It was a big old day for us yesterday here on the Robert C. Seamans. We had our first field day! Which is a very liberally fun way of saying that we deep-cleaned the boat. At 1400 our quest to cleanliness began as we broke the boat down into sections and tackled them by watch; A watch took on the galley, C watch took forward, and B watch took aft. Off we went with our handfuls of microfiber rags, sponges, liquids, toothbrushes and butter (or as more accurately described by chief mate Rocky, gunk) knives to attack the dirt and gunk that somehow spreads throughout the boat despite our best efforts! The really exciting part about Field Day is that we get to listen to music! The boat takes on a frenzied and exciting feel as different speakers play an array of downloaded songs. Each change of location comes with a different soundtrack! After it felt like all of the grime and dirt that came off the boat after our two hours of scrubbing was then on us, we got to enjoy ‘Splash Mountain’ which involved some fire-hose action thanks to our engineers Beth and Marshall. They seemed to have enjoyed it maybe more than the people getting sprayed did.
If you think that field day sounds like a big enough event to take up a whole blog, you may be right but I’m not done!
Last night, in the wee hours of evening watch, around 2245 (sure maybe it’s not that late to some but to those of us who have 1900 bedtimes, woof!) something new started to occur. More ‘others’ (non-watch-standers) and scientists started to appear from below. You have to announce yourself when you come onto deck in the dark and the helmsperson or whoever is around will have to repeat it back. It feels like you’re being announced at a fancy ball when in reality, you’re being announced onto the quarter deck to witness or facilitate a fun and exciting scientific instrument being deployed 250m into the Pacific and then towed at 2kts.
I was standing at the helm and announcing person after person onto the deck and the excitement built with the building crowd. We turned the boat so that the wind was on our beam to port and turned up the RPMS until we were going a little bit over 2 knots. These specific parameters allow for us to ensure that the net doesn’t hit the boat and so that we can collect the data using the correct methods. The meter net is a majestic being that has a meter-wide opening and a 333 micron mesh net that ends in a cod end jar so we can collect all of our deeper oceanic column friends. We want to collect at night so that we can see the zooplankton migration within the water column.
The setup and procedure of the meter net was a new one to many but Captain Allison and Chief Scientist Sarah know their stuff. With the support and involvement of many of the folks on watch and the ‘others’ that came on deck to help, we were able to splash the net right on time at 2344 and had a safe and successful deployment. Ruthann was controlling the hydro wire the whole time, lowering until it got down to 250 meters and then bringing it back home, our Second Scientist, Katherine was running the deployment (a hugely successful first go for her if we may add and applaud!) and Sarah was supervising all and ensuring that we were safe. Simultaneously the chief engineer, Marshall was on the throttle to ensure that we stayed on our desired speed of 2kts, Captain Allison was delivering advice to our 3rd Mate, Olivia on steering the boat to ensure that the net didn’t hit the hull and Olivia was delivering orders to me, Grace, who was on helm. We played a careful game of keep the wind on your beam while also turning to port to bump the stern away and ensure that there was no run-ins with the net. We played this game for a full hour and a half before all of the gear had gone down to 250m and then was back on board. I gained a lot of appreciation for how different sailing for science can be than just sailing for sailing and what kind of knowledge and understanding and communication it takes.
Thanks to Marshall who stepped in at the helm for me for a moment I got to see that as the net came up out of the water, it had a glow of bioluminescence and the moon’s reflection. It looked kind of like a big data-gathering whale. It was beautiful! The science team carefully emptied the net’s contents into a bucket for the ‘pristine sample’ and then cleaned out the rest that was stuck in the net into the second bucket to ensure that the rest of the critters didn’t go unnoticed. Peering into the bucket you could see shrimps, salps (gelatinous clear critters), a translucent squid larva, bioluminescent critters, janthana janthana (bubble-raft floating snails) and so many more folks to be seen under the microscope. They came from so far to be here with us and to be counted, for science!
Once the deployment was complete we had an hour and a half left on watch, we finished up our duties and turned over to C watch. It was 1 am which means it was the end of the day that I’m writing my blog about… which means I’m done!
Whew! I’m tired just thinking about all of this, makes me think it might be my bed time. Goodnight everyone! Sleep tight and sweet dreams!
Grace, B Watch, Deckhand