September 6, 2012
Here is what the normal ocean looks like.
Now once we got close to the mouth of the Amazon River, things changed drastically.
Above and below: We are about 100 miles from the mouth of the river.
Below: We are about 12 miles out and things got crazy! So much sediment in the water it was completely brown! The ocean was brown!!
Below: We thought it resembled coffee with some milk in it.
Below: Now you see the CTD….
…Now you don’t.
Below: People were pretty pumped
Below: This water was seriously difficult to process and work with. I don’t even know if you could call it water.
Below: The salinity was .05. That is unbelievable! In the ocean!!!!
All and all, it was pretty amazing. Hope you agree.
September 5, 2012
We were walking around Barbados at night and we came across this kebab shop and I lost it. One of the funniest business signs I have ever seen. I personally think these places are gross but I would consider going in with a name like that! What a name! And why I like twice? Probably should not question genius.
I am not always the best at cleaning up after myself in a timely fashion. On a cruise I am usually doing multiple things at once, when I finish them all, I clean it up. Not always the best way of doing things but I don’t always have a choice. Well one day when I went back to clean up the equipment I use to pick Tricho and set up my assay, the people in the area had done something with it. They had arranged it to spell out my name. It might not seem like much but at the time it was fun to come see. Not much going on on the boat.
I talk a lot about having/getting water to incubate and how we use a CTD but I thought it would be a good idea to show you what I mean.
Now the bottom 3 pictures show a big crane deploying the CTD. Its the metal thing hanging. This has 24 10 liter bottles on it that we can control when the open and close. It also has a bunch of sensors on it that can tell us things like what depth its at, temperature, salinity, how much light, etc. We can use these paramaters to decide where we want to get our water from and the just close a bottle and seal that water in. Now the CTD can come up and we have water from different discrete depths.
The top two pictures show the CTD in the water.
The top right shows a scientist and a crew member on board waiting for the CTD to come up so they can recover it. They use those hooks to get a hold of it and the rope to steady it as it is craned onto the boat.
Now as you all know, one of the main things I do on these cruises is measure nitrogen (N) fixation. I do this through the acetylene reduction assay where I add a substrate that tricks the enzymes involved in N fixation into thinking they are carrying out the process. This process is something that I can measure easily. They convert acetylene into ethylene and this change can be quantified on a gas chromatograph. I think that’s enough detail. As I have said earlier I take Tricho (if none of this seems familiar to any of you just look back at previous posts) and measure N fixation of these organisms alone. They are very abundant in the open ocean and can actually be seen with the naked eye so it is easy to isolate them for these kinds of measurements.
To the right we can see a net tow that I just finished. The net tow concentrates the things in the surface ocean and that is why it looks like this color. There are a ton of zooplankton that are mainly copepods, which are tiny animals that feed on the plankton. Below is a picture on one such copepod. From here I pick out the Tricho. Once I have them, I seal them in a bottle and the assay begins.
Once the assay is setup, I periodically take a subsample of the gas in the bottle the Tricho are in and measure an increase of ethylene gas over time. I use an equation to convert that into an amount of N fixation. On each side you can see me taking one such subsample. I am also decked out in some of my cruise gear.
Once the subsample is taken I inject the gas into the gas chromatograph and it is separate into each component of the gas.
I then sit back and wait about a minute for my results.
Finally I get a readout like this and I compare it to a standard. The first big peak is the ethylene that was converted and the second huge peak is the total acetylene I added. This can tell me how much, if any N is being fixed in real time. I got a lot of good results this cruise! Still need to process it all though. Going to take a lot of time.
August 21, 2012
A long tradition in oceanographic studies is making tiny cups for some reason. That reason or reasons, at least for the start of this, escapes me but I do enjoy it. Water is heavy right. And it does not compress. As you go deeper and deeper into the ocean there is more and more water above you and the weight of this water adds up. So at depth you have a lot of water above you and this water causes an increase of pressure. This pressure will increase as you go deeper. Why is this relevant to making tiny cups? Well we take styrofoam cups and send them down with the CTD (see earlier post but its the thing we use to collect water at each depth) and since there is so much pressure they actually get crushed and shrink down to about 1/3 their size but this depends on how far we send them down. To make this more interesting (even though tiny cups themselves seem pretty cool at first) we decorate them in some way, usually colored markers, and then shrink them.
Here we can see two cups that I decorated and sent down to the deep. I think they went down to about 4500 meters. The cup on the right is suppose to have an anaconda staring down a Tricho colony.
The picture below shows everyone’s cups right after they came up. Most people on the cruise take part in this though some of the people that have done this a million times only write things like the date and coordinates. In the middle of the picture you can see a tiny head. This was actually a life size foam head that some middle school students decorated. Pretty cool huh? People can get creative with this.
One last thing is that every so often when I tell people about this they think its part of the research. I could never understand why but they do. So just to be positive this is not research…just stupid fun.
The boat were are on is the R/V Atlantis. It is one of the oceanographic research vessels of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). When someone wants to do a cruise this is one of the boats they try to get. This is decision is based on where they want to go and what ships are available. I like this boat but I have only been on one other. If you want more details on the boat just check out their wikipedia page…
Here you can see what our boat looks like when we were in port. This was the night before we left.
Most of the time when we are in port we are not the only ones there. Usually they can be pretty busy. This time there was not too much going on but there was a cruise ship making a stop in Barbados. A few of us wanted to try to see if we could get on that boat. I bet they will have more fun than us.
August 16, 2012
As I said earlier there is not much to do out at sea. The boat is only so big and you can only go over the same space so many times before you get really bored. But we are resourceful scientists and can find fun in simple things. When two such scientists, Brandon and Debbie, were checking out the -20˚C freezer, they stumbled upon a great find…snow (well sort of). They filled up a tub and went outside to try and make snowballs. This was pretty tough as the snow was really really cold and hurt your hand a lot to touch it. But that was not enough to stop us! They ambushed their technician, Joe, but he was pretty nimble and danced around most of the snowballs. Even caught the last one and threw it back.
They find Joe and unload!!!!
They find there next prey…Jason
Final here is a link to a video ———->SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!! <——————- of the rest of that snowball fight. This site won’t let me inbed the video for some reason and uploads the pictures all weird. Sorry about that. But just click the link to see it.
I took part in the next fight but could not take pictures at the same time. It was pretty fun.
August 15, 2012
During the cruise we crossed the equator. This may not seem like a big deal at first but to people that spend a lot of time on boats, it’s a pretty big deal. You become part of a very small and special group known as a shellback. This is considered among many to be a prestigious group, mainly because so few people ever get the opportunity to cross the equator. But to become a shellback you have to do more than just cross the equator…you have to be initiated. Now this initiation has changed a lot through the years. From what I have read and heard, it’s toned down a lot.
I cannot go into too much detail because parts of it are secret but first we had to apply for the initiation. This was a form with a bunch of question on it that we had to answer so that Neptune’s council could judge whether or not we were worthy to become shellbacks. There was also an application fee. This could be paid in many different currencies and each currency had its own amount. For US dollars it was 63 cents. Luckily with a little help from my friends I came up with the proper amount.
Another part of the ritual is your outfit or costume. Each person had to paint at least one of his or her fingernails and toenails. Most of this was done on the Spa Night we had out there. See earlier post. Below you can see my nails, pretty aint they!
Next we had to wear our shirts inside out and backwards and our underwear outside our clothes. This allowed us to be easily identified from people that were not participating in the ceremony or had already gone through it. We were told the night before to be ready early.
700 am the ship’s PA system goes off. “Rise and shine pollywogs!!! Its time!” is heard blasting over the system with a few alarms going off. Pollywogs are what people are called that have not yet been initiated. There was a banging out my bunk door and when we opened it there stood a few member of the crew with makeshift weapons to greet us. Now don’t be alarmed the weapons were mostly cardboard and foam. They handed us our nametags and told us to go to the bow (the front of the ship) and to hurry. Each person was given a name that they had to go by for the day. They were individualized based on how you filled your application. My name was Pukie Wog. I was given this name because one of the stories I told on my application was about how when I was younger a group of my friends and I would do stupid things and tape them. One of the things was to puke in public places and see how people reacted. Maybe not one of my best moments. Anyway, there were some pretty interesting ones like Sea Wolf Wog, Sandy Bottom Wog, and Psycho Killer Wog. I am not going to explain those.
We were huddled in the bow and told about what was ahead for us. We then went to eat but were not allowed to start until all the people that had already done a crossing had eaten. And we had to use our hands to eat and were not allowed to talk though not many people followed the no talking part.
After that we had to clean the boat for a couple hours. Scrub it clean. I was put in a group that had to clea
n the back deck, which was not bad. Others had to scrub toilets and clean dishes. I felt I got off pretty easy.
Next was lunch. Same as breakfast. Eat last with no utensils and don’t talk.
After food Neptune arrived on the boat, along with his council. We were put in a room and told to wait. Then Davey Jones came in and told us that we are all being brought up on charges for the heinous things we have done. Neptune and his wife then entered followed by our lawyer. Yes we had a lawyer and he was great! One by one our names were called and we had to stand to be judged. Davey Jones read off our charges and then the lawyer would say something that he prepared to defend us. They were all individualized and really well done. Very funny! I have to hand in to Lance (a crew member that was the lawyer), he must have put in a lot of time on those. However, despite his best efforts, everyone was found guilty and would have to be punished. I am not a betting man, but if I were I would bet that everyone is guilty every time they do this. Just sayin…
Then we were given time to practice our skits/performances. Yes we had to please the council of Neptune before we could become a shellback. If they liked you display, they may take it easy on you. My group decided to put on a play about the journey we were on. Trying to find DDAs in the Amazon River plume and the turmoil we all went through. Doubting that they existed but then finding them in the end. With some satire thrown in there and random stupidness to make it interesting. I played TrichMo, a Tricho puff colony that we kept finding instead of DDAs. It was fun. Another group did a hardcore rap that I cannot repeat the lyrics of but it was amazing. Way better than our play. The Brazilian group did some sexy dance fighting, capoeira. All and all everyone was pretty entertaining.
Finally was the gauntlet. We were all put in the main lab and brought through one at a time. First we were blind folded and led out to the back deck. Then we were told to sit down. The chair started vibrating (because they hid a grinder under the seat) and ice cold, and I mean ice cold water was poured over your head. So much ice that it would bounce off of you. The amount of water per person varied but I got 4 large paint buckets of it. It was so cold that I could not breathe. And the water got soaked into my blindfold and my eyes felt like they were going to freeze. After that we were walked to the next station where they pretended to shave our heads. To make this more convincing they had a frayed piece of rope that they would rub on you to make you think it was your actual hair. Top that hair cut off with some shaving cream, chocolate syrup, and some baby powder. You know, pretty standard hair cut. Finally we were walked over to the “whale’s belly.” This was a tarp with rancid food scattered all over it. I will attach some pictures of them preparing this and some crawls through. Pretty much it was creamed corn, a myriad of meats including spam, sardines and a dead flying fish, and some random other stuff. They left it out in the sun all day to make it just right. Ill be honest it smelled putrid. We had to get on our bellies and craw through about 15 ft of it. It was really gross but not as bad as the ice water. That was by far the worst. After this they removed our blindfolds and we were shellbacks. A quick hose off and you could jump in initiating the people that had not gone yet.
So it was not too bad. They talked it up to be much worse than it actually was. They gave us all a certificate and a picture ID to present at the next crossing so you would not have to go through the initiation again. Better hold on to that! Now I am a shellback. Part of a very very small group of people that have sailed across the equator. Feels pretty cool.