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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

November 18, 2015

Neusty and Mama

Colette Kelly, B Watch, Barnard College

Oceans & Climate

Searching for salps (and other funny things) with Neusty the Neuston Net

25° 15.0’ N x 19° 00.9’ W

Description of location
Southwest of the Canary Islands, Canary Current

235° True

3.2 Knots

Weather / Wind
Easterly wind of Beaufort force 5, 100% cloud coverage, temperature 22.5° C

Souls on Board

The Corwith Cramer sails Southwest under an unusually cloudy sky this morning, with a stiff breeze at her back and only open ocean in sight. How strange is it to look for miles in every direction and not see a single point of land – something I expect that we will get used to, but for now remains one of the more disquieting sensations on board. Disquieting, but freeing, as if this tiny world of the Corwith Cramer exists beyond any earth-bound realm.

In the manner of some of the mates and scientists, I have already begun to think of our ship and equipment as sentient beings with feelings and distinct personalities, as in, “the pH probe is angry today,” or, “the jib and the forestays’l do not play well together.” In particular, it is nearly impossible not to think of our Neuston net as a cone-shaped little beastie with a meter-wide mouth that gobbles up everything in its path. “Neusty,” as the crew affectionately call it, gets towed through the water at two knots for half an hour, in order to sample a meter-wide strip of about one nautical mile of ocean. Neusty’s body consists of a fine mesh net attached to a rectangular metal frame, so that as Neusty gobbles up water, seawater passes through while exciting critters like copepods and radiolarians remain inside the net. After Neusty has eaten its full, we haul it (him? her?) back aboard and rinse into a bucket the strained-out copepods, radiolarians, and everything else that could not fit through the fine holes in Neusty’s digestive tract. Neusty sleeps happily is its hammock for nine or more hours between its deployment-mealtimes. Needless to say, I envy Neusty’s sleeping schedule.

Likewise, I have heard former students refer to the ship as Mama Cramer, and I have already begun to get acquainted with Mama Cramer’s personality. Mama Cramer requires considerable convincing to stay on a straight course – steering at the helm, I discovered, is nothing like driving a car. Imagine driving a car that actually turns right several moments after you steer right, and continues to turn even after you have returned the wheel to neutral, all while standing on top of a rollercoaster car, and you have an idea. Sometimes she steers well; sometimes she is grumpy and stubborn. I have a feeling that she knows when a student takes the wheel, and takes offense to this inexperienced young upstart trying to guide her weathered body through the waves. To make up for the affront of my immature helmsmanship, I sing to Mama Cramer during lookout duty at night. She seems to particularly enjoy “Au Claire de la Lune,” although “Dona Nobis Pacem” seems to calm her down when the waves are hitting us broadside and making Mama roll like crazy.

A personal shout-out to my human Mama – thank you for keeping the woodstove burning, and I hope that you’ve finally gotten some snow.

Fair winds,

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Oceans & Climate, • Topics: c263  science  life at sea • (0) Comments
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