SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
March 03, 2016
Sunny, Sunny skies with a small chance of Sargassum
Detour to Peurto Plata (We will miss you, Kelsey!)
Whales are cool.
But Colonial Phytoplankton are cooler. On the Cramer (and in life in general) science is always happening! Today just south of Silver Bank, in the lovely Greater Antilles area, we did so much science. From late in the night to late in the afternoon we had a few whale sightings: there were some blows, some fin slaps, some whale songs, and, of course, just a few beautiful breaches. But more importantly, the science crew deployed the CTD, the Secchi Disc (congrats to Cora for winning the secchi disc challenge. Age appropriate bubbly beverages are on your way!), and Nitrate, Phosphate, Microplastics (woo go Mircoplastics team!), and Chlorophyll-a surface stations. Can you believe we got that all done before lunch?
If you don't already know, a microplastic surface station is done by: 1) Getting the steel bucket that is connected to a steel wire from the science deck box; 2) Taking the gloves out of the bucket; 3) Attaching bucket and self to ship in efforts to not lose either of those things, 4) Throwing the bucket enthusiastically overboard, without hitting the side of the boat (which I successfully did, twice) and catching sea water.
As you can imagine from this description, the chances of catching only seawater and missing all of the tiny little organisms that we can't really see is pretty strong. But today, when I deployed the steel bucket and brought it back up to the deck not so silently, I saw a floating, transparent, gelatinous thing wiggling around in the water. I, of course, screamed "What's that!?" which I probably do way too often and Jeff told me it was some sort of Colonial Phytoplankton. This was amazing to me. I have discovered on this journey that I am obsessed with the idea of hydroids, which are colonial organisms that thrive on Sargassum blades. They basically colonize the area they exist on by piling and piling, and spreading and spreading all over. The "little guy" I found today was a floating mass of similar colonizing organisms. If I had to describe it with images I would say it looked like a bubbly, transparent cheese doodle.
I think a part of my fascination with colonizers is that I have become very interested in the idea of colonization overall. This trip is called Colonization and Conservation, after all. But it seems, for some reason, even down to the phytoplankton level, that living things have an innate need to dominate and colonize. I understand that to a point when it is for survival, but I am mostly perplexed by this need in humans today.
Yep. On a happier note, I wrote a poem:
Lubbers of land, hear me prayer
When I get home, you best be there.
For while you wait I sail on seas
And later I'll tell great stories like these:
Rediker was right, the captain's a devil
He plays guitar but only plays treble
Jeff, the scientist, I think, is mad
If Sargassum appears his whole lab is glad
The historian asks, "Isn't it plain?
Everything comes back to sugar cane."
Meanwhile my friends sleep on deck
But now most are insomniacs
We're really so tired and so very busy;
Sailors are lazy so it's not very easy.
I will see you soon again on land, not sea,
And hopefully you too will have great stories for me.
P.S. To Leo: Explanation of Image 2 of 2 Caption: I tried my best to light something for you like I said I would in my letter. We were not hove to as planned so the wind made things a bit complicated. We got creative. The whole deck was trying to help me out haha. (Thanks for taking the photo Martin!) I hope you had a beautiful birthday, Lo Lo. I will be with you to celebrate soon. Ich liebe dich, mein schatzlein.