We enjoyed clear skies with air temperature of 21.6oC at 0741. The sun is brilliant.
Position -- Sargasso Sea; lat 34o09".
The plan for the day is to take as many samples as is possible. This is the goal for all teams.
First launch of the rosette @830; sampling continued all day.
Salinity: 36. PPT' (the range in the ocean = from 33 to 37 PPT, so we are really at the upper end... Average Narragansett Bay Salinity: 29 to 31 parts per thousand.
Most of the day was spent in this area; the ship moved at 1-2 knots; so that the equipment that was sent over the stern would stay away from the props.
By 2052, we were at latitude 34.12.230.
We did have a squall blow through this afternoon; a very brief period of not even 20 minutes of clouds, winds, and rain.
During down time, we started compiling the handwritten data to electronic storage. I designed the data charts to record the depths the rosette reached during all sampling attempts.
After supper, most of us took some time off to relax. Some returned to complete data storage. As for me, I wanted to complete today's log.
The plan is to leave this area after the last cast of the rosette, at about 2300. At about midnight, we will turn about and steam north. Because the seas and weather have been so cooperative, the groups are actually ahead of schedule. On the way home, the teams plan to stop at 5 of the stations we visited on the way here. More samples will be taken which should confirm the data collected earlier.
Students asked (in regards to not deploying the rosette on March 23): "Why can't they envelope the rosette in a bumper type material so it could be deployed no matter how windy it is? If the weather remained stormy and windy for days would you miss some of the deployment points or would you wait for the weather to change?"
These are excellent questions. I asked David Nelson, URI's Marine technician on this cruise. His answer was that on the rosette are CTD* sensors. They are fragile, so even if there some kind of bumper, it's not a good idea to have the rosette hit the side of the ship. Newer equipment is used on some ships which eliminate the problem of equipment swinging from a winch cable. It is like a large mechanical hand that carries the equipment and actually deposits it in the sea. As to the second question, there have been occasions when the sea was too rough to send out some of the equipment. That team just lost the opportunity to collect data and on we went.
Dr. Jenkins' group has set up a low-tech incubator. It is a large Plexiglas tank with an inlet for water at the lower rear and an outflow from the top. A pump brings in sea water. The current drives a Plexiglas water wheel. This way, organisms that are in collection bottles in the incubator will stay in a little piece of home. The URI groups are also collecting many gallons of sea water they will keep under refrigeration. This way, the incubator can be replenished when we return to URI. They could buy the Sargasso water, but the cost is $50 per gallon.
This is the incubator. The bottles are wrapped in a mesh that keeps out the sun. The water samples are from Deep Ocean (40-50 meters); a light meter was used to ensure that the light reaching the bottles is at the same intensity as at 40-50 meters. The incubator isn't new ... it was used by Diane Gifford, a former scientist at the GSO.
You can see the large yellow eye bolt that is screwed into the deck. The deck is painted with a coat that is slip-proof. The fittings are in the deck in an arrangement of 2-foot centers. This allows a great deal of flexibility in positioning and securing gear.
Since all the boat will do tomorrow is steam home, we will be back storing data. I don't plan on a long log tomorrow; the day will probably be humdrum, but I'll bet the food will be great. Our dinner entrée choices tonight were scallops and roast beef. Of course, all the trimmings, also.
We enjoyed clear skies with air temperature of 19.4oC at 0721. The sun is brilliant.
Our first stop in the Sargasso Sea; lat 34o09".
At each station of the cruise, measurements are taken in the following order:
1. The rosette is sent overboard to the greatest depth then at stops closer to the surface. The canisters are closed by the operator in the lab. CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) measurements are recorded by the computer.
2. When the rosette is brought back on board, Scott from SeaLabs "casts" his device from the A-frame to measure the scattering and absorption of specific wavelengths of the visible light spectrum.
3. Once that equipment has finished sampling, Chris launches his buoy
4. Chris takes hand-held measurements Chris's experiments parallel those of Scott. Their equipment is different, however.
There is no multi-tasking here. For the first two steps, several people are engaged in readying the equipment, manning the winches, steadying the equipment as it is deployed. Meanwhile, communication between the deck and bride is maintained by the boson ... to ensure that the ship maintains enough power to hold course into the wind or keep the winch cable plumb. Every time a piece of equipment is deployed or brought back aboard, permission must be sought by the captain or his designee on the bridge. So, only one team is actually engaged at any one time. If the sea is too rough for a particular set of measurements, that chance is gone and we move on.
The NASA scientists march to the beat of their own drum. They're involved in taking measurements from equipment fastened to the superstructure of the ship or hand-held devices. They also take water samples gathered by the rosette, after Dr. R's or Dr. J's groups, but don't get involved in deploying or boarding the hardware. They are interested in the amount and wavelengths of light that are reflected from the sea.
We are definitely in a different part of the ocean. During sampling this morning, we spotted four Portuguese Men O' War ... Physalia physalis.
It is very remarkable to me that since we left the Newport area, we have seen only 2 ships on the open sea ... the R/V Henry Bigelow and a ship that was far off our beam a couple of nights age. From the way it was lit, it may have been a tanker. That's it!
No birds at all.
One set of vapor trails from a far-off jet yesterday.
We might as well be on another planet.
I can only imagine how desolate the seafarers of old must have felt. I wonder if the grog rations were "enough." They must have been bored out of their minds. At least we can keep busy and the Internet allows us to remain connected to the rest of the world.
Steamed littlenecks and chicken gumbo soup were among the choices we had for lunch. The chicken fajitas and vegetable rolls were tempting but I went for the gumbo & littlenecks. They were awesome.
We've moved very little today; only 1 mile from this morning. Everyone is gathering great amounts of data.
We've seen many pieces of Sargassum today as well as several Physalia physalis (Portuguese Men-o-War). Sargassum is brown algae (seaweed) that forms great colonies in the Sargasso Sea. Some of us went "fishing" with buckets to gather samples for observation. I was able to get a "baby" P. Physalis ... about 5 cm long, a very beautiful blue color. Its tentacles were just starting to develop. They couldn't be easily seen in this image. If you Google Physalia physalis, you can learn much more about this fascinating creature. My bucket also had several pieces of Sargassum with shrimp and barnacles in it.
In his famous novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne opened Chapter XI with these words that are a great description of the Sargasso Sea:
That day the Nautilus crossed a singular part of the Atlantic Ocean. No one can be ignorant of the existence of a current of warm water known by the name of the Gulf Stream. After leaving the Gulf of Florida, we went in the direction of Spitzbergen. But before entering the Gulf of Mexico, about 45@ of N. lat., this current divides into two arms, the principal one going towards the coast of Ireland and Norway, whilst the second bends to the south about the height of the Azores; then, touching the African shore, and describing a lengthened oval, returns to the Antilles. This second arm--it is rather a collar than an arm--surrounds with its circles of warm water that portion of the cold, quiet, immovable ocean called the Sargasso Sea, a perfect lake in the open Atlantic: it takes no less than three years for the great current to pass round it. Such was the region the Nautilus was now visiting, a perfect meadow, a close carpet of seaweed and tropical berries, so thick and so compact that the stem of a vessel could hardly tear its way through it. And Captain Nemo, not wishing to entangle his screw in this herbaceous mass, kept some yards beneath the surface of the waves. The name Sargasso comes from the Spanish word "sargazzo" which signifies kelp. This kelp, or berry-plant, is the principal formation of this immense bank. And this is the reason why these plants unite in the peaceful basin of the Atlantic. The only explanation which can be given, he says, seems to me to result from the experience known to all the world. Place in a vase some fragments of cork or other floating body, and give to the water in the vase a circular movement, the scattered fragments will unite in a group in the centre of the liquid surface, that is to say, in the part least agitated. In the phenomenon we are considering, the Atlantic is the vase, the Gulf Stream the circular current, and the Sargasso Sea the central point at which the floating bodies unite.
The "berries" mentioned by Verne are actually small air bladders that keep the Sargassum close to the surface of the water. This enables the plant to absorb the sunlight they need for photosynthesis.
Well, this "log" was longer than I had intended, but it was a day filled with wonder. So far, this expedition has exceeded my every expectation.
We are enjoying clear skies with air temperatures at 18oC.
The other gentleman is Dave, Marine Technician.
As you can see, it's early in the a.m.; the sky is very dark out here. At 0500 we launched the rosette. After recovering it, some of us were going to launch another piece of equipment but the technicians were being cautious and called it off. The seas have been building and the wind is quite strong; the fear was that the equipment could smash against the stern during deployment.
Today, we completed all Gulf Stream samplings. The other groups aboard were able to conduct all their measurements. I was kept very busy working with all the research parties; very little time for logging.
We saw several pieces of Sargassum. One surprise was that we saw no other ships, no birds, no large marine life. I can only imagine how desolate sailors must have felt in older days.
Since our measurements were finished for the day, we had a "Movie Night." Casino Royale is what we viewed.
The weather is much milder today with air temperatures at 13.5o C (57oF). Yesterday, we experienced .5oC air temperatures. This morning, we concentrated on deploying the rosette at about 3:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. The rosette is a real neat piece of equipment for oceanographic research. It has 12 10-liter collection bottles. The rosette is sent by a winch over the side of the vessel with the collection bottles open at both ends. It is first sent to the deepest depth to be sampled. Then a scientist or technician sends a command from a computer through a wire that is part of the winch cable. This closes off 1 or more bottles, whatever the goal is, capturing the sample. The rosette is then brought up to the next level to get samples there, then finally to 5m below the surface. By using the bottles in sets of 3-4, 3-4 water samples are taken at each of the desired depths. In the image below, we have just finished rigging the bottles in the open position; now they are being inspected to be sure that all the fittings are properly arranged.
I'm surprised that no one asked me about the accommodations. They are really great. I am sharing my stateroom with Chris Littlefield, who is with the Nature Conservancy on Block Island. He is here on a similar grant that paid for my participation. Since we are on separate teams, one of us is sleeping while the other is on duty. The food has been fantastic. Last night we had our choice of broiled salmon or beef tenderloin, butternut squash, green beans, rice, baked potato, salad and great chocolate cake for dessert. At lunch, we have a wide choice of soups, salads, sandwiches. Breakfast is to order ... cereals, eggs any style, pancakes, sausage, bacon, home fries, rolls, etc.
We just passed the R/V Henry Bigelo, another NOAA ship.
Here are the samplings that we have accomplished so far (→). Each sampling used three collection bottles at each depth.
→ 2 near Breton Reef (Newport)
→ 3 over the Continental Shelf
3 in the Gulf Stream
3 in the Sargasso Sea
There will be a 12-36 hour stretch of sampling in the Sargasso
During the meeting, we were broken up into work groups. I was placed in Group "A." This means that I am "on duty" from 0300 - 1100 and then from 1500 - 1900 hours. The other group will be on duty the other 12 hours. Our work will involve collecting and filtering sea water sampled at several pre-selected depths at 12 sampling stations. These are the planned sampling stations along Longitude: 71°:
2 near Breton Reef (Newport)
3 over the Continental Shelf
3 in the Gulf Stream
3 in the Sargasso Sea
#12 will be a 12-36 hour stretch of sampling in the Sargasso
One question Dr. R hopes to answer is:
"Are the phytoplankton near shore similar to or genetically diverse from those in deeper waters (especially the Sargasso Sea)?" So, for you Biology students, this will involve analyzing the DNA of the collected organisms once the ship gets back to home port.
After our meeting, we received instruction in using the collection equipment and will be learning to use the other gadgets later.
We are at the first collection station now, and the mess crew is getting lunch ready, so I'll be signing off now.
We scanfished all day today. Dave completed the second radiator pattern with the long legs running inshore/offshore and the short legs parallel to the shore. The entire pattern takes approximately 36 hours to complete. It was fairly calm today, with a bit of rain earlier in the day.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
We launched the Scanfish again after running from the northeast corner of the radiator to a spot further southeast and offshore. We will run a long straight line inshore to collect more data. Scanfish should be recovered somewhere around 14:00, or 2pm.
Recovered the Scanfish after completing the long line. I think that the only thing left to do with it is to wash it down with fresh water. For a change, I had the video camera running instead of helping to carry the Scanfish back to its cradle. Hopefully I got some good video. We are now headed a bit further inshore to take more surface water samples for the chemistry guys.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Up early this morning as I did not have to stand watch last night. As soon as Jim is up I have to get packed up. Did a lot of it last night before turning in, but still have to pack rain gear and boots, plus all of my electronics. Shouldn't take very long; just have to get it done. I'm really looking forward to seeing Catherine and the girls. Hopefully their colds are better. It seems like forever since I last saw them. This has been a good experience for me, but certainly a long time away from home. It's been great hearing how grown up the girls have been for the last 10 days. I am very thankful for the wonderful family that I have!