Lightning Science

April 20, 2021

Lucy Manlick, C Watch, Mount Holyoke College

Sydney Marie (left) and Jordan (center) load the Shipek Grab for deployment to collect sediment, while Leanna (right) stands by on the hydraulic wire.

Sydney Marie (left) and Jordan (center) load the Shipek Grab for deployment to collect sediment, while Leanna (right) stands by on the hydraulic wire.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
24° 45.1’ N, 82° 38.95’ W

Ship Speed

Taffrail Log
486.7 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
The wind has been trending SW/SxW, with a strength that gradually increased throughout the day up from around a Beaufort Scale 3 to a 6. Cloud cover has varied with rain and post-rain. We are now anchored and plan to stay anchored for a day or so.

Description of location
Overnight through most of today, we were continuing to sail South along the West coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico LME.  As of around 1600 today, we anchored off of Dry Tortugas (off of the SSE corner of the fort). From what I’ve been told, this is the tip of the Florida Keys and the southernmost place you can go in the continental US! The island is small and mostly consists of a large fort. We will stay here for a while and enjoy the scenery and go snorkeling, so expect to hear more about it in the next few days!

Souls on Board

Over the past few days, we have become more used to the odd 18-hour days that we seem to be living in. Keeping track of which meal is which, what time it is, and even what day it is has become pretty confusing. This may be a recap for some of you, but for others here is a run-down of the watch schedule: every day is broken up into four watches. The crew is split up into three "watches" (A,B, and C). This means that the watches rotate every 18 hours and we essentially start a new "day." Sometimes our "day" is at night, or sometimes at midday. This is what a few days might look like:

0100-0700 A
0700-1300 B
1300-1900 C
1900-0100 A

0100-0700 B
0700-1300 C
1300-1900 A
1900-0100 B

For the most part, these watches are both exciting and exhausting. You spend six hours either on deck: steering the helm, doing boat checks (including the engine room), adjusting sails and coiling lines, or acting asa lookout. Or you might be in the lab: deploying gear, testing samples for pH or chlorophyll, taking pictures of E. coli colonies, or counting zooplankton. It is very hard work, but very rewarding!

The fort at Dry Tortugas, Florida.

The fort at Dry Tortugas, Florida.

Now, a lot of you readers probably are reading this blog not only to get an idea of what we (your child, grandchild, friend, or even a stranger) are doing at sea, but also to hear stories about what shenanigans we are getting up to out on the water. The past 24 hours have been┘eventful, to say the least, so buckle up folks!

I woke up yesterday at about 1700, just in time to get some dinner (we have great stewards- the food has all been amazing!) before going on watch. My watch started at 1900 and I was assigned to deck duty. I started out my night by steering the helm (you try as hard as you can to go in a straight line when the wind and currents may not want you to), taking weather observations, and doing boat checks.

Lucy (left), Elena (left center), Alex (right center), and Emma (right) evaluating the age and color of different segments of Sargassum S. fluitans III collected in a dip-net.

Lucy (left), Elena (left center), Alex (right center), and Emma (right) evaluating the age and color of different segments of Sargassum S. fluitans III collected in a dip-net.

When I rotated stations to lookout, I was a little wary of our surroundings. Off on the horizon to both port and starboard were lightning storms: not close enough that we could see them strike water, and not very large on the radar, but close enough to keep an eye on. We were headed towards just a hazy, rainy section of the front.

As the night wore on, we realized that the squall, a little bigger than we thought, was windy and rainy. As we quickly got into our foulies (foul weather gear) and woke up the mates, the Captain took charge and got the mains'l down with the spreader lights on. My shift change happened at 0100, right after we took down the mains'l. Watching how the mates and the Captain and even us crew handled working in a dynamic, fast-paced environment was amazing, and very exciting. C watch was tired and soaked after our relief, and we pretty promptly went to sleep.

The squall died down pretty quickly, so I'm told, and we just lasted through some rain and drizzling into this evening. Around 1700, we reached our temporary destination of Dry Tortugas, Florida. I've never been to Florida before, nor have I heard of the Dry Tortugas, so the giant fort was a bit of a surprise for me. (If anyone knows a lot about it, feel free to tell me!!) Over the next day or two, we'll get to snorkel around and enjoy the scenery before departing to round the tip of Florida and head up the Eastern Seaboard.

The trip to get here included some more scientific sampling (before we reached the reserve, where we cannot take any samples). Late into the evening, the Sargassum research team (plus myself and Jeff) worked on processing the first of our dip-net samples, looking at the Sargassum and any fauna living with it or on it.

While there has been a lot of excitement and flurry over the past day, with anchoring at a new place, the prospect of going swimming and soothing away the Florida heat, and a squall, there are always moments of peace. Looking at the stars at night (more stars and constellations than I've seen in my life), painting with watercolors on the deck, or just staring at the waves waiting for a dolphin to make an appearance are commonplace.

A quick shout out here to my mom, who requested that I take a picture holding a sign that says "hi mom" and post it on the blog, and to my dad who would probably love to see the engine room on board the ship.

Shout outs to my brother, who has to brave Trivia night without me, and to my grandparents who are probably reading this blog every day and sending a link to the rest of the family in an email blast because Lucy wrote a blog post!

And finally a shout out to all of you who are following the blog- the friends, family, alumnae, and random strangers who just happened to stumble upon it and read to the end.

I wish you a good night (day? morning?), good weather, and we'll check in again soon! Keep following our blog ?

- Lucy Manlick, C Watch, Mount Holyoke College

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