Skidaway Institute scientist Clifton Buck is on a lengthy research cruise in the South Pacific and is blogging about his experience.
Current Position: S 12 0.1067’ W 93 27.6890’
We are now a quarter of the way through our trip and the sun has finally begun to shine. The first two weeks were rather gloomy and downright chilly. While we are in the tropics, and you might expect hot and humid temperatures, the temperature near the South American coast is moderated by the cold water being brought to the surface by the upwelling action I described in a previous post. This is the same process that brings cold water to the California coast. Our cruise track has now brought us to the transition zone between the cold, coastal waters and the warmer waters of the subtropical gyre. Sea surface temperatures will now rise from about 17oC to a bath-like 28oC.
Days at sea are busy! With 32 scientists on board there is always someone working somewhere, 24 hours a day. And with an operating cost of $30,000 per day there can be no idle time for the ship. When we arrive on station work must begin whether it is 3:00AM or 3:00PM. That goes for Saturdays and Sundays as well; there are no weekends at sea. Some groups are fortunate to have enough personnel on board that they are able to split their work into 12 hour watches. However, most groups require everyone to be involved when conducting operations. And some groups are only one person, like me, and must be available at all times. This can lead to some very long days and nights.
With that said, a typical day starts at 7:00AM. Breakfast is served each day from 7:15 to 8:00. The cook staff, of which there are three, does an excellent job of providing a variety of foods at each meal and breakfast is no exception. Today there were huevos rancheros, blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, and pineapple coffeecake. And there are always self-service items like dry cereal, yogurt, and toast available. Most importantly, there are two coffee pots that must be full. On a ship, you live by the edict “You kill the Joe, you fill the Joe!”
Lunch and dinner are at 11:30 and 17:00. Both of these meals feature a salad bar which might be the best indicator for the length of time the ship has been at sea; let’s call it the vegetable index factor (VIF). At the start of the trip we are blessed with fresh veggies including green, leafy lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, spinach, mushrooms, and all the other produce you can imagine. As time goes by these items slowly disappear to be replaced by more hardy varieties. There are no markets in the middle of the Pacific and no resupply stops for us! In the last week we have seen the lettuce turn to Romaine, the spinach and avocados vanish, and the tomatoes change from plump cherries to larger (and less tasty) slicing types. Slowly but surely we will move from fresh fruits and vegetables to all canned and preserved. Yesterday we had the first appearance of the very sad canned mushroom. I’m not sure as to what the intended use of canned mushrooms could possibly be but they are without question a poor salad topping. Eventually we will be left with cabbage and all canned vegetables but that is in the future and like with any sad, inevitable reality I prefer not to dwell on it. In any case, both lunch and dinner are finished with dessert. Whether ice cream, cake, cookies, or pie there are always treats to challenge the waistline.
We are now coming up on our eleventh station and will occupy this point for the next three days. We won’t have Internet because our antenna will not be able to “see” the satellite that keeps us connected to the outside world. It can be refreshing to go unplugged from all the noise on the web but I know that it does not just disappear. My Inbox will be flooded when we reconnect on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading!