Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX) Cruise
January 5 - February 26, 2002
Skip to Log Entry from the USCGC Polar Star
February 18, 2002: Day 45
Position: 54 degrees, 30 minutes South, 169 degrees, 7 minutes West
R/V Melville Log Entry: In our land lives, we do things and have habits that reflect our proclivities and the necessities of getting ourselves around town, to and from our jobs and to the grocery store, etc In many ways being on a ship is unlike being anywhere else and this is reflected in our new habits and in the things we carry with us. Upon coming aboard, I empty my pockets of all money, wallet and keys. You dont need them here. Here life is much more about making sure things dont get away from you and one is constantly tying things down or untying them for use. Most days sampling, we are on deck a lot. I carry a roll of electricians tape, two knives (one rigging knife with marlin spike and one rescue knife for cutting line quickly) and a leatherman tool. These are used every day. At my work station in the lab, among other things and in my bunk is a flashlight because it can be a tight situation getting out of a darkened ship if the power fails. This has not yet happened on Melville, but it has on other ships and I prefer not to repeat this experience.
When working on deck we wear the necessary exposure gear. This can be a Mustang suit or ones own foul weather gear, hat and boots. Regardless, a Type III life preserver of some kind (safety work vest) is always worn. The work vest has a light and a whistle, and the Mustang Suits also have an inflatable collar to help keep you afloat. It may seem uncomfortable but we dont mind, this is standard attire, and we are all looking forward to coming home. My watch is set to local time and UTC or Zulu time so that our data will be consistent with others.
Our work areas are covered in flotsam and jetsam. This includes all the regular science stuff like filter rigs, gas cylinders, sample bottles, instruments, reagents, clip boards, lab books, supplies, flasks, first aid kits, hats, gloves, fume hoods, microscopes, vortex mixers, coffee mugs and makers, computers (I count 24 in the lab area), disks, spectrophotometers, calculators, VHF radios, cameras, video equipment, glassware, plasticware, tool boxes, carboys, vacuum traps, boxes, titrators, salinometers, and power supplies are all piled about, but at the same time, secure for rough seas. Much of what we do is separate the dissolved material from the particulate material and in this lab alone I count 5 vacuum pumps (being shared) and they are all running when on station. A symphony of suction. These work areas are then festooned with personal effects such as pictures of loved ones, cars, boats, stuffed animals, drawings, balloons, our favorite data or satellite image. Work tables are less than a meter apart yet we have developed efficient ways of passing, politely.
The stateroom (pictured here is Jack Oliver and David Timothys room) contains ones other belongings, but one usually has two drawers and half a cabinet to stow them in. Here also is ones survival suit and the much bulkier, offshore life preserver with whistle and light. Two people to a stateroom, four people to a head. Two staterooms open onto a common head and one must remember to unlock both doors when finished or you lock your headmates out and you WILL hear about it. The shower is cramped and the walls are cold steel - everything is welded. A three point stance is required at all times and in the shower it is no different, just more of a balancing act.
These quarters have led to some adaptations by the scientists and here are some of them: Learn to accept fire extinguishers and axes, motor controllers, high voltage subpanels, electrical raceways, hydraulic watertight door closure mechanisms, all as major interior design elements. Keep one hand for yourself and one for the ship. One must be more considerate here because of the space and you cant get away. Everyone is always there. Some watch more videos than they would at home. The commute (to work, breakfast, lab, fantail) is about 20 seconds. You need to be careful about opening the refrigerator. E-mail response is slow (compared to being at work), with two uplinks per day responses can lag by a day or two depending on timing. There is no real news from the outside world, we make our own but everyone wants to hear from their loved ones. Unlike being home, one must wear shoes everywhere (except in bed). One loses track of time, day, month, or how constantly noisy it is. We get excited about the little things: food mostly, a new kind of ice cream in the freezer or a newly discovered case of ripe apples.
Because of the nice weather today, a lull in our analytical and station schedule, just to feel normal, and for a welcome change of pace for the cooks, a group of scientists took over the galley last night and this afternoon. Apprehensive cooks peered into the kitchen until they were convinced all was in good hands (the last group of scientists that commandeered the galley produced a meal that was inedible). Wendy Wang (MLML) led a group making a pork/vegie dish, tofu treats, Chinese dumplings, won tons, walnut-shitake shrimp on rice and pot stickers. Later Adriana Cabrera (U. Miami) led a chocolate truffle-making brigade to compliment the Chinese entre. In total the dinner was a huge success thanks to the willing hands of all, Zhu, Bob Bidigare (making vegetables in the galley. Atma, Amy, Adriana, Anna, Vanessa, Wendy and even the Captain got into the act. First in line were the cooks, Jay and Bob. It is interesting to note that it took over 10 scientists all afternoon to do the work that two cooks do everyday (starting at 3). Everyone enjoyed it and the cooks had the evening off.
Kenneth Coale, Chief Scientist.
Jodi Brewster writes: Hello all from the Southern Ocean. We are in our final day of transiting to the Northern patch. Everyone has been using the last 3 days to catch up on things before we make it to our 1st station in the Northern Patch. It took me 2 days to catch up on my chlorophyll extractions, but today I got the entire day to relax. Ahhh, movies & sleep for most of today, writing postcards, and deciding on an itinerary of my trip around the North Island of New Zealand. We have a few more stations and a few more nights of mapping before we make the 4 day trip back to Lyttleton, NZ. During that time, we'll be packing like crazy and doing any last minute jobs that we can so as not to waste time while we are in port. Many of us have plans to travel, and will be glad to hit solid ground again. We had an excellent Valentine's Day last week. We were on our 1st station of a long day of transecting, so a few of us were up early to deploy a CTD cast around 8am. It had snowed the night before, a lot, so snowballs were flying like crazy, from the winch deck, around the A frame, and from high above on the bridge. Some of the crew brought out shovels to gather snow and we built 3 snowmen on the back deck, complete w/ raisins for eyes, pipettes for noses, popsicle sticks for arms, & red string for scarves. Since we were doing a transect, the bridge decided to name all of our way stations in the spirit of Valentine's Day. We had Cupid's Patch, Lover's Lane, The Grotto, and Smooches. The cooks made special candy valentine's for dinner and everyone was in the highest spirits that day. Tonight we are going to start looking for our first drifter in the Northern Patch before getting to station for an 8am CTD cast. We are doing an 'In Patch' Station tomorrow, 'OUT' on Wednesday, 'In' on Thursday, and begin our transit home at noon on Friday. We have slated 4 days of transit, 1 extra for weather, which hasn't been too bad yet (keeping my fingers crossed), since we got back to the terrible 50s. Everyone slept very well last night. Wendy Wang cooked a Chinese dinner for everyone tonight, giving the cooks a small break. Many people are getting rough skin, so we have to drink lots of water and slather lotion on our hands and faces. My hands are doubly dry since I work with acetone so much it really dries out the tips of my fingers.
USCGC Polar Star Log Entry: Hi again from the Polar Star. Ill have to keep this short. Today started normal enough. Presidents Day was celebrated by running a Sunday meal schedule, which means there is no 6:30 am Reveille broadcast over the ships speakers. Also, you can have breakfast at your leisure until 11:00 am rather than between 7-7:30 am, which Ive only made after when working all night. As usual on such trips and in particular on this USCG vessel, there is a lack of news from the home front, so you would hardly know its a holiday. After a couple of days, you feel like you are in a vacuum and totally isolated from life at home. Thats OK for a while, but all of the sudden you start craving (at least I do) a good Sunday newspaper, or NPR evening news. Some of the crew have been out here since last fall, so there are few two-way conversations about world news or current events.
This is an iron study after all, so you need the expertise of true trace metal chemists to tell you what concentrations are now left from the initial fertilizations and equally important, what chemical forms are here and bioavailable to the plankton. My photo of the day, is of two trace metal chemists, Russell Frew and Peter Croot, pulling a sampling bottle off of the Kevlar line. Kevlar is used rather than steel wire to hold the bottle sampler, since this does not contaminate for the low levels of iron expected here- even after fertilization. They have had good luck sampling from these bottles or alternatively using a towed "fish". The latter is basically a small torpedo shaped weight on a wire that holds a specially cleaned tube under water and away from the ship as we steam along. It is used when the ship is moving so that only clean water passes by the inlet. This sampling hose leads directly into the lab space they have adapted with sheets of plastic and HEPA clean air filters to be clean and dust free, and hence non-contaminating for iron- a tough job on a steel ship. There are only a handful of groups who have the skills and take the care needed to collect seawater with procedures that did not contaminate the sample for trace metals. Russell (from University Otago in New Zealand) and Peter (most recently from NIOZ in the Netherlands) have acquired these skills after many seasons of field work in the Southern ocean.
One event that came late in the day today was a successful CTD/Rosette cast. In the photo below Im detaching the crane from the CTD/Rosette after it came on board. Note the small space between the rails and the side of the ship where the winch operator must place the CTD/Rosette. This is a pretty small fit and with a ship that rolls this much, there is little room for error when the USCG crew brings the unit on board. As you can see from this photo, we do have some periods of good weather, but they are few and far between.
Thats all for today. We need to sketch out our final survey and sampling plans. We are anxious to detect changes and want to stay longer, but we are tired of the 24-hour schedule and look forward having some time steaming into port to look at our data and continue analyses begun on this trip. Signing off until the next report.
- Ken Buesseler