A Still Day on the Slimy Seas

October 14, 2021

Brier Ward, C Watch, Johnston Community College


A Watch members Phoenix, Paige, Megan, Alec, and Bec prepare to abandon ship in their immersion suits as Asst. Scientist Katherine and Med. Officer Anne look on

Ship's Log

Noon Position
40deg 14.2’ N x 068deg 05.8’ W

Ship Heading
130 degrees

Ship Speed
7 knots

Taffrail Log
349.4 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Cumulus/Altocumulus clouds; Winds from NE at 4-6 knots; Seas from NE at 1-2 ft; Motoring at 1250rpm under the Mains’l, Fores’l, and Forestays’l

Description of Location
In the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, over Oceanographers Canyon and Bear Seamount.

Souls on Board

Dearly Beloved,

I write to you from the beautiful blue of the open ocean.There's nothing quite like waking up to the seemingly infinite expanse of water we all now call home. Today we experienced nearly all of what many of you perhaps feared for: a man overboard, a fire, and a complete abandonment of our ship!

Yes, today was drill day. Each watch group has a focus in emergencies, and every member of those groups has a specific duty.

The author and his project partner Megan with Pelagia noctiluca specimen

We'd practiced these drills before setting sail, but now that we all have a little more knowledge of how the ship is run, we were all able to put our skills into action.

In our first drill, spotters from B watch climbed aloft to keep eyes on the flag representing our man overboard. Members of A watch then used their fire hoses to spray around the site of our fictional fire for our second drill.

Lastly, we all hurriedly donned immersion suits as we prepared to abandon. Our drills went remarkably well, and we all celebrated our safety afterward with some garlic naan, courtesy of our stewards, Shelby and Will (and today's Student Assistant Steward, Megan!).

Things are of course exciting on the science front. Our midnight Neuston tow (science never sleeps you know) captured some exciting scyphozoan (true jellyfish) specimens, including one especially large Pelagia noctiluca we kept in the lab for a few hours before releasing it gently(ish) over the side. We've also encountered an abundance of our gelatinous counterparts, the by-the-wind sailor, Velella velella.

This bounty of jellies is especially exciting for me and my project partner, Megan. Our project examines the increase in numbers of gelatinous zooplankton that has been observed worldwide. While we don't yet have enough data for our trip to make year-to-year comparisons, initial observations confirm our hypothesis that this trend in gelatinous zooplankton populations will be observed along our cruise track.

By-the-wind sailors (Velella velella) from our midday Neuston tow.

Any good trip features a stop at a National Park, and today had us passing over the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument! Created in 2016 by President Obama, this is the first and only marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The monument protects undersea canyons and seamounts that are home to deep sea corals, many fish species, sea turtles, and endangered whales (a few which we saw!). This area has been important in scientific exploration and discovery since the 1970s, and will now be protected for future oceanographers to continue exploring-including us! There is something marvelous, a belief in the marvelous . . . which hurries me out of the common pathways . . . to the wild sea and the unvisited regions I am about to explore . . . Shall I meet you again, after having traversed such immense seas, and returned? . . . I dare not expect such success. . . . I love you very tenderly. Remember me with affection, should you never hear from me again.(1)

- Brier Ward, C Watch

P.S. Happy 21st anniversary to my parents! I'm sure I've made it feel twice as long some days (in good ways and bad), but I appreciate you sticking with me and sticking with each other. All my love, now and always. Hello to the other result of your equation as well.

1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818.

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