Cruising Big Blue ’17: Out of Sight of Land

By Annaliese Meyer

05-Jul-2017
50˚ 23.840’ N 131˚ 12.998’W

0800 hours: At breakfast this morning, I made to introduce myself to the crew member sitting next to me. Rather amusingly, he informed me that we had, in fact, met about 8 hours earlier when I had been blearily starting a new sample in the aft lab and he had been checking in as part of the midnight to noon watch. Given my reindeer pajamas and bemused 1 am expression, I think it was fairly obvious I hadn’t been entirely conscious at the time. I’m reluctant to let my samples run all night without supervision, and every couple hours I have swap to a new 20 L carboy filled with seawater. The result is an alarm set for every 2 hours through the night, and lots of short naps through the day. I also have a secret stash of chocolate covered coffee beans for when times get desperate – I might also use them to make friends with the night watch crew.

The first day and a half of the cruise have been as up and down as the larger swells last night. As the onboard electrical technician, Andrew, put it, “The first days are filled with putting out fires all over the place.” As long as they remain metaphorical fires, it’s nothing we can’t handle. The first couple samples I ran got so clogged with biological activity that they could barely process, and kept putting a concerning amount of back-pressure on the mountains of electrical tape that kept the resin columns, used for filtration, tightly sealed. Now that we’ve gotten a little farther into open water, the samples run much more smoothly. On the upside, I’ve gotten through almost 320 L of seawater at this point! Though a small fraction of the 2700 L I will have processed by the end of this cruise, it’s significant progress nonetheless. Other moments of excitement include my first foray into the world of banana splits, and a whale sighting on our first morning. Sadly, I did not get any photos of the whales – Sile and I raced to the boat deck after frantically securing our samples, and managed to catch only the tail end of them (pun intended).

06-Jul-2017
51˚ 55.301’ N 137˚ 36.786’ W

1200 hours: I got distracted from my previous post by as Nina, one of the other scientists in the lab, finished up on the underway loop system and I had a chance to hop on and get my sample. The rest of the day yesterday comprised sitting in the lab, keeping one eye on my samples and the other on the endless expanse of waves and sky through the porthole. I also got to take samples from the Niskin bottles on the CTD rosette for the first time. Sile kindly walked me through the sampling order – oxygen and other dissolved samples first, as the air that rushes in to fill the Niskin bottles as they drain starts to contaminate the top of the water with air. Right now, CTD casts are happening twice a day. After we reach Dutch Harbour, they’ll be every hour.

I managed to get down to the onboard gym yesterday as well. I stayed well away from the treadmill, given that I tend to fall off treadmills that are firmly rooted to solid ground – I would hate to see the result of me trying to run on one that moves with the waves. Getting a little bit of exercise on some of the other machines definitely made me feel better, and made me feel especially justified in the delicious strawberry-rhubarb pie we had for dessert today at lunch.

In other news, it’s definitely getting colder! Each time I take a sample, I record the coordinates, salinity, conductivity, and temperature at the beginning and end of the sampling time. At the beginning of the cruise, the loop water was about 14.5˚ C. Now, it’s just above 11˚ C, and will only get lower.

Other things to note: my sister was absolutely correct in telling me to label my Blundstone’s with my name when I got them for my birthday this year. Not only are they a staple in Victoria, they’re apparently a shipboard staple as well – I’ve already almost worn Sile’s pair several times in the last few days, and pretty much everyone in the lab has the same ones.

Also, I’m still not sure who’s acting as DJ in the lab (might be Nina), but their music choices are absolutely stellar. Blondie is definitely good for morale. All the classic rock is clearly getting to me; I keep dreaming that I’m in the movie ‘Pirate Radio’.

Annaliese Meyer is aboard the CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier as part of InFORM’s annual summer oceanic monitoring program. The ship left Victoria, BC on July 3rd and arrived in Barrow on July 23rd. Read her other posts: I Need to Explore, Mostly Regarding Food, The Life Aquatic, Caffeine and Bittersweet Farewells

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