June 6, 2009 – East of Vancouver Island, British Columbia 50-34.00N, 126-51.4W
by Dr. R. Michael Reynolds
APOLOGIES FOR A GAP
First, let me apologize for a large hiatus in the science blogs. I have been knee deep in rattlesnakes getting all of our gear operational and on line. Happily, at this time, everything is working very well and I am beginning to relax. I even took a nap this morning, Ahh the beginning of a great cruise. We are currently steaming through the Gulf Islands northward along the east side of Vancouver Island. The sky is completely clear, winds are light and the sea is flat. I put on my SPF30 to go out and take sunlight measurements (more on that later), and the crew is relaxed as we take this lucky break to put the Ocean Watch and all of her instruments in good working order.
As we motor along–motor because there is no wind–the seven of us are working assiduously on all sorts of jobs. Preparing the ship, organizing the food and the tools, checking the navigation and the navigation computers, and double checking all the lines and hardware on the sails. These are sailors and seamen who love what they do. Their labor reminds me of an interview I heard with a French Chef: “We don’t count our hours, we love our work. We think it has value.” That is the attitude I have always cherished about science, and how fun it is to be immersed in it.
The scientist has his work too. All the instruments need to be checked and re-checked through the day. One thinks of the circus performer with spinning plates, jumping from one to the other keeping them going. These early days of the cruise are the times when we suffer what are called “infant mortality.” Failures usually occur in the first days or weeks of an installation. The kinks in the system are discovered and fixed and the system begins to function with reliability and accuracy.
HUMILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
In a previous blog, Herb reported on our departure, a memorable departure, with the speeches and fanfare befitting such an expedition. There was a large dinner at the Corinthian yacht club at Shilshole Marine on Saturday and on Sunday morning a large crowd of well wishers joined for another round of speeches, photo opportunities, and goodbye hugging. You can imagine that we were all a little humbled by the pomp and accolades. But I was additionally humbled for a different reason: the emphasis on science that is shared by everyone here, especially the sponsors. The success of this cruise is dependent on the science we do, and, importantly, how we impart that science to the public. As the first of several scientists that will join the expedition I am taking my responsibility very seriously.
JELLY FISH OBSERVATIONS
|A photograph of our jellyfish samples 02-02, 02-03, 02-04. Peter Strand identified 02-03 as Aequoria, and 02-04 as a Sea Gooseberry. (Photo courtesy of David Thoreson.)|
In a previous report I discussed our “spot measurements,” those observations we make on an occasional basis. Jellyfish observations are one of those. A few months ago none of us on this project thought much about jellyfish but now we are enthusiastically netting, photographing, and taking samples on a regular basis. It seems that the lowly jellyfish is becoming a very important critter in this world’s ecosystem. Their concentrations are an indicator of an unhealthy ocean and when they cross a tipping point and become epidemic they can ruin a fisheries. A month or so before we embarked, scientists at the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab realized that this was an opportunity to survey jellyfish populations over the coastlines with some unusual tools. Especially the Ladybug camera system. We moved the Ladybug from its intended mast top location to a place in the stern over the water. It remains to be seen how this will work as jellyfish monitor, but if we are able to assay jellyfish using this technique it will be a powerful tool.
We stopped to visit the biologists Steve and Pat Strand yesterday and we netted three jellyfish samples. They were able to help us identify two of them as Aequoria and a Sea Gooseberry. (see attached photo). These are pretty common around here. However, without the Strands standing at our sides identification would have been quite a problem for our crew. Jellyfish, true to their name, have no bones and are 95% water. In the water they are spherical with tentacles dangling behind as they pulse themselves through the water. Once in our net and on the tray they are flat amorphous pancakes. We have a beautiful guide, “Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates,” that is filled with color plates of the jellyfish swimming in full display. What we need is a book of photographs of the same animals laying in a tray looking like road kill. Then the job of identification will be simpler.
BACK TO WORK:
Time to get back to work. We have a noon observation to make.
“…you will never see a man, on board a well-ordered vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down or leaning over the side. …In no state prison are the convicts more regularly set to work,…”
“Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
All views, ideas, and comments here are ad hoc, off the cuff, poorly researched, and subject to revision at any moment.
*To add a comment to this story click on the comment link below the post title. Please direct your messages for the crew to firstname.lastname@example.org instead of submitting them here. Thanks for following the Around the Americas Expedition.