Saturday, August 4, 2012

And now... for a major recap.

Hm, it seems time got away from me somewhat, and now the cruise is done, we made it to shore, had a great time, and I've already been back in the US for 4 days...

So what all happened at the end, you ask?

Well, we can start with the crossing day... (dun dun DUNNNNNNN) 

I didn't really sleep the night before the crossing day, combination of channel fever (sleeplessness when you know you're on the way home) and excitement for crossing day I expect.  I woke up sometime around 5:30 and was trying to get back to sleep, but around 630 I started hearing the sound of ripping tape, and heard someone putting something on the doors... So naturally I got up, and found that a subpoena from Neptune's court and a name tag had been taped to everyone's door.  My 'wog name' was 'Pyscho Killer Wog', stemming from my lack of remorse for killing the denizens of Neptune's realm... I may have also offered to work as a hired assassin for Neptune on my application form... there are some bad tuna out there... baaaaad tuna... :D

I was one of the only people up and about before 7 am, and it's a good thing too - I got a chance to get dressed in the 'proper' wog attire (shirt on inside out and backwards, and underwear worn outside), eat a bit and get myself 'ready' for the day since right at 7 o'clock, the over the PA system comes a military-type alarm followed by an announcement that all wogs must report to the bow ASAP.  

Nearly all of the science party (~30 people!) were wogs, joined by 3 of the crew, which surprisingly, was the Captain, the Second Mate, and the Second Engineer.  hahahaha.  

Several 'Hail Neptunes' and bows and getting hit with the saltwater hose later, we were lined up and taken up into the Mess, where we had to stand 'quietly' and watch the shellbacks eat breakfast before we were allowed to eat - without silverware (no oatmeal that day~!)

After breakfast, groups of Wogs were assigned different tasks around the ship, hosing down the decks, washing up in the galley, etc.  I was assigned to sweep one of the smaller labs, which went pretty quickly.  

We then gathered to have our crimes read to the court by Davey Jones, and have a defense presented by the lawyer.  It was all rather hilarious - with the Wog names being based on peoples' crimes, and the guy playing the lawyer used to be a journalist, so he was rather creative with all the defenses.  But everyone was guilty (or VERRRRRY Guilty in my and some other cases), so we would all have to pay penance for our crimes against the realm. 

We then got a break to prepare for entertaining Neptune's court.  I had spent 3-4 days working on a skit entitled 'The boy who cried DDAs' as a parody of our research goals, the troubles we've had, and poking fun at particular scientists.  For example, the villagers went to the 'sleeping technician' for advice... who was played by my lab tech, who is known for always sleeping.... It was quite an involved skit, with 14 people in it (including someone playing the river plume - hahaha) but went over rather well.

The Brazilian scientists put together a demonstration of Capoeira, and then the remaining scientists had created a rap... which was awesomely hilarious.   I heard comments from some of the crew that it was the best skits/etc that they'd ever seen for a crossing ceremony.  What can I say, ANACONDAS rocks! :)

After lunch came time for our 'punishments' for our crimes... for which we had to go through whatever it was blindfolded.  The captain went first, and the Chief Scientist went second, and I jumped up to go 3rd.  It had been suggested to me before the cruise that if at all possible, I should go through the line early rather than later... TOTALLY A GREAT SUGGESTION.

The first stop was the 'electric chair'  which was accompanied by a surprise bucket of ice water.

This was followed by a visit to the 'barber' who did have a rather convincing act of buzzing peoples' heads with an electric razor that made you feel like they just took a random patch of hair off your head... followed by normal accoutrements of shaving cream, chocolate sauce and gatorade... 

And then came the belly of the whale.  Let us not speak of what exactly was in the belly of the whale, suffice to say that I was glad that they didn't make me actually go all the way on to my stomach... they'd kind of forgotten that part... teehee...

Nevertheless, I was still covered in a lot of rather unpleasant foodstuff afterwards, and needed a good rinse down as my first act of being a shellback.  

But afterwards, it was mentioned that, well now that you're shellbacks, you can help 'punish' the others... and thats when things got fun... people were getting doused with multiple buckets of water, the cook gave us a tray of eggs... and people were made to seriously roll around in the belly of the whale.  Shenanigans!

All in all a rather entertaining day... the next day we had a BBQ on the fantail of the ship, where we were presented with our certificates and cards proving that we are shellbacks. Huzzah!

On the 28th, we spent a good few hours loading up our shipping container... which for me meant climbing up a jungle gym of boxes inside a metal box in the blazing sun trying to fit all the puzzle pieces together.  It was really really hot in there.  But we made quick work of it, and were all ready to arrive in port...

Pulling into port on the 29th, I was actually up and about for a change to see us arrive in port and watch the crew secure the ship to the dock.

After finishing what loading needed to be done that morning, we quickly ventured out to the local watering hole(s) ;)  where we got much needed refreshments and snacks.

Jake trying flying fish for the first time...

This was soon followed by a game of beach volleyball.... I think I got a little overzealous... because there was a lot of diving into the sand ... laa la la...

We returned to the port later for dinner and the post-cruise party at the port bar... which we followed by discovering a soca (soul-calypso) music concert going on as part of the summer festival season.  Imagine a group of 10 white people (plus one asian) dancing in the middle of a sea of Bajans... it was rather awesome.

We followed this by commandeering a flatbed truck to take us all to our next destination - Harbor Lights bar and nightclub for more dancing and some much needed swimming.  Great day!

The next morning, I got up early again, and went out for a few dives with some scientists and crew... Awesome diving there:

We all moved off the ship, mostly towards the popular St. Lawrence Gap area and met up later for dinner and more fun.  It was a great way to conclude the trip. (except for the part where my hotel screwed up, didn't have a room for me, and I had to make them get me a room at a hotel down the street)

All in all this has been a great series of cruises. The people have been amazing, and the crews we've worked with on the three different ships have all been stellar.  A big thank you to to my lab tech, whose been on all three of these cruises, and to Jake, the undergrad on his first trip, for their efforts.

As I head back into the lab now, I can definitely reflect on these cruises as major events that have had an impact on my life.  Between the people and the science, they've all worked to shape my vision for what I want to do after my PhD and so on.  I'm about to start an intense several months leading up to my eventual dissertation defense next spring, but it'll be okay.  I've got a lot of data and several stories to tell.

Now it's off to the lab and to my computer to wrap up my dissertation before heading out to my next adventure.

So until next time... Cheers All~~!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Land Ho!

We're back in Bridgetown, Barbados, and doing the final loading of boxes and equipment into our shipping container, and then it's time to hit the town and find a bar.  To say nothing of the fact that it's before noon on Sunday.  This is perfectly normal. ;)

Friday, July 27, 2012


And after an 'interesting' day, I and the other former 'polywogs' aboard the R/V Atlantis have now attained shellback status...

I'll write more later after some of the photos are posted... :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Headed Home, Part 2

Whoo, spa night - always a fun time :)

But first, a recap of the last few days...

I mentioned we had four stations in the span of 30 hours... rather intense schedule, but out here, you learn to sleep when you can (granted, others resort to large volumes of coffee).

At the last two stations, the coring team encountered nothing but sand (no mud u__u) However, we did find some critters in the sand.

At one station, after the multicorer was brought back on board, I noticed something white moving inside one of the tubes.  On closer inspection, I found it was a sea snail!  He did a few laps around the inside of the core tube before burrowing back in the sand and hiding.  We snapped a few photos (on a different camera, unfortunately) before releasing him back into the blue yonder.

At our last station, I noticed another moving object in the core tube, and this time it was a little sand crab.  He didn't seem to be very excited about being removed from his normal realm, so he was returned too.

After we finished all the casts for plankton, coring, and water collection, we had a different operation, which was dredging the bottom in search of sea sponges.  One of our Brazilian collaborators has an interest in them, but had to wait until the end of the cruise to try to find them.

Lifting up the dredge

In the middle of recovery

Emptying the dredge net

There's some pretty interesting stuff coming up in the net.  It is a little sad to see how destructive dredging is though.  It really makes you think about fishing practices that use dredging as the primary means of catching fish... 

And now after a long day of tearing down the multicorer (I'd never taken it apart before!) Tonight after dinner we had the annual ANACONDAS spa night.  The stations included deep sea mud facials, shoulder massages, manicures, and tattooing.  Everyone from the science team got involved, and even some of the crew too! 

Once again, we are preparing for the equator crossing ceremony day on Friday, where anyone who has not previously crossed the equator must abide by the rules of those who have in honor of King Neptune.  It's all in good fun, as one of the requirements is having at least one finger nail and one toe nail painted in different colors, and having a tattoo of a sea creature.   It's rather fun with this group, because everyone knows it's all in good fun, and we all have a good attitude about the pending experience.... We'll see how it feels afterwards... 

So, my outer leg tat I stenciled on yesterday... 

The row of people receiving facials... 

Application of the mud facial...
There's my boys... covered in mud like normal ;) 

Mo giving Nick advice on painting his nails.

Sarah painting her toes... 

Jake decided to get a second tat in addition to his 'ocean' themed one ;)

I decided to make use of my other awesome stencil... 

Tomorrow's another day of cleanup and packing... with the day after being all crossing stuff... should be exciting... and kind of scary...

Headed for home

Today we started our 4 day transit back to Barbados.  It was a crazy rush to the finish with 4 stations in a span of 30 hours, but we're done and starting to pack things up and break our equipment down.

We're also taking the opportunity to relax a bit and have some fun.

First up, tonight we are having 'spa night' complete with deep sea mud facials, manicures, and shoulder massages.

On Friday we are having our official 'Equator Crossing' festivities/ceremony.  There is a long standing naval tradition of 'initiating' people who have not yet crossed the equator.  It's a day-long event where those who have crossed (shellbacks) spend the day making those who have not (polywogs) do silly things to appease King Neptune.   Details of the event will follow, but one of the requirements for the day is that everyone must have a tattoo of a sea creature, drawn on if necessary.  This is mine:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A 'Reel' story, and adventures on the continental shelf

So, a few nights ago around 3am, I was finishing up some model work on my computer and went by the computer lab before bed... The winch operator asked me if my undergrad was awake, because apparently two Mahi had been sighted swimming around the ship.  I headed out to the deck, since I knew where the rods were stashed... A few minutes of waiting, and lo and behold, a pair of Mahi swim into the light of the ship's deck lights chasing squid.

One of the crew guys and I start casting, and I cast out to the edge of the light/shadow and start reeling in.  All of a sudden there's a pull on the line, and the bigger of the two fish (looked ~2 feet or so from up on the ship) starts jumping around like crazy.  I reel in as fast as I can, trying to keep up with it's jumping shenanigans, but while the other guy ran to get the net, the fish popped off the lure.  (argh).

We keep casting, in hopes that they're still hanging out... but I can't see them.  Then, crazily enough, the same fish hits my lure _again_.... and this time, I set the hook as hard as I can, and he starts fighting.  In what seemed like moments, I'm fighting the fish, reeling in as I can, when the handle of the reel just snaps off in my hand (!).   The reel is screaming away as the fish made for the hills, and I yell for help from the crew guy... who comes and finds that the handle has cleanly snapped off... but dashes of to grab a pair of vice grips... he proceeds to take apart the reel a bit so that he can get a clean grip on it, and manages to start reeling the fish in using the vice grip reel handle... (ridiculousness~!)

The rod was bending like crazy, and before long, he had it at the side of the ship.  I had a long net in my hands, but either couldn't see the fish in the shadow of the ship, or it kept diving under the ship, or it wasn't close enough to the surface.

And just when we thought we would get it on deck... the spool of the reel broke completely.  I grabbed the line to pull it in hand over hand, but as I was doing that, I felt the fish pop off the hook -_____-

Quite an adrenaline filled night, to say the least... the crew guy cast out at the smaller mahi that was still hanging around, and hooked it... but it too popped off the hook as I was trying to get the net again...

*sigh*  If we had landed that bigger fish, it would have been epic.  There's a lesson about fishing with crappy equipment in here somewhere... but ah well.  You win this round, mahi... we shall meet again hopefully...

In other news... after that night of infamy, we moved onto the continental shelf off the coast of Brazil.  Where once we were coring in 4000m of water, now we're dropping it in 20 m.   o_O

It's a completely different ballgame now.  The North Brazil Current, which conveys the plume waters to the northwest, is really strong here, sometimes moving as fast as 2.5 knots (nautical miles per hour).  This causes the instruments we deploy to 'kite' in the water, as they get dragged along.  This can be rather challenging to work in, as we typically need our instruments to be straight up and down.  The ship's crew has been doing a great job to help maneuver the ship to get the best samples.

Some photos of the work going on at these coastal sites:

Preparing to deploy one of the optical measurement instrument suites.  The instrument below is called the 'FRRF' which stands for Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer. It measures fluoresence (which can detect pigments like chlorophyll) in the upper ocean as a means of measuring the amount of photosynthesis occurring.

Here Sarah is rinsing her sample canisters in advance of the CTD cast.  Sarah is a member of the Montoya group that measures the abundance and isotopic composition of suspended particles in the ocean.

And here's the deployment of the CTD.... notice the bright green water off to the side?  Last night it was brown!

Here's Brandon of the zooplankton team waiting for their surface net tow to come back... The continental shelf is far too shallow to use the MOCNESS, so they use smaller nets instead.

Here comes the net...

Now what about my group's work on the shelf?  In addition to the screaming fast current, we face another problem - the mud on this part of the shelf is very soft and soupy, which makes coring a challenge.  The way our corer works, is that the outer frame 'lands' on the sea floor and stops moving, allowing the center part of the corer to continue moving down, which triggers a release mechanism to close the lids and feet covering the core tubes.

We've been having a problem of the release mechanism not firing at all, even after hitting the bottom.  Once of our recent modifications has been to attach wood 2x4s to the frame, to give it more surface area to prevent the frame from sinking the same amount as the center spider.

Unfortunately, 6 tries in, we still haven't managed to get cores back on board yet.  We've come up with some new ideas to try and we'll give it a go again tomorrow when we're at the next station which happens to be right in the river mouth.

The multicorer with its new skids...

And now.... a sunset...

Til next time.....