It’s Science Time!

Yesterday? Yesterday morning was a slow gray haze of nausea, soda crackers, naps and waking thinking, briefly and quite mistakenly, that I was feeling better. I mean, the weather wasn’t helping: we were nosing into a 40 kt wind over the top of 18 foot swells, and the entire ship was riding like a merry go round bronco. NB: those who’ve ridden the LM Gould will be excused from feeling the slightest tinge of pity for me.

But we were through the worst of it by late afternoon, and by the time we hit the 200 mile limit I was feeling almost perky. Which was a good thing, because the 200 miles means… It’s Science Time.

Now, I promise to give a fair accounting of all the science projects that are going this mission, but it’s going to take a while, since there are a lot of them, and I’m only beginning to understand what they are. Most are being run by folks from WHOI (pronounced “hooey”) – the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute – and involve measuring things like temperature, salinity and motion of ocean currents. You know how meteorologists try to build models of air currents to predict the weather? Well, I think the WHOI folks are doing much the same, but for the oceans. The only thing I’m sure of is that it involves robots, which means, regardless of what they’re measuring, it’s pretty cool.

Anyhow. I don’t understand the nuances of international waters, but by some agreement, we’re not supposed to do any sort of mapping, measuring, sampling or prodding of the waters until we’re at least 200 miles out. Which we were. Captain slipped us into neutral, fired the bow thrusters to hold station (I swear, half the time I forget that I’m not working on a spaceship), and the science team got to work.

First order of business was launching a couple of CTDs – short for conductivity, temperature and depth monitors. I’ll write more about those later. But Veronica noticed that I had a GoPro on my desk and asked if I’d be willing to suit up to do some filming on the back deck while they deployed the first of three floats: Huey, Dewey and Louie. I still have no idea what a “float” is or does (“They’re ‘floats’, not ‘floaters'”, she says gently), but they look like big yellow gas cylinders and are apparently filled with Science.

I suppose it gets old if you spend all of your time doing it, but climbing into steel toed boots, a hard hat and Mustang jacket and sallying out onto the wave-washed back deck of an icebreaker at sea is a lovely change of pace when you’re used to spending your days staring at a screen below deck. Makes you look past the previous two days of puking and think yeah, this is why I come, this is what I’m here for. This is worth it.

The weather’s definitely broken, and we’re now chugging southwest under clear skies and light seas towards the SUMO2 site, where we’ll pull some old pieces of Science out of the water and put some new ones in. Life is good.

Below, some of the hardware going over the side later:

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