Today the ocean was completely flat and there was relatively no wind. It was also warmer- a long sleeved t-shirt sufficed. As I was looking over the edge of the bow, I could see patches of small oil sheens floating by. They were probably from one of the three oil rigs in sight (two of which are relief wells from the Deepwater Horizon site). It’s crazy because even in the middle of the day you can see the flames burning off the tops of the oil rigs. Since there were no waves and I could see for miles, naturally I was on the lookout for any fins of sharks that may have been swimming around.Unfortunately, I struck out. Last night there were apparently large squid hunting in the lights from the end of the boat, but, as I mentioned, I was busy filtering seawater and missed seeing them. However, tonight as I was out on deck washing core supplies, I did see a couple of small squid.
Alvin brought up 12 cores, slurp filters, 30 tube worms, two large coral samples, and some mussels. The biologists on board finally had a good stock to work with. However, the excitement was soon replaced with stress (especially for the corals). It’s not that the work requires a high level of technical skill, it’s just that there is so much to be done all at once and everything has to be processed quickly. Most of the work is processing and prepping samples so they can be preserved and analyzed back in labs on land. As much as we may try to guess at what we’re seeing, nothing is definite or proven.
Helen and I realized the beauty of organization today. Although we don’t have comparatively as many samples as some of the other people on board, we still had a few difficulties with our sample log. When you do the same procedure multiple times a night for multiple days, they start to blur together. We figured everything out after sifting through our lab book though. Working with the filters has been the most complex. First, the naming is confusing- filter of the slurp filter, filters from the slurp filter, etc. Second, there are different aspects of the filter from which samples must be collected separately- the filter itself, the seawater in the filter’s canister, and the seawater from the biobox that held the coral from which the slurp was taken. When dealing with the oil spill and potential data for litigation, everything has to be precise and specific, which ends up making it all the more confusing.
My job with today’s samples was pretty much the same as last night, except a little less filtering and a little more sediment cores. Luckily there weren’t many problems with the filtering today, and it actually went by relatively quickly. Although I would have liked to see more of the processing of the tube worms, corals, and mussels, I was busy with the seawater and sediment cores. Things start to get weird late night in the wet lab. The music gets turned up and people start singing as they crank out the core samples. Everyone is tired to the point of delirium. But that’s what makes it fun.