This is the final post for the 2014 Barbados to Bermuda Chief Scientist Cruise Workshop, please access the most recent Chief Scientist Workshop Cruise blog!
Land Ahoy!! It is both surreal and exciting to finally spot land on the horizon, when you’ve been surrounded by nothing but ocean for 9 days. We spent the prior 24 hours working through the nights so that we could squeeze in the last two stations and get in our last plankton net tows and CTD casts. Then we sped off for Bermuda. We needed to get to land by
high tide because at low tide the water becomes too shallow for a boat as large as the Atlantic Explorer to dock. That would have meant spending the night on the ship and waiting for the next high tide. By the time we spotted land we were all very tired, but the excitement of watching our harbor pilot jump from his ship to ours while they were both still moving woke us up a bit.
The docking area is a difficult area to get to, and an even more difficult job to dock such a large ship in such a small area, but Captain George was up to task and we had a reception waiting to welcome us at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). There were even several small Barracuda waiting to greet us. It’s a bitter sweet ending to our trek across the Atlantic Ocean. We are all glad to see land and looking forward to seeing our friends
and families. However, we will miss the sea, doing the work we love, and miss the friendships and family-like ties that you can’t help but form when putting so many great people together (scientist and crew alike) on what was ultimately our floating home for a short while.
…But this is only the end of the first part of a research cruise journey. The second leg will now begin as we all take our data and samples to our home laboratories. There we will begin to analyze them in every way we can imagine in the hopes of finding pieces of the puzzle that is understanding our oceans. We feel quite confident that we will find many answers, as well as discover many more new questions. It is these new questions that drive science, and that will lead us to plan our next research cruise adventure.
Unfortunately, if you can view this post, the blog’s commenting is shut down and we can no longer interact with you. We got such a large number of responses, and were so busy that we were not always able to respond. Also, the past few days we have been working very hard on after-cruise activities and getting ready to fly back to our homes, so we are very sorry if we did not reply to your comment. We want to thank each and every person that followed us on our journey and interacted with us with comments and questions. What terrific questions we received!! We have been so excited to see how interested and engaged everyone has been. We hope that we have given you some idea of what it is like to be an oceanographer, a member of a ship’s crew, and to live and work at sea on a research vessel. Possibly, we’ve even encouraged a few of you to be oceanographers.
From the crew and science party of the 2014 CST Research cruise aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer
The ocean is a very deep place and many interesting things happen in the ocean as you go deeper and deeper. Many of the scientists are interested in examining the chemistry and the microbiology of what lives in the deeper parts of the ocean. It can be very difficult to collect water from very deep parts of the ocean. We use a CTD to collect water at various depths of the ocean. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth (some of the sensors that it contains). The CTD also has many bottles that can be used to collect water. We can lower the CTD into the water and trigger these bottles to close at different depths sealing the water in the bottle. Upon returning to the deck we can collect the water and use it for different purposes.
For example, many of the microbiologists are interested in collecting the bacteria and phytoplankton that live in the water. To do this we will filter water so that it will trap most of the microbes on the filter. This allows us to concentrate the bacteria on the filter and take them back to lab for further investigation.
Barbara is interested in studying how carbon-containing compounds are different in the deep ocean. To do this she can collect these compounds using special columns designed to trap all of these carbon-containing compounds. Sam and Violetta are also looking at how different chemicals change at different depths over long periods of time. All of this together will help us to better understand our oceans and how humans impact them.
-Molly Redmond, Stephen Techtmann, and Steve Tuorto
Time spent on a research vessel can be very busy, especially while working at a research station. With all the different projects going on at once, the ship is often bustling with activity. Still, there are often long stretches of time between stations when there isn’t much work to do. Even the crew gets some time off from running the ship to relax and unwind. So, what do you do when you’re in the middle of the ocean and you’ve got some time to kill?
If the weather is good, you’ll often see scientists and crew alike out on the deck enjoying the sunshine. Some sit and talk and watch the water. Others take time to stretch their legs and walk around the deck. Walking on a ship as it rocks back and forth can be really good exercise!
We also have a small supply of books that people can borrow to help pass the time. Technician Sam is often seen with a book in his hand. He is such a fast reader that he usually finishes one every day! On nice days many of us like to lie outside with a good book.
There is also a comfortable lounge on the ship, equipped with a large flatscreen TV and a stock of DVDs, including movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, we can’t get cable out here in the deep blue sea, and the internet connection is too slow to stream from websites like Netflix or Hulu. So if you’ve already seen all the movies we have onboard, you may want to bring your own supply.
We currently only have one computer onboard the ship with an internet connection. During downtime, many of us take time to email our friends and family and let them know how things are going on the ship. We also use it to update the blog, of course!
Sometimes, if the crew spots a school of fish or expects to see one near a mooring, some of them will get put out some lines and go fishing. On our first day out, Ronnie caught a huge mahi mahi. He and Jacob had their lines out yesterday over the stern, but didn’t have much luck. Maybe next time…
There are lots of other activities you can come up with to keep busy on a boat. The other day, Karen S organized a game for the scientists and crew to play. Some people bring musical instruments to play, or crafts to work on. On this trip, I’ve brought along a very special project: I’m sewing my wedding gown! I’ve been working on it for several weeks and it is almost finished. It is almost entirely sewn by hand, and I can’t wait to wear it this September. Once I get home, I’ll be finishing up the groom’s suit, too!
Of course, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a lot of work to be done, but when you love it as much as we do, the science can be just as fun as our time off.
-by Lauren Seyler
Baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” If you don’t know who Yogi Berra is, just ask your grandparents. One of the things I enjoy most on a research cruise is to look very closely at a zooplankton net tow sample that has just come from the water. You can watch the little creatures swim, and
after a while you can begin to identify them just by seeing how they move through the water. You can also pick them up and observe them under the microscope. One thing that jumps out at you when looking at them in the microscope is the diversity of their eyes. Above are some pictures of zooplankton eyes taken through our microscope on the R/V Atlantic Explorer.
In the pictures above there are:
fish (2 of them), hyperiid amphipods (2 of them), krill, copepods (3 of them), squid, heteropod, and an alciopid worm.
Can you tell which eye belongs to which animal? You might need to do some research to learn about these amazing zooplankton.
Jon Cohen, Ph.D.
As an ocean-going scientist, life at sea is a wonderful mixture of gaining perspective and enjoying the exploration of your own enchantments…otherwise known as science experiments. Perspective comes from looking at our world, the majority of which is water, and appreciating how small each individual person is in comparison, yet understanding we all have the potential for a positive contribution that can bring new scientific findings to the forefront of the classroom (and beyond!). We, including you, are like a box of Legos. We each have all of the pieces, yet with the endless combinations for new creations, it is how we put them together that makes us unique. And, when several ocean-going scientists come together fun and new ideas abound, bringing together new combinations of science. How are such accomplishments made? Through the ‘ologies (biology, ecology, geology, physiology, etc…) of education of course, and these ‘ologies are being combined during this University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) 2014 Chief Scientist Training Cruise.
As a pteropodologist (or science person who studies pteropods), I am also an artist…one of my pieces per se. And, as science and art are synonyms (type the word “science” into your word processor then select it and press Shift + F7 on your PC to be sure) it is a pleasure to photograph the thrills of discovery each day of this research cruise. From photographs of small animated ocean animals, to charismatic mega-fauna, images help tell an engaging story. Here is a small collection of photographs I have taken during this research cruise and I invite YOU to tell me creatively, scientifically, and constructively what you think the story is behind one of them!
Paul Suprenand, Ph.D.
Here is a little video we took yesterday evening. It is a little squid that came up in the 500 micron plankton net. You can see the beating hearts and its chromatophores. Enjoy!
As we have been making our way north, I have been running an aerosol sampler on the top, or the “fly bridge” of the ship. The sampler is basically a pump that pulls air down over a filter, at a rate of roughly 1 cubic meter of air per min (about 40 cubic feet per minute). The sampler is also attached to a wind sensor so that it will only collect air when the wind is coming from the bow sector (or front) of the ship. This way I can avoid contamination from the ship’s diesel engine exhaust which is released toward the stern or back of the ship.
A major goal of mine on this cruise is to collect samples of Saharan dust desert which blows across the Atlantic, most efficiently in the tropics carried from the east by the trade winds. As we move further north we are getting out of the influence of the trade winds and my filters are starting to look different colors! Still south of the influence of the westerly winds from North America, it appears we may now be in an area of relatively pristine marine air, where most of the aerosols are made up of sea salt from waves breaking over the ocean. Toward the end of the cruise, we may potentially see more “gray” filters, indicating aerosols that come from typical “air pollution” sources like burning coal and gas. What color will come up next on my filters?!
–Christopher Hayes (MIT)
After much anticipation, our ‘Meet the crew’ page is starting to come together! To learn more about those that make the ship come alive, check this page frequently to look for any updates. As for now, please let me introduce you to Buddy and Dexter, our source of life and happiness on the ship, our amazing chefs! Rumor has it that if there was a ‘World’s best ship chefs award’, it would immediately and unarguably go to them two. Eating on cruises is very important: it helps people fight sea-sickness, fill their hungry bellies after hours of hard work, and it’s a great opportunity for the cruise participants to relax and chat with one another. We’re thus incredibly lucky to have such talented and enthusiastic chefs on board. Buddy and Dexter are great friends and together make a fantastic team, producing the most delicious delicacies.. Read on to find out more!
– Violetta Paba