For the rest of my watch, I observed the painstaking pouring of iron samples until the whole ship seemed to be asleep. When 0200 finally came and the last thermosalinograph sample was taken, I joined the rest of the ship’s company in sleep.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Without Hitch or Sneeze
My last watch on the KM was a slow one for science. The science that remained did not involve the regular CTD deployments nor a meter net tow but something entirely new to the ship and myself. As the wire was cranked in, a series of Plexiglas contraptions emerged from the surface and hung in a column under the A-frame. They dripped with seawater and waved ever so slightly in the wind like stubborn kites. Who knew science could be so lovely? Aside from bringing a little beauty to the back deck, these kites, actually called vanes, carefully capture water samples for iron testing. The vanes must be very careful in this capture because iron levels in the ocean are extremely low, particularly in the northern Pacific, and anything from a human hair to a speck of dust can contaminate the sample. From when I saw her at lunch, rapidly swallowing a PB&J while staring at her timer, to when I went to sleep at 0200 Jesse, the graduate student from MIT running the iron testing, looked tense. I even felt tense while helping Cammy take apart the vanes and put the sealed water samples in a Ziploc bag – and I only had to hold the Ziploc. A sneeze in the wrong direction and all was lost, it seemed. Luckily, the collection of the vanes went off without hitch or sneeze.
Posted by way of shipboard/UH campus Internet at 6:40 PM