Skidawawy Institute Clifton Buck continues is account of his lengthy cruise across the South Pacific from Ecuador to Tahiti.
Current Position: S 15.75’ W 105.08’
It’s another Sunday at sea and we are transiting between Stations 15 and 16. Many in the science party use these 10-12 hour lulls in the action to catch up on sleep, update data logs, or continue their daily slog through the seemingly endless volume of samples. But for me, Sunday is laundry day (not all that different from at home in Savannah). Our ship has a laundry room, though no laundry service, and each compartment of cabins is assigned a particular day of the week for tending to dirty linens. The laundry is located deep within the bowels of the ship along with the food stores. Land lubbers may go queasy at the thought of folding their skivvies beneath the waterline but I find the sound of the waves breaking against the hull to be soothing to hear while I search for that missing sock.
Earlier today, we were treated to a lunch of freshly caught Mahi.
Our usual operations do not allow for fishing but there are times the ship steams slowly enough to allow for trolling. Several members of the crew are avid anglers and are quick to deploy hand lines from the stern. It is a great treat for us when a fish is landed and one can imagine the joy preindustrial mariners must have felt at the prospect of fresh fish.
The internet has been filled with erroneous reports concerning the ongoing leak of radionuclides from the earthquake damaged Fukushima power plant. These reports suggest that contaminated waters and debris are spreading across the Pacific Ocean posing a threat to human health in the Americas. We are all exposed to naturally occurring radiation throughout our daily lives and seawater is chock full of naturally occurring radionuclides. While the area immediately surrounding the plant is grossly contaminated and radionuclides continue to seep from the site, there is no risk to us or anyone in North or South America. The radionuclides released in Japan are quickly diluted in the Pacific Ocean and are constantly disappearing due to radioactive decay. The Fukushima disaster has caused in an increase in radioactivity of about 25% above this natural background level in the near shore (~40km). At 600km from shore, the increase is only 2% above natural levels. In fact, there are several scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) on board who were on the scene in Japan shortly after the earthquake struck. The risk of radiation exposure at their study site, just a few miles from the plant, was so low that no personal protective equipment was required whatsoever. Please visit WHOI’s Café Thorium website for more information. So you can dig in to all of the sustainably caught seafood you like without fear of glowing in the dark!
Exit Challenge: Try to identify the seabirds in these photos. Post your answers in the comments.