SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 17, 2019
A Beautiful Morning for Science (and whales)
40°19.0’N x 69°05.5
Course & Speed
020°, 7.4 knots
Motorsailing with the stays’ls and the mains’l
This morning when I opened my eyes in my cozy bunk after being woken by Colin at around 0600, I was extra eager. A Watch was assigned to the 0700 to 1300 shift, and I was assigned to be in lab. To be honest, I am always excited to be in lab because I love doing cool science and hanging out with our awesome scientist, Olivia, but labs on morning watch are extra fun. Why, you may ask? Because on morning watch you might do up to six scientific samplings, whereas on other watches you might only do one or two.
After doing a chilly deck walk to see how the Cramer was doing, Mae, Sally, and I gathered in the deck-top lab with Olivia, ready to get started. Just as I was looking at an interesting jellyfish-like organism under the microscope, I heard a shout from out on deck. “Whales!” We all rushed out to get a glimpse of the charismatic megafauna. There they were, a pod of around ten whales, gracefully gliding in and out of the water, blowing a spray of mist each time. After the whale excitement was over, we started our sampling. First we deployed a phyto net off the side of the ship, letting it sink down below the surface. This long cone-like net is made of mesh, with a jar on the end to collect the phytoplankton. Next we prepped the niskin bottles for water sampling. Twelve plastic bottles sit on a carousel that holds them in place as they are lowered into the water. The bottles are open on both ends when lowered, but as the carousel is raised back to the surface, the bottles are automatically closed at pre-programmed depths, allowing us to get samples from different layers of the ocean. Then we collected a surface sample, by throwing a bucket over the side, and pulling it up full of sea water.
With the water from the surface sample and the niskin bottles ready for analysis in the lab by the next watch, we prepped for my favorite sample, the neuston tow. In order to do a neuston tow, the ship has to be moving at around 2 knots. This usually requires a manual slowdown, which we did by gybing. Basically, we worked as a team, turning the boat around and setting the sails to slow the ship down. When our mate announced “ready to gybe” everyone grabbed hold the necessary lines, and eased and hauled, all the while calling out and following the orders. We all felt like real sailors. Once the gybe was completed and the boat was slow enough, we tossed the neuston net over the side for thirty minutes, brought it back on board, and finished up our watch with more sail handling, to accommodate the stronger winds. Finally, rounding out our watch, we were treated to another pod of whales, swimming only meters from the side of the boat.
- Davi Bendavid, A Watch, Colgate University