The ship was electric with anticipation this morning. The first net went over the side at about 0809, and at 1155, the ship headed to the next Station. Processing the first samples took another 4 hours.
The first plankton net was very productive, bringing in good specimens in clear water. (There must be someone, somewhere who has done that up in needlepoint, eh? Raise a high toast to an aficionado of plankton - "May your sample be plentiful and your water clear".)
The Plankton Group was busier than bees in spring once that net was rinsed, and a glorious haul from the Blake dredge was unloaded about two hours later by the Benthics. The young academics were all out on deck awaiting that net. They looked like thoroughbreds at the post, or better yet, like kids on that special holiday morning where there are treat-laden, brightly knit stockings to be opened! Oooooooh, biiiiiig stocking!! In that delivery, there were sea stars, crabs, fish, worms, urchins, snails, squid and even a couple of very small octopi - enough to make everyone happy for at least a few hours. And so, it really begins.
The weather is pleasant, in the 40's (degrees F) and they were able to sort out in the deck box with bare hands - really, the best way to sort through the mess of seaweed and critters. Order came quickly by way of these seasoned hands and sharp eyes, and buckets of animals were brought to the Wet Lab for further sorting onto white cafeteria-like trays.
There, the groups are visually identified, photographed and some critters even give their lives to go on to further analysis in labs back home. The 80 degree-below freezer is the honored place of rest for those selected. The remainder go back over the side.
Albatrosses have come into the picture today. These are the most graceful sea birds with a physiology just perfectly adapted to flying, mostly gliding, over miles and miles of ocean. To watch them is a pleasure and a comfort. If the wind and seas don't look calm to one's eye, these magnificent birds in flight create a completely different impression, and you must say to yourself, 'no, the conditions out here are just perfect'.
Our work will be in the waters of Argentina in the direction of the Falkland Islands for the next couple of days. We will cycle several times through the plankton tows, bottom grabs, bottom (benthic) tows, water analyses and sorting, sorting, sorting before heading across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. I will continue to report back about the interesting things we see and do along the way.
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S-053 13.835 W-066 22.119
11.0 degrees Centigrade
Wind Chill: 0.6 degrees Centigrade
Wind: NNW at 22.8 km/h
Roast beef, baked potatoes, Brussels sprouts, ratatouille, corn on the cob, fresh salad and rolls, and cake, cookies, and strawberries for dessert
Dr. Rhian Waller inspects the first plankton samples (Photo by Ellen Bailey)
Blake dredge is lifted from the water
Blake dredge sorting begins (Ken Halanych in blue hat)
This is a sorting of brittle stars