We were at sea for eleven days and out of site of land for about half the time. The combination of continually rocking seas and a disjointed daily schedule created a sense of being out of "time." We all knew the date of the day, but not necessarily the day of the week! Our logs all recorded Greenwich Mean Time, so the next day always started at 8:00 p.m. for us.
This was the 5th year for these Cyst Cruises, and the data has been compiled to create computer models hopefully predicting the severity of red tide blooms for the following fishing season. Last year, they correctly predicted the type of season, enabling the fishing industry to plan accordingly. The Woods Hole team is striving to increase accuracy of these predictions, but the seas and the phytoplankton still hold many mysteries for them. At this time, there are still questions about the life cycle of the Alexandrium Fundyense, beyond the basics, making it difficult to account for the distribution of these dinoflagellates and to predict their toxicity. This area of the sea, both near shore and off shore, is complex and they are trying to work with many variables in developing a computer model of the bloom dynamics. If successful this year, the fishing industry would receive advance notice of a toxic bloom and be able to harvest their shellfish before the bloom, or to work in another region of the sea.
Working on the RV Endeavor gave me an insight into scientific methods, the questions that drive people to become scientists, and the work habits and systems necessary to carry out this work. I was inspired by the quest to answer questions about this mysterious, and major, region of our planet. I also came away recognizing the importance of our work encouraging students to keep an open mind, explore new ideas, to be accurate in everything they do and record, and to be observant of the complexity of the world around us.