calculating salinity) temperature, and pressure (which is easily converted to depth) are among other common pieces of equipment beneath the water sampling bottles. Depending on the CTD package, other sensors may include dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and sunlight.

The past week has been very busy, but I’ve really been enjoying life at sea. My watch shifts have been from 12:00 – 6:00 pm, and we usually reach a lot of stations during this time. Prior to reaching a station we have to organize and label all the bottles for sampling. Once we reach the station we always send a rosette down, occasionally a bongo, and once the rosette returns we sample away. Sampling the rosette, although a simple task, has been one of my favorite things during my experience. It’s really interesting to feel how cold the water can be at 2000m deep compared to surface water samples. We even had a playlist put together, where everyone pitched in a few songs, and had it going while we had hours of sampling at Station Papa.

A bongo net used for sampling zooplankton (microscopic animals) in the water column. (credit CALCOFI)

Usually after my watch I stay up from 6:00 pm-12:00 am to monitor cesium samples filter though the resin and take care of other work. Although a slow task, it’s important to make sure the system doesn’t clog up or have any air run through it for too long. It’s quite a handful when you have six samples filtering through all at once. Richard usually takes my place after this and I head to sleep.

Breakfast is at 6:00, which I occasionally wake up for, but I usually wake up around 9:00am and work out. The gym on the ship has a lot more than I expected; a treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, rowing machine and a whole array of weight machines. When it gets rough outside, working out is more humorous than anything. Lunch is usually served around 11:30 then dinner around 5:00pm and the food has been outstanding. We usually get a little menu to choose from, and as a vegetarian everything has been exceptionally pleasing with some great options such as tofu stir-fry, chili, veggie burgers and much more.

An example of a shrunken styrofoam cup. The process is a time honored oceanographic tradition.

The science and ship crew have all become one giant family and we’ve all been having a really great time so far. There’s an ongoing cribbage tournament, board games and dart games all to pass the time. A few of us have managed to get together later at night and have some movie nights or binge watch some TV shows. We all made cups shrink, where we took Styrofoam cups and decorated them. We then sent them down 4250 m with the rosette at Station Papa, and they all came up a fraction of the size they once were. We’ve seen a few whales from afar, had a bird crash on deck and recently some dolphins playfully swam beside the ship as we sailed. We’ve also managed to catch a few tuna, wash and cut them up later for dinner. On clear nights, if we’re lucky, we can see the Milky Way.

It’s also been really great to see what other scientists are working on; many are PhD or masters students, or are working with the Institute of Ocean Sciences and other oceanographic institution. Many people treat their water samples from the rosette differently. Some test for alkalinity and pH in relation to ocean acidification, others test for oxygen and nutrient levels for primary and secondary productivity. A lot of samples are filtered through to eat the water for certain components such as chlorophyll. We also had to replace a mooring, which helped collect noise beneath the ocean.

As we steam back to shore everything has calmed down and everyone has more time to relax from all the work over the past few weeks. It’s a bittersweet feeling returning back to shore, but I’m making sure to enjoy every single moment before this cruise is over!

Other posts from Line P in 2016: The Plan, Out to Sea, Big Blue, Day in the Life

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