SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 17, 2016
A Day in the Lab
45°08.1’S x 173°38.6’E
Course & Speed
230°, 2 knots
Sailing on a starboard tack under the tops’l and the four lowers with a single-reefed main
Beaufort force 3 northerly winds. 7/8 Stratocumulus clouds. 11° C.
Late this morning, the sun came out after a long hiatus. For the past few days, only the watch on duty has been out on deck—everyone else has been holing up in the library, or the saloon, or their bunks. But today, the quarterdeck was suddenly peopled with B-watchers, C-Watchers, and Others in addition to A-Watch who were in the middle of a full science station. We were all happy to turn our faces to the sun and pull off some of the extra layers we’ve become accustomed to wearing morning and night. I sat on the edge of the quarterdeck watching as my former students (since the rotation of watch officers a few days ago, I have moved from A Watch to B Watch) worked together to complete the morning’s deployments. Cheesy as it may sound, I was so proud to see them move confidently about the science deck, skillfully deploying and retrieving various pieces of oceanographic research equipment when just four weeks ago, they would have stood staring blankly at us if we’d asked them to deploy the CTD, then tow the meter and Neuston nets simultaneously, and finish by taking a surface sample.
As of today, these students have been living aboard the Robert C. Seamans for one month. As I look around at them I find it pretty incredible to realize how much humans can change and adapt in such a short period of time. Although many of them had never spent even a day at sea before this experience, they all suddenly seem so at home on this 134 foot piece of steel and wood that is so radically different from their lives back on land. In addition to all that they’ve learned to fulfill their duties on deck (sail-handling, navigation, etc) and in the lab (deployments, processing, etc.) they have also had to re-learn how to do even the most mundane tasks
–how to walk, eat, sleep, or shower at a 45° tilt.
When B Watch came into the lab, A Watch was ready to give us the rundown on what our responsibilities would be following their morning station. We had to process the surface sample, the contents of the meter net, the Neuston net, and the phyto net. Again, a few weeks ago this would have been a daunting task because every single step of each process would have had to be explained twice or maybe three times for each student.
But today, Anna, Eileen, and Stacie sprung right into action. We have entered a phase where the students are taking on a lot more responsibility and during each watch a deck or lab “shadow” is selected to lead their peers through the tasks at hand. Shadow Anna quickly organized us into two groups to take on the alkalinity titration and use the spectrophotometer to determine the pH of the surface sample (the nitrate, phosphate, and chlorophyll-a samples had already been collected by A Watch). Just like that the surface sample was taken care of and the girls moved on to the nets. The Neuston tow (a net towed along the surface) produced very little zooplankton matter and was quickly processed.
The meter net, a net that was towed today at approximately 150-175 meters depth brought up some more interesting critters including 12 large salps (gelatinous organisms) that we all agreed looked more like man-made piece of plastic than living creatures. After they had thoroughly sieved all of the contents and recorded and volumed the organisms they found, they came back into the dry lab to do what we call “100-counts.”
Under the microscope they identified and recorded the first 100 organisms they encountered—copepods, ostracods, hyperiid amphipods, among others-- from a sample of the Neuston and meter nets and completed a similar process with phytoplankton net contents, using a higher magnification scope to identify diatoms and dinoflagellates. We even had time to help C Watch prepare for their evening station by labeling all of the nitrate, phosphate, and chlorophyll-a bottles they would need for the upcoming hydrocast. Once again I was able to reflect happily on how far these students have come in the past month. Can’t wait to see what the final 9 days aboard the RCS bring.
P.S. Happy 36th anniversary Mom and Dad! Les quiero mucho
P.P.S Happy birthday to our engineer Dylan! The first one to celebrate a birthday on this voyage