Leg 1: February 10, 2012
Day 7: Green flash and the net man
Let me begin today’s log with a correction. Yesterday, I mistakenly told you that the day began early. As it turns out, 6:30 a.m. isn’t actually early at sea. Today our first CTD cast was at 4:30 a.m.—actually, technically, the first cast of the day was even earlier—at 1:30 a.m.—but since the crew that handled that one just stayed up until that time, I’m going to consider that one the last cast of the previous day. As I mentioned a couple of wake-then-sleep times ago, what constitutes a “day” out here is an ambiguous matter; trying to divvy up days is a little like trying to slice a loaf of water.
Setting the alarm clock for 3:30 a.m. isn’t on the top of my list of favorite things to do, but down here at 25° North the weather is balmy, and being out on deck at that time provides the opportunity to see yet another spectacular sunrise. Our Mexican collaborator, Martin Hernandez-Ayon, caught a glimpse of the illusory sunrise “green flash.” Shortly thereafter, with the CTD back on deck and our water samples and filters safely stowed in the freezer, first mate Andrew McKee radioed down to the deck to tell us a pod of whales had been spotted off the port bow. Early bird, meet the worm.
We arrived at our second sampling station of the day around 1:30 p.m. At each sampling station, prior to dunking the CTDs, Haibin Zhang, an MBARI postdoc working in Bob Vrijenhoek’s molecular ecology group, also conducts a plankton tow. A plankton tow is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—the ship tows a net scooping up all the zooplankton in its path.
It would appear that the sampling is going well for Haibin. After nearly every tow, Haibin saunters across the deck with his plastic tub teeming with zooplankton and a huge grin on his face. Haibin will filter these tiny creatures from the seawater and then examine and photograph them under the microscope.
We’re nearing the tip of the Baja peninsula, and will cross the Tropic of Cancer sometime tonight. Some of us are off to our keeps now to sleep for a bit before the next CTD cast tonight/tomorrow at 2:30 a.m. I may be issuing another correction tomorrow morning, further revising the definition of “early.”