So Much Science!

July 10, 2022

Francesca Johnson,  University of Alaska Southeast


A Wire Deployment for the CTD

Ship's Log

Noon Position
34°35.444’ N, 143°57.736’ W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed
6.5 knots

Weather / Wind
Winds from the northeast at a Beaufort 2. Seas from the northwest, 1 foot waves. Mostly cloudy with cumulus clouds. 22.2°C

Weather Sail Plan
Motor sailing at 1200 rpm under the mains’l and mainstays’l.

Latest Neuston Tow Plastic Count

Souls on Board

What a busy day on the Robert C. Seamans! In the early, early morning, the crew and B watch were all looking at the crazy things we had pulled up in our deep water tow. We found a lot of phroenemid amphipods, the things the creatures from "Alien" are based off of. There are now many of them terrorizing the onboard aquarium. I had a moment this morning where I was thinking how I was way offshore in the Pacific, staring at a Twilight Zone organism I only thought I would ever see in slides in one of my lectures.

We deployed the rescue boat at least three times today; twice to retrieve plastic we saw in the water, once to practice a man overboard drill. The drill went well, and we were able to retrieve Oscar, our dear basketball, in 12 minutes. Launching the boat is definitely a group effort and it takes more coordination than one would expect.

B watch had a watch meeting today and we discussed the steps leading up to and the steps for gybing, turning the stern of the ship through the wind. Usually we gybe so we can get the boat going particularly slow for science deployments, of which we did many! In the morning, we did a CTD deployment to get water samples from deeper down, a Neuston tow to sample organisms that live right on and under the surface of the water, a deeper Neuston net tow to see if we caught more plastics further below the water, a surface station to collect surface water, and a Neuston tow for Graham.

I processed our chlorophyll samples from the morning station today. I cannot believe I agreed to do more water filtration, but here we are. At least we have a vacuum pump system on board and I don’t have to do this by hand. Then we had our man overboard drill. Afterwards, B Watch had training to go aloft! We learned how to put on the harnesses properly, how to climb the shrouds properly, and how to safely get on and off the platforms aloft. You can see so much from that high on the ship! The view is amazing and the ship looks so small. There is a lot more wind up there than down on deck. The only thing that dampened the experience is how much more plastic you could see from there.

After that, it was crunch time for the lab group. The rafting community research group had a plethora of data to get and a plethora of data sheets to fill out. There were many crabs we pulled up watching this entire process. Taking pictures was particularly challenging today, due to how bright everything was, and there were many pictures to take. They had to continue working after dinner, and we all wish them luck. Our team had so much plastic to pick out of the sieves: from the first Neuston tow and from the subsurface Neuston tow. Kelly, Kat, and I picked out most of them with ridiculously small tweezers. We had to take shifts.

It took several hours to pick out all of the plastics, and then we had to hurry to process the rest of the tow: picking out the halobates (insects that live on the open ocean), picking out the organisms bigger than 2 cm, and then we had to figure out what volume of organisms we had pulled up in the tow. We were able to get most everything done by the time our watch shift was over.

Every day, we get to learn so much about how the lab and ship is run.

There’s always something to do or see, so all the students and crew are certainly kept busy. I can’t say this experience is exactly what I was expecting, but I also can’t say I had a very clear picture of what this trip would be like. I’m working to be excited about every new experience I get to have. Some of the science portions, especially, I have to laugh at.

Sometimes, science is picking hundreds of maddeningly small pieces of plastic out of a sieve. But it is good to have a better idea of what professional scientists are out here doing, I suppose.

PS: Happy Birthday from the middle of the Pacific, Faith! I’m sorry I missed it, but I hope you still had an amazing day. I want to hear all about it.

Hailey, I hope you weren’t too hard on her. I was thinking about you guys all day. And I mean all day, as my first watch today ended at one in the morning. I hope you guys had a lot of fun! Tell everyone I said hello. I have so many things to tell you and so many stories to share. I’ve been having so much fun and drinking lots of water. I miss you guys a lot and I’m so excited to see you after the trip. I hope you guys have been reading a lot of good books; Faith, I hope you’re not at the Big Sad yet, but if you are, I’m ready to hear all the thoughts. I did my laundry today with a washboard and felt very much like an 18th century maiden. A great time. Most of it is dry. I am looking up at the stars and wishing.

Hi Mom, Dad, and Sis! I went aloft today, and, as promised, I didn’t tell you until I came back down. I miss you guys and I’m excited to tell you all about the boat when I get back. This time, the blog writing was divided by person, I am not just avoiding posting. I am happy and well. I am rather sunburnt, apparently. Oops.

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