Days tend to run together on board ships. Down here this has been
especially true, since the sun never sets. Here’s a recap of my last day:
0030, January 10th: on the back deck of the Gould. The back deck is
barely five feet above the water, so waves are constantly coming over the
railing and sloshing back and forth across the deck as the ship rocks.
It’s foggy and wet. We’re waiting to deploy the “Mocness,” a fancy
plankton net with nine several-meters-long, automatically-closing nets, a
fluorometer, and a number of other gadgets.
0200: half sitting, half napping in the electronics room, waiting for the
net to come back up. It’s still 1500 meters below the surface.
0245: back on deck, wearing waterproof bib pants and a “float coat” (a
lifejacket/parka hybrid). The Mocness is surfacing. We hook it to an
enormous crane, haul it on deck, and begin unloading the contents into
0330: huddled around the buckets, picking plankton out of the
0750: drowsily grab breakfast and climb the stairs to the bridge, where
everyone has gathered to try spotting the sediment trap, which has been at
the bottom of the sea for exactly one year. Usually I’m only on duty from
1600-0400, but today presence is mandatory for the sediment trap recovery.
At 0800 a button will be pushed, the trap will float to the surface, and
the first person to sight it wins 50 dollars.
0803: Rick and I spot the trap. I win 50 bucks.
0830: The next hour is spent hauling the giant trap, along with its radio
transmitter and floats (which look like enormous yellow hard hats) on
deck. The back of the ship opens up to more easily drag equipment aboard.
Some of the marine techs have to tether themselves to the deck to keep
from falling in as they operate the crane. Waves keep rolling on deck.
0930: a few of us are decked out in foul weather gear, scrubbing mud,
hydroids, and other sea gunk off of the old trap and floats. The swells
have picked up to about 15 feet.
1030: I’m on deck mousing shackles for the new sediment trap which will be
sent down for another year.
1600: in the “rad van” (a trailer which has been bolted to the back deck
to contain all radioactivity) getting some samples ready for the
scintillation counter, which will determine the radioactive content in
about 90 tiny vials.
1800: I try running on the treadmill. This proves pretty difficult with
the 15-foot swells. After being thrown into a wall, I opt for the
stationary bike instead.
2000: in the MT (marine tech) shop helping Dan build stairs for the
birders, who we are going to leave on an island for a few days to study
penguins. Why do they need stairs on an island? Beats me. Miraculously,
I survive the evening without chopping a single finger off with a power
2330: midrats (“midnight rations”). This is always my favorite meal of
0005: seven of us climb into the bunk of an unsuspecting marine tech, who
0130: there’s not a lot of science going on tonight, so three of us are
back on deck scrubbing stuff. The sky isn’t exactly dark, but thanks to
the fog it’s an eerie shade of purple. A few petrels are bobbing in the