Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX) Cruise
January 5 - February 26, 2002
February 26, 2002: Day 53
R/V Melville Log Entry: Now in Lyttelton Harbor, the cruise is rapidly drawing to a close. We have traveled 6.369 kilometers (3,439 miles) on this expedition, burned 326,965 liters (86,375 gallons) of fuel and spent 7.5 people years doing this study (61 people times 45 days). I am writing in a lab that has been evacuated, thousands of kilograms of gear already ashore (4, 6.1 meter containers, 3 12.2 meter containers and one 12.2 meter flat rack). Mine now the last computer in sight will be packed soon. Some would have suggested the cruise ended in a toast at the Wunderbar last night. But there are still many things to do before we are really packed and the ship is again ready for its next adventure. Another group of scientists will meet the oncoming crew, get their things in order, forge new discoveries and have new stories to tell. In many ways our story is just beginning, in our boxes, bottles, on our slides, on our filters, in our containers, in our briefcases and on our hard drives is the beginning of something as new and exciting as that we have experienced in those wild southern waters. We just wont be in a pressure cooker of interaction among colleagues and associates in conversations of our hopes and dreams, discussions about climate change, geoengineering, environmentalism, drug replacement therapy, vegetarianism, politics, policy, loved ones, hated ones, our jobs and our pets, trying to figure it out. The scientific interactions ashore will be more relaxed, and less urgent, more pedestrian. Some meetings are in the planning to stir the pot but it will be these times and the people we met here that we remember when we think about SOFeX.
As Ken Buesseler reflected, it is too early to tell the ultimate fate of our experiment, its ultimate lessons, and some questions will remain unanswered. In spite of these, some things are certain. The small addition of iron caused a huge biological response, consumed large amounts of carbon, nitrogen, silica, produced massive amounts of chlorophyll, increased the photosynthetic efficiency of phytoplankton, increased oxygen concentrations, shifts in species composition and major changes in the initial communities in both North Patch and South Patch experiments. Until we can see our data, design another experiment, or define a better proxy to answer our questions, the ultimate fate of the carbon is something about which we may continue to speculate and scientists may differ about the future of carbon in these systems. Yet we all agree about the facts. And we do agree that such experiments have given us unique insights into the workings of these remote pelagic systems, not visible by any other means.
This has been a remarkable experience and many have had a hand in its success. I have shared something of these individuals with you along our way. Some of the scientists here have backgrounds that do not necessarily involve going out on ships for extensive periods, using heavy equipment on rolling platforms or safely getting stuff in and out of the water without hurting themselves or their equipment. Yet our program is intimately dependent upon this activity and the safety of our scientists. Scripps has recognized this and provides technical support in a variety of ways.
Gene Pillard, the Resident Technician, serves as the liaison between the scientific party and the ships crew helping to coordinate activities. The scientists deploy and recover their own equipment, but Gene makes sure the operations go smoothly and safely. Gene was up for almost every cast. From our cruise log this was over 240 over the side operations. We lost no equipment (some buoys excepted). In oceanography, this is a perfect record. How does he do it? He yells a lot, has a good sense of humor and keeps us vigilant and safety conscious. More than that he has a sense of the sea and of ships that comes from years of experience. He has seen a lot of crazy equipment, and their overly enthusiastic scientific creators or operators. The motto You can put anything over the side, but you cant necessarily get anything back. Makes you think really carefully about what you deploy and Gene is there to work through it with you.
Our program also depends upon high quality hydrographic data, that which is generated by the CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) rosette package that is routinely lowered over the side of the ship at every station. Robert Palomares is responsible for this piece of equipment, its deployment, recovery and calibration. Robs experience in the Navy as an electronics technician on a submarine prepared him well for the research business. In listening to his tales one would think that work aboard a research vessel is less nerve wracking. I have my doubts.
Jim Charters has been responsible for the computer network. Himself a refugee from the aerospace industry, he came to Scripps years ago and has watched computer services evolve over time. Initially as a tool only to log data, deconvolve seabeam imagery and compile data acquisition packages, his role now is largely about facilitating communications. Whereas he once catered to the geophysicist, now every scientist and crewmember has an e-mail account. This is a big change and one that has reverberated through the entire fleet. We have learned a lot from these three and their lessons will be long lasting. To them, the crew and officers of the Melville, we owe them our heartfelt thanks.
I too share Ken Buesselers appreciation for the vision of our program managers and those funding aspects of this program at NSF, DOE, NASA and others. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and their support of this program have also been visionary and critical to the success of these three cruises. George Matsumoto is gratefully acknowledged for his upkeep of this site and his skill in wading through the various data file formats that have contributed pieces of this story. This was not a normal program and it takes some courage to do something as risky as this with the taxpayers money. But if we all played it safe, we wouldnt be - and we would never make great discoveries or be able to make great changes.
My best regards to the readers of these pages. I hope they have drawn you closer to a world that for us is exciting and a study that is of urgent importance.
- Kenneth Coale, Chief Scientist