This is day 4 of an enforced wait aboard the Hésperides. The ship ran into a windstorm south of Madagascar over the weekend. We experienced it as more pitching, which sent some folks to their bunks to recuperate from seasickness and sent at least one scientist’s breakfast back into his bowl in the dining room. It also confined the scientists to less of the ship. The top photo shows a handful of them waiting around at the service door. They’re not allowed on deck without a Navy escort during high seas so I’ve decided to show a few photos of windows and portholes, which are the way most of the scientists see the ocean most of the time.
S 32° 27’ 41″ E 50° 55’ 53″ – It’s pushing midnight in the computer room and the zooplankton team, some of them awake since the 4:30am Neuston net tow, are starting to get cranky.
Federico Maldonado Uribe, a marine physiology graduate student at the University of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, curses the programmer who wrote their awkward data entry system. The sleep-deprived researchers sway from side to side as their floating laboratory bobs up and down on 3-metre waves.
His colleague Ángel Lamas clicks on yet another drop-down menu on the screen in front of him. Maldonado reads him a figure. Lamas taps the keyboard a couple of times. All told, they will label around 100 samples today, which is just one of 28 planned sampling days on this leg of the cruise. They may spend more than 120 hours between them on this leg clicking drop-down menus and repeating numbers in a late-night monotone drone. Continue reading
S 34° 33’ 51″ E 31° 01’ 48″ – Every day around dawn the Hespérides pauses in its 5,000 nautical mile journey. It does not begin again until mid-afternoon, when its researchers have slaked their thirst for samples with a bewildering variety of bottles and nets. Yet every day scientists ask one another a mysterious question: “Can I have some of your water, please?”
S 34° 50’ 20.6″ E 27° 32’ 18.8″ – The first working day of this leg of the Malaspina expedition began with the splash of a Neuston net into the black water on the starboard side of the Hespérides before dawn on Sunday. The bosun, another operations officer, and a handful of technicians and scientists wearing life vests and helmets stood watch with arms folded under the warm yellow running lights of the ship. They were waiting in the rich wet air for a fine mesh net, hanging behind the two metal pontoons of the skate, to fill with creatures of the night. Continue reading