Donde esta el barco bueno, R/V Western
We are collecting at several stations (UC 11-13) just outside a large coastal indentation, perhaps labeled a "bight," but not protected enough to justify the title "bay" (or "bahia" in spanish). This indentation is framed by Cabo San Lazaro on the south, and by Punta Abreojos (Point Abreojos) on the north. Sonia Valle, one of our Mexican observers and collaborators told me that just to the east of Punta Abreojos are two very important marine ecosystems: Bahia de Ballenas (Bay of the Whales), and Laguna San Ignacio (St. Ignacio Lagoon). Grey and humpback whales come to the Bay to feed and calve, while Laguna San Ignacio harbors a large and complex estuarine ecosystem, a relative rarity on this rugged Pacific Baja coast where riverine input to the ocean is very low.
On Sunday, the winds and seas were still rough enough to preclude blue water diving for the SCUBA divers (Steve Haddock, Christy Herren, Karen Osborn, and Shane Anderson). However, we kept ourselves quite busy sorting out plankton of interest from Baldo Marinovic's trawl at the UC 11 station, and exhaustively photographing and videotaping the organisms. For plankton identification, it is often beneficial to observe them alive and motile. Their natural color patterns and swimming movements can sometimes help plankton researchers to group them according to plankton keys (taxonomic books) more easily. When zooplankton researchers preserve their plankton samples, they must use chemicals to fix the tissues and keep them from degrading until they can enumerate (count and classify) them later. These chemical preservatives sometimes bleach or change the appearance of plankton pigmentation, thus plankton fresh from the net trawl can look very different from preserved samples. Steve Haddock and his group are also preserving some gelatinous and crustacean zooplankton samples in liquid nitrogen for genetic (DNA/RNA/protein) analysis later. The liquid nitrogen very rapidly freezes tissues and preserves the delicate (easily degraded) RNA molecules inside the organism's cells.
Baldo Marinovic reports that the zooplankton community is dominated by Pleuroncodes (pelagic red crabs) from adults to late stage larvae, Hemisquilla (stomatopod or Mantis shrimp larvae), Euphausia eximia (grazer euphausiids or krill: a.k.a. "whale snacks"), and Nematobranchion spp. (another type of euphausiid, except this species is predatory). Because Pleuroncodes is a warm water mass indicator species, we would expect them to become less frequent and concentrated in the trawls as we travel further north. Stay tuned, dear readers...
Zanna Chase reports that the biological oceanography and chemical sensor groups were much more efficient with their multiple tasks at the large station. UC 13 was the 2nd station on this leg of the cruise where a full complement of samples was collected: CTD, water sample, and trawl. They were so efficient in fact that they managed to "shave an hour" off of the previous sample time (more time to ponder over the data analysis). Unheard of! Zanna also reports that iron levels in the water column at station UC 11 were significantly higher than at UC 13. Could this be a continuing trend as we travel northward? Yet again, stay tuned, dear readers...
Tim McLaughlin reports that all the necessary oil changes have been made on the engines. He and Pete Zerr keep a very detailed database for routine maintenance on board the Western Flyer. With all the systems and equipment to keep track of, this database serves as a "historical record" for the engineers so that they stay on top of each needed repair at the right time.
Captain Ian Young and Doug Alexander keep a close watch on fantail as the CTD and other equipment are deployed and recovered at each station. They and others on the bridge are in constant contact with Darrell Palmer, who is in charge of A-frame and winch operations. In the background, Chief Engineer Pete Zerr and Tim McLaughlin confer over changes to the alarm and monitoring system onboard the ship. Lots of people are working hard to keep us safe and productive at sea. Muy importante!
Erich Rienecker carefully collects water samples from various depths in the water column in order to measure total organic carbon. He is working with Gernot at MBARI to figure out how much of the carbon at certain depths is incorporated into organic tissues and compounds, and how much of it is dissolved as gases in the water.
– Christy Herren