Despite the abnormal daily schedule and the ever-cloudy weather, I do feel like I have begun to get more into a groove. My expectations of warm, sunny weather, with beautiful stars, sunsets, and sunrises, were completely wrong, as I wake up every day to look at the gray sky. Even though it has been the weather is not ideal, every patch of blue and ray of sunshine is celebrated by everyone on deck, as infrequent as they are. I feel as though I am getting the hang of things better and getting used to the rigorous schedule which has allowed me to enjoy the small things a little bit more and become more comfortable with daily life.
I have been doing a ton of reading and have actually finished my first book, Grant, by Ron Chernow. It was an amazing book that taught me a lot about the Civil War and reconstruction, as well as one of our nation’s most amazing historical figures. I am now moving on to War and Peace, which I am unsure if I will be able to get through; however, I have enjoyed the first 30 pages so far. I also spend a lot of time with my watch group, we have been getting along very well and we find ways to make things fun. One thing that I think has brought us closer is doing personal histories. Each person gets about half an hour to share anything they want about their life and they can be as in depth and intimate as they want. I have really enjoyed hearing about my watchmates’ lives how they became who they are, something that has made us all closer.
Today also marks the switch of the mates and assistant scientists assigned to each watch. After two weeks with Calliope (2nd Mate) and Emily (2nd Assistant Scientist), we will be switching to Darcy (3rd Mate) and Supi (1st Assistant Scientist). Although I have learned a ton from Calliope and Emily and will miss seeing them every day, I am excited to get to know Darcy and Supi and learn more under different teaching and leadership styles.
A majestic photo at the helm
I have found both the science and deck side of watch to be very interesting. It has taken a bit to fully understand sail handling and boat maneuvering but I have enjoyed learning about it and am feeling much more confident. I have found a lot of the science really fun and find 100-counts especially cool. We can estimate the organismal makeup of a Neuston tow by counting 100 organisms from a small sample. I love looking at all of the microscopic organisms under the microscope and learning more about them. Sadly, as we get further into the gyre, there is a much higher abundance of plastic and less overall biovolume.
Just today, Kyla counted 248 pieces of micro plastic, while I found only about 4 mL of overall biomass. This is a huge
contrast to earlier in the trip, when we were in the California current, I saw 9 whales on a single day, and Ian and I counted 256 pyrosomes (imagine a slimy pickle) from a single Neuston tow another day. Although there is not much life out here, we see about one shearwater per day, which I love to watch gliding over the surface of the water. The waves have also gotten bigger today which is pretty exciting; I find the motion of the waves and the whitecaps as far as I can see beautiful. I have yet to get seasick, which was a huge surprise and I hope I can stomach bigger waves and any storm that might hit us in the future.
The first picture shows me with the squid that I cut up to use as bait on our fishing line. I was sure it would catch us something and I suppose I was kind of right. It was really cool to see the blue shark, however, I hope it survived and was not too injured after getting dragged behind the boat for a bit! The second picture shows me at the helm, with my new haircut that I got about a week ago, truly embracing the sailor life.
- Andrew Hoffman, Bates College, C Watch
PS: Shout out to any friends and family reading, can’t wait to tell you all about my travels and hear about your summers!
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