Today has been quite a spectacular day, mostly due to the fact that it is my 24th birthday, a holiday widely celebrated by the crew of the Robert C. Seamans. I awoke to a beautiful, birthday banner that Dawn Watch had made for me and hung in the galley, was then serenaded by our Captain while brushing my teeth, and overwhelmed by the amount of “happy birthdays!” I got as walked throughout the ship.
I'm Allie Cole, and I'm here on the Seamans as a visiting scientist from Boston University and the Blue Nature Alliance to collect data and process all of the net deployments a few students have mentioned in previous posts. I wrote a thesis on the larval fish found in this region of the Pacific Ocean and love studying the tiny things we can find by running a net through the water column for a bit. I spent multiple years counting fish and identifying them under a microscope. So I started my work day by going to the science labs to help with said deployments. Dawn Watch had been even busier than I realized and had also decorated our dry lab, with fun drawings and changing the computer screens to wish me a happy day, and a hand painted card filled with sweet notes and even better drawings. As most people who have been in my life for any amount of time know, I am an avid crier. So it should be no surprise that all of the care and effort these people who have only know me for about a week put into making me feel special, made me cry. But the work day must go on, so I set about to help with the deployments.
The first stage of our process begins with a carousel that has instruments to collect water at different depths, measure temperature, salinity, chlorophyll-A concentration, Oxygen levels, and a few other fun things. This gets deployed with our hydro-winch that lets wire out and lowers our carousel to our preferred depth of 600 meters. Today I was practicing being the Driver, meaning I was in charge of how fast or slow the wire went and putting a large metal arm called the J-Frame out over the ocean, which is then connected to our instruments so the carousel and wire doesn’t hit our hull. As this is happening a small net is put over the side back aft that collects phytoplankton. Then after the carousel is taken out of the water I, along with Abby G., another scientist from BU and the BNA who most of the crew has decided is my twin in all things and our names can be used interchangeably, collected water samples and processed the phytoplankton net (meaning we collected the phytoplankton and preserved it in a little jar). As we did this the students put the Neuston Net (see June 29 Olivia Patrinicola for a description) into the water. Then once it’s removed Abby and I processed it. I was hoping for some fun birthday magic to give us an amazing tow filled with fun weird things, but it was pretty average. The one weird thing was that we found 30 fish and not much of anything else. Usually, there is a least a few fun jellies or a cephalopod or two. But I’ll take 30 fish over a cephalopod any day. We are gearing up to add two more net tows to our deployments and do everything once during the day and once at night. That’s when the real fun begins for Abby and me, and all the really cool stuff starts coming out of the nets. I’m sure you will hear all about it in later blog posts.
Throughout the rest of the day I was the lucky recipient of five more birthday songs, another from our captain, one in Dutch, and one special written for me by our engineer, who sang it to me while playing guitar as the stewards brought out cupcakes. A truly magical time. (As I’m sure many of you are curious I’ve added the lyrics to said song at the end of this post.) I have already felt so loved on this birthday; I hope that the rest of my 24th year is this special. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the fact that we are so far out in the middle of nowhere. As I write this we have traveled over 750 nautical miles from Hawaii. I feel extra special to get to ponder the absurdity of open ocean sailing at the same time I ponder the absurdity that I’ve lived 24 years and those years have led me here.
And now I’m off to read a sweet birthday letter from home and probably take a nap before dinner and the nighttime deployment.
With all my love for those following along, Allie
Allie’s Birthday Song, written and performed by Dewy, as follows,
Woke up to a sky of blue, purple, and pink Allie’s favorite colors, she told me I think?
Or was it Abby G, that told me that part We’re all trying our best to tell ‘em apart But Allie’s super cool, ya she’s oh so sweet I know that Lady Gaga would think she’s a treat She’s from Santy B[arbara] if ya didn’t know She’s also quite a pro at the Neuston tows
Allie I see ya in the galley
If I were a baby fish, my dying wish, you’d count me Ohhhhhh Allie we meet up in the Galley We hope your birthday wish, will have lots of fish, but booby-less [referencing the red-footed boobies that have been hitchhiking on board]
Now your birthday song has come to a close… Woah you’re wearing some pretty rad clothes
Allie’s one of our science super stars Wish her a birthday she won’t be far
Ohhhh Allie Allie I see ya in the galley If I were a baby fish, my dying wish, you’d count me Ohhhhhh Allie we meet up in the Galley We hope your birthday wish, will have lots of fish, but booby-less
Allie Cole working the wire during today’s deployment, while First Asst. Scientist Süpi Vallas and Student Noah Van Aardenne handle the carousel