2020 Senior Thesis Cruise
January 21 2020
The senior cruise participants are all safely back in Seattle. The multifold challenges and delights will become part of memory, character and life-time experiences. The return journey started with a 24-hour delay entering port as the Thompson was held off-shore because of high winds and seas. Sadly that meant no time to be even a day-tourist in Cape Town. The flights back were long but on time: everyone is home to the next set of demands of catching up with other classes.
The trip ended on the high point of a successful cruise with great data, memorable experiences and the great excitement ahead, namely the stories and discoveries of what the data collected will tell. Thanks to everyone for writing their blog, despite the differences of being safe and warm and comfortable at home and still being asked to write.
The ocean offers us excitement, the means to sustain life and the harsh reality that to gain the truth and discover the mechanisms of change, we have to undertake a sometimes-difficult journey. Immense and heartfelt gratitude to the Thompson crew. Respect for all those on the ship and ashore make research at sea a possibility. The memories will last.
January 18, 2020
As the senior cruise for the University of Washington comes to an end, I am reminded of one thing: how terrifyingly endless the sea is. Looking out beyond the deck while collecting data from countless Uctd deployments, this is what I think about. And how grateful I am for my fellow watch members. To the endless singing and Scottish accents to our ‘outside boys’ and all the laughs while science-ing.
As this is my first experience on an American vessel, I have to comment on the quality of the food! Sarah (the cook) is capable of making more meals in a day than I can in my entire life (according to Chris, who is definitely not wrong). The crew and science party are really nice and are always willing to help us, whether it was to demonstrate how to work the manta net or answer a simple question. The rest of the students are pretty cool as well! I’m really relieved by how friendly everyone is and how well we get along. You guys are awesome and made this such a wonderful experience.
We are very close to Cape Town but were caught in a storm with moderate winds and very high swells and for safety, the decks were closed off. Although we were sliding across the labs and basically having to crawl to get anywhere, the spirits of the team were and are still high. Everyone is excited to be a step closer to home!
Thank you to the students and good luck with your projects!
Your South African friend,
January 17, 2020
Hello from day 8(?)! It’s been a whirlwind of a trip. Just like that we have transected the Agulhas Ring twice and are steaming towards the Benguela upwelling system along the west coast of South Africa. Today has been dedicated to tying up a lot of loose ends, preliminary packing ect ect so we can spend as much time in Cape Town once we make it to the port.
Today in general the crew and scientists seem to be in pretty good health and spirits with some low level sickness still circulating around. Diligent cleaning and disenfecting has become second nature on this cozy boat! We all made it through though! I am so impressed by and grateful for the marine techs, engineers, captain, and everyone that kept the TGT running while we were plugging away at collecting data through sea sickness and the stomach bug.
As we are wrapping up the cruise we are all for the most part on the same page for standard procedure for each type of sample collection. Between the various levels of sickness and sleep irregularity induced loopiness, sample collection methods have been a little all over the place. I’d say that we weren’t exactly prepared for how to take care of all the tasks aboard. Regardless, we’ve got a mountain of data now. Now time to get it all organized...
I’ve been a part of the 12-4 am watch and some star gazing has been a major highlight when it’s clear. For the first time in my life I got to see the Southern Cross last night! Today’s 12-4 pm watch today was spent babysitting the uCTD data downloading, which take as long to process as the uCTD casting and respooling (20 – 30 minutes of patient waiting).
Ok, see you in a few days Seattle! Fingers crossed there’s less travel drama coming back.
Jan 17, 2020
It’s day.....honestly I’ve lost count. Probably 7 or 8? Either way, we have now left the Agulhas ring and are on our way to the Benguela upwelling system for more biological measurements. Its roughly a 35 hour transit (so I have some time on my hands to write this blog post.) The ring was fairly nice to us although it did take hostage of a vertical tow net. The story as I heard it was “all of a sudden there was no tension on the line and so we pulled up the line with sure enough, nothing on the end of it”. We also had to forgo some measurements on our way back north from crossing the southern edge of the ring because of rough surface currents and wind conditions, particularly the manta net tows which I use in my research. I’m intending to analyze the movement and distribution of microplastics of the ring and the mesh on the manta net is very fragile so I didn’t want to risk putting it in the water under bad conditions. Glad I made the call not to, after now seeing what happened to the vertical tow net. (Do not fear, we brought a back up vertical net so all is good.)
The science protocols have been extremely hit or miss. By that I mean the levels of consistently recording data have been very miss and not very hit. There wasn’t really a formula for how to do certain things set forth and so we all took individual liberties which is leading to many issues with consistency. As we are transferring the logs and data from written form to digital, problems continue to arise unfortunately. I just hope that once we get back to Seattle and have the help of the ships log, we can figure this all out.
Shipboard life has been pretty nice to me, considering how unfortunate others have had it. I was very seasick the first three days but have been slowly improving my sea-legs and can proudly write that i am currently not any seasickness medication! Woohoo! I was more or less bound to my room/bathroom for those first three days which I believe has effectively unintentionally quarantined me from the virus going around. Since learning of the existence of the virus, everyone aboard has been extremely careful with cleaning our rooms everyday and washing our hands often. Some are unfortunately getting hit with the virus pretty late, but most others are doing well.
On a more positive note, early yesterday morning there was spotting of many whales. I personally did not see them since I was asleep but I heard it was pretty awesome and I’m sure I’ll see the photos later. Some wandering albatrosses and a couple other seabirds called ‘petrels’ have taken to following the ship and entertaining us while we’re out doing uCTD casts. I noticed one particular albatross was flying up close to the back of the ship and then plopping itself in the water behind us and floating away as we carried on. Then flying up close again to repeat the cycle. I’ve got a video of it and I’m not really sure why but it’s hilarious to me.
All in all, I’m having a good time out here and learning a lot about being aboard a research vessel. It’s definitely a unique experience and I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do this. I look forward to processing my samples back in Seattle and I’m only slightly bummed I missed out on this winter’s first snowfall.
PS: HI DAD ☺
Blog 8: 16 January 2020
Day 8 of the cruise was monumental and very exciting! I am pleased to report that the norovirus is almost behind us all and instead the topic of conversation has shifted to happy things around the dinner table. About an hour ago we sent down our last underway CTD cast during my shift while the sun was shining gloriously above us, a sight that we had all hoped for but has sadly been lacking until now. We are all very excited to not have to think about the uCTD any longer, constantly living in fear and suspense that it will break again. Also as I am writing this we are sending down our final deep CTD cast in the ring! It has been a long journey to get to this point. Hard to believe it has only been about 4 days here in the ring, it seems more like a few weeks. Another four hours and the ring too will be a memory in the past.
Even more exciting than the sun break and end of an era, aka sampling in the Agulhas ring, was what we saw while looking into the distance today…..whales, so many whales! Our resident whale expert on board, Steven, announced that he spotted and blue whale, and our eyes were instantly peeled for the next two hours. My shift ended right at this first spotting so my watch crew got to stand up on the bridge and look for whales with Steven. While we up there we saw more blue whales, as well as fin whales and minke whales, many closer than a ship’s length away! I even got to see them through the binoculars they had on the bridge, it was truly a magical experience. Steven taught us a lot about the different types of whales, as well as other things including the whale breath that we could smell and the bright orange whale poop we saw (which brought much joy to Hanis). I had only maybe seen one or two whales in my life at a great distance, so I doubt I will ever forget today’s experience.
In other more scientific news, as we near the end of the cruise my time as a “mud hunter,” as Charlie calls me and Emmet, also comes to a close. Emmet and I are looking at nepheloid layers, which are layers of suspended particles and sediment at the bottom of the ocean, kind of like mud you could say. We have three more stations where we will be collecting water which means just 90 liters of water left to filter. This may sound like a lot but trust me it’s an excitingly small number as each 10 liters of water takes about an hour to filter, it’s where most of our watch time has gone. I am looking for any biology that might found in the nepheloid layers, but I won’t be able to really start analyzing them until we are back in Seattle. However, in one sample we saw an intact copepod, which was shocking and surprising since it was from ~4800 meters down. It gave me hope that I will find lots of fun stuff in these magical muddy layers!
As I type this, the last 4700+ m CTD cast is ascending in the water column at station 22. This is our very last station in the ring, and I cannot believe it’s only been four days! To echo Addie, it truly feels like it’s been weeks. I’m a tiny bit sad that this will likely be the last station where I collect samples from the CTD with my 8-12 watch group. We’ve devised quite the efficient system, with everyone helping collect samples for everybody else, and we (loudly) keep up morale by belting out whatever songs come to mind. By the time our current watch ends, we will be steaming away from the ring and conducting uCTD casts on our way back to land.
Today’s morning watch also began with a deep CTD cast at station 20, and at almost 8 am on the nose, our first whale sighting of the trip was announced over the radio! We all ran up on deck and waited excitedly, hoping that it would come up for another breath. When the whale came up, it was the absolute largest animal I have ever seen in my life. The blowhole alone was enormous, and I thought that surely, it had to be a fin whale or a blue whale. The whale expert onboard, Steven, had his large lens and told us later that it was a fin whale! I almost died there on the spot, which is only a slight exaggeration, because I have only ever seen two fin whales before in my life. I have been privileged to see many humpback whales in my lifetime, but never did I expect that I would be lucky enough to see a fin whale on this trip! After that our watch had to get back to work sampling the CTD, but we were distracted by MORE whales seemingly checking out the Thompson. These whales were also fin whales, and at one point there were at least eight swimming around us. Steven said there were at least 12 individuals today, and it was absolutely magical. Somehow, we managed to finish sampling, but there was a casualty of science: our net used for collecting zooplankton was lost. We have a backup, but losing scientific equipment is never fun.
My own project, like Addie and Emmet’s, consists of filtering, filtering, and more filtering! I am hoping to determine how, if at all, chlorophyll and Rubisco concentrations in phytoplankton covary spatially across the ring and with depth. This involved collecting 18 liters(!) of water per station, half of which are for chlorophyll samples, and the other half for Rubisco. I am able to completely process the chlorophyll samples on board thanks to the sonicator, centrifuge, and fluorometer onboard. The Rubisco samples require processing on land so I’ve just been filtering the water and then freezing the filters to carry back to Seattle.
Today during a rare moment of free time, I sat alone in the hammock on the deck and just enjoyed being surrounded by nothing but blue. While I was out there, three more minkes appeared and were rolling around, showing their bellies. There were petrels and a massive albatross soaring around as well. It was an incredibly peaceful moment, and I got to reflect on how wonderful this experience has been. I am much closer with my cohort than I was before the cruise, in a way that only shared experience can bring about. I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity and am already trying to figure out how to get myself on another scientific cruise as soon as possible!
After a difficult bout with the virus, I am feeling much better. On the 14th, I was discharged from the med bay after being a bit better than I was in the morning. Later that day, I rested in my bed until I woke up for my watch. Yesterday, I was able to participate in both watch shifts I had without much trouble. I do still struggle a bit with eating foods. It really is a relief to be recovering from the virus impacts I suffered through.
I wish I could eat all the amazing food that everyone else gets to eat though. So far, my stomach has been able to contain toast, yogurt, soups, and gatorade very well. I know it will take a bit more longer till my body recovers enough to eat normally. I know that if I eat something my stomach can’t handle, then all of my recovery progress restarts so I have to take things very carefully.
I really enjoy talking on the radio and operating the CTD cast. My data is not yet available until we process the nutrient samples back at UW. I’m a bit jealous of others that have already begun processing and playing around with their data.
I was really excited to see a starry night sky, but it has been pretty cloudy. I think the only clear day was when there was a full moon, so I did not get to see stars then. I can also watch HBO’s “Chernobyl” on the ship’s TV. I’ve been really excited to watch it so I hope I can find time when I’m not napping to do so.
I haven’t been around my shift long enough to find something fun to do. I hope I can start bonding with my class now that I’m feeling a bit better. We are planning to run a Dungeons and Dragons game with a lot of our classmates on the steam back towards Cape Town. I hope the rest of this trip will be more fun than the start.
I really appreciate all of the help I received this week when I was sick. I want to thank my classmates and professors for keeping up with the tight schedule and sampling my samples with my absence. I want to thank the marine technicians for reaching out to me, asking about my condition, and helping me at times. I want to thank Dave, the chief mate and the medic, for taking care of me and for the anti-diarrhea medicine. I want to thank Sarah, the steward, for cooking amazing soups that helped me recover. Thank you everyone for their support and may we all suffer till the norovirus gets out of our systems.
Blog 7: January 15, 2020
As every other day on the boat, I start my day with dry crackers. It helps with my nausea. The last couple of days on the boat have been rough because the seas we are in. But everyone is pulling through and now we reach day 6 of 10. Out of many events on this ship, I would like to highlight my favorite ones; everyone’s commitment to science and the friendship that came along with it.
Everyday around the clock, we have been casting CTD at deep (~4500 m) and shallow (1000m) depths across the ring. My watch hours rarely coincide with CTD casts and so my group and I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to be part of CTD operations. But, during our watch on the evening of January 13, we finally got the chance to do it. I also got to help with the tagline on the CTD where I hold on to a line on the CTD and control the slack on the line to make sure the CTD goes in straight into the water and not an angle. I was doing it with a crew member, Jim and afterwards he taught me a couple of new knots (bonus!). It’s also interesting to just sit in the computer lab while the CTD goes down and observe the wiggles on the screen showing water temperature, salinity, oxygen etc. and figuring out the MLD, OMZ and thermocline.
We have also been doing underway CTD (uCTD), which is a mini version of the typical CTD and you can drop it as the ship is moving. There had been many avoidable errors done on the machine that reels the uCTD in. The uCTD is a new piece of equipment onboard and so, it was a learning experience for the science crew, marine techs and the engineers. At every deep station, we have also been doing vertical net tows (for zooplankton collection) and Manta nets (for microplastic). Both of this is something new to me personally, so it’s been fun to learn how to use them on the ship.
Almost everyone on the cruise is doing all of this together and diligently despite the stomach bug that’s been going around and the sea sickness. The effort and commitment that everyone is putting out during their watch is very impressive and admirable to me as all of us are doing all these different data collections for each other. So that all of us get to do our science.
I have been feeling kind of homesick and just physically sick but my watch mates have been so amazing that they just make me forget about it most of the time. Prior to the cruise, I didn’t know everybody and was not particularly close to anybody. But throughout this research cruise, I’ve bonded with a lot of my cohort over board games, silly sing-alongs, movie time, meal time and science. Everyone has just been looking out for each other in many ways and that has naturally created a sense of home on this boat, at least for me.
Now, I need to head out for my watch. I will then end my day with dry crackers. It helps me sleep.
We are sitting and bobbing like a cork as we slowly lower the CTD today. Over 4800 meters down. These are our busy casts. With one hour left in our shift it will be up to our relief to bring the instrument in and complete sampling of the twenty ten-liter bottles which were filled at various depths.
As these bottles are drained another group will lower a large net to 100 meters in the hopes of capturing some copepods. The bane of these vertical tows are the jellyfish. Nights are worse, but the nets often come up covered in clear gel and tentacles, while the sampling jar is clogged with the clear monstrosities. Ideally, we open the net and drain the sample directly into a small container, but with the jellys we often pour everything into a bucket as we look for a larger jar.
As we are sending the rosette first I will not brave the stingers on the net tow, and the task will fall to one of my poor classmates. Despite this short reprieve it is likely the next net casting will occur on my evening shift.
Blog 6: January 14, 2020
Today is day 6 of the cruise and we are halfway through all the stations!
The schedule on the cruise takes some time to get used to. There is science going on 24/7 without a difference between day and night. Basically the rhythm is CTD casts and water samples at each station with occasional net tows and ARGO floats, and continuous UCTD in between stations.
My shift is 4-8 am and again 4-8pm. The morning shift is hard but I think doing 12-4am shift is even harder. I hoped to see some nice sunrises during my morning shift but it has been cloudy most of the time especially in the morning. However, sometimes it gets sunny in the afternoon
The meals are fantastic on the ship. I can’t name a favorite one because the menus change every day and they are all amazing. I just wish I had better appetite (you know, sea sickness). I like that they offer lots of fruits. The snack selection is also nice. I think they ran out of cup noodles.
I collect several O2 samples at each station and run titration to calibrate the sensors. The chemical lab is very warm and I get nauseous quickly so I needed to take breaks to breathe fresh air. It’s nice to sit in a chair at the back of the ship. I also like reading the library and the main lab where it is bright and cool. Yesterday I splashed some dilute sodium hydroxide on me but it seems to be fine.
Anyways, the cruise is nice but I look forward to being on land again.
Blog 5: January 13, 2020
So far as a whole, things have been pretty eventful. After we missed our connection in Amsterdam, I had to fly solo to Munich and run to make the connection and meet up with Charlie’s group before flying out to Cape Town. The experience was definitely tiring, and I slept for around thirteen hours in one afternoon-night before we left on Thursday. Once we were underway, I realized that I do in fact get seasick. I went to bed early, got dismissed in the morning as we steamed along between stations, finished another thirteen hours of sleep and finally settled into my watch schedule. I kicked the sea sickness after one day, but just as soon as I did, we found out about the “mystery virus.” Apparently the crew, and some in the science party had come down with what Charlie eloquently called a “double-ender.”
So the crew and science party are dropping in number. The marine techs in particular had it bad. They were showing us how to use the underway CTD, and they had to talk to us in shifts between trips to the bathroom. It was really rough. Then the spooler broke down and they had to fix it in shifts too. At that point, we were running late since we departed late due to flights, the underway CTD was nonfunctional, and about 1/4 of the students had got sick.
Also, with my research things hadn’t been going totally smoothly. I had collected zooplankton before. It wasn’t the topic of my study, but since I was working on biology, it was one of the things I did on the Carson. That was a year ago on the calm neighborhood waters of the Puget Sound. This was completely different. The marine techs had a bunch of questions for me about stuff I had not even considered. Then, during the second sample, it turned out that the first three we took were with a freshwater hose, and the samples were likely unusable! It was challenging to say the least. All in all, we were only like 2 or 3 days into the cruise and it was looking rough ahead.
Fast forward to today, and there’s been a few developments. Nearly everyone got sick with what we are hypothesizing is a strain of noro virus the crew picked up in Cape Town. We’ve done some reading. It’s highly contagious, stays alive on surfaces for hours to days and is even resistant to cleaning products. The UCTD got fixed, broke again, got fixed, then our shift got the line tangled really badly and it took the rest of the watch to fix it. But we haven’t broken it again in 3 shifts. Our watch had very few sick people in it, but some people who were going strong before have started getting it, so it felt like only a matter of time. Then the marine tech came over and told us that someone who had it previously got it again and that there might be multiple strains, meaning even if you didn’t show symptoms for one strain you could get the other one as well. As of this moment, I am one of a few people who haven’t fallen ill.
Despite all of this though, I think it’s important to clarify that I have been having a lot of fun. I wasn’t super close with most of my cohort, but the challenges that I’ve detailed here haven’t made everyone grumpy or bitter. We’ve come together over this. When something breaks, we deal with it as a group. When someone’s sick, we pick up the slack so that they can keep their project going. My watch especially have become closer friends. We played card games today and got so loud and excited that Julie came in and asked us to sound less distressed. I’m really glad that I’ve gotten to know these people just a little bit more. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about the challenges we have faced. This cruise might just be remembered as the one that got screwed in the airport and got noro virus for the whole time, but I think I’ll still remember it fondly.
Right now we’re finishing up at the final deep CTD station on our first pass of the Agulhas ring. We’ve lost time, but Charlie believes we’ll still be able to get through everyone’s science if we work efficiently. I guess we’ll see how things develop from here.
Today was an excellent day. Numerous albatross were sighted today. Nothing broke or gave anyone trouble. It is only a matter of time though since nothing stays in perfect condition, and something inevitably breaks or has some sort of complication. Nothing that can’t be fixed though.
The flu like sickness that troubled most of us is almost completely gone, but we are beginning to worry about it making a second course through the crew. The sun came out and with it more and more smiles. Skies were partly clear and we are hoping for the clear sky to carry to the night so that we can look at the starts. We also hope to see part of the milky way. We collectively seem to have reached a turning point where fun is now evident. Card games brought laughter in the lab after lunch. The highlight of my day was having gyros for lunch. They were excellent. Until tomorrow where we finish off the south west track across the eddy and cross the halfway point of this cruise. Time is flying now that everyone has gotten the hang of things. Every CTD, underway CTD, and net tow is becoming more efficient. While some may not want to spend any more time aboard the Thompson than they have to, I grow sad knowing we are almost halfway done. I don’t want to go back to the normal day to day classes and homework.
Update from Seattle: January 13, 2020
As you can infer from the blogs over the past four days the Thompson has made its way through some choppy seas to the center of the eddy at 40S. During this transit quite a few of the science party, many being new sailors, experienced seasickness. At the same time, a bug has spread among ship’s crew and the science party.
The good news is that it lasts 24-48 hours in most cases and virtually everyone is now recovered fully. The ship’s crew and the science party are all joining together to clean every surface they can, with bleach and water to make things as clean as possible. The ship has notified authorities of the situation and has received full medical advice from the on-demand sea-going medical advice service they access. I am happy to say that it seems the worst has passed and we can anticipate that the remaining half of the voyage will be sickness free.
The last report was seas are calm, wind is 10 kts, stars are out and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow and the hope of seeing more albatross and possibly some southern whales. Though with the warm water of the eddy they are measuring right now, it will be interesting to see if that occurs.
Blog 4: January 12 2020
Day four on the Thompson and those who were affected by the sickness are now on the mend to normalcy. The main lab is slowly filling with more students, allowing for a brighter and livelier atmosphere. We have entered the Ring and have begun the tedious cycle of uCTD yo-yos, CTD drops and net tows. There have been a few hitches along the way. The uCTD has ‘broke’ a total of four times three out of these four times my shift has been on. It’s interesting considering that most of the uCTD data is being used for my thesis project. Perhaps the uCTD doesn’t like me? Other than that, most of the 4-8 shifts have been rather uneventful. We have been hoping to arrive at a station right as our shift starts so that we can partake in a CTD cast, as of right now all we have been doing is uCTD drops, which can get quite boring at times. Despite that, many of us have been putting our best foot forward and making good use of the time on deck. I have come to discover that my favorite place on board is my bed, probably due to the fact that adjusting to a new time zone and work schedule at the same time has been difficult. However, as the days have passed, I have found myself able to wake up before my alarm and stay up through the day with little to no naps. With only six days left all we can do is follow the great advice from a forgetful fish and “Just keep swimming…”.
Well we are almost at the center of the eddy as I write this. I must say it’s quite something that I am writing anything at all. Despite wearing a prescription ear patch I suffered from sea sickness for the first 24 hours. Unfortunately I also caught the stomach bug early on and while it started off mild it got a lot worse almost right after I was no longer sea sick. Luckily the students and ship’s crew are very caring and so I am now able to retain fluids and am on the mend. In the few hours where I wasn’t sea sick or curled up in my bed the underway CTD stand broke. Tyler (student), Jen (Marine Tech), and I worked to fix the problem. Now the stand works better than before!
The first Argo float was deployed while I was resting, but we still have 5 remaining. If you follow the UW Oceanography Instagram look out for posts about the cruise from me. Hopefully I’ll catch the next deployment and take some pictures.
I have so much respect for my fellow students as they have all struggled these first few days and have helped one another recover. Hopefully the rest of the cruise will be smooth and everyone will start to feel normal again.
Blog post 3: 11 January 2020
We’re entering the anti-cyclone feature today. Bright sunshine in the morning, a little sprinkle before lunch, and now I’m sea-sick again. Yes, again. Some of us are experiencing even more severe situation that they have to stay in bed the whole day. The rest of us are still holding on and carrying research of their own and also of others. Respect and shared thanks to them.
The uCTD is doing quite well, despite the fact that the wire got tangled again this morning. What’s not so encouraging is that all the uCTD casts we’ve done since last night only went down to about 320m deep instead of 650m as we would expect.
I have to stop now since I’m not feeling well sitting inside the ship. ☹The first ARGO has been deployed this morning. ☺
Blog post 2: 10 January 2020
For some, the rocking of the boat is reminiscent of a parent’s hand rocking the cradle. A lullaby for the body. For others, this rocking is an eternal reminder that they, creatures of land, are far from home. Sea sickness isn’t something you can really predict if you’ve never been out in the open ocean. While it is used as a punchline in countless nautical comedies, for those of our party who have been struck by the nausea and dizziness characteristic of it, it’s made this second day of the research cruise hell. They are forced to find time to stay hydrated, eat something that won’t ruin their stomach (luckily an easy feat on this well stocked vessel), sleep, show up for watches, ensure their research is conducted, and try desperately to find something to keep them motivated. Those of us lucky enough to have a milder case can only do so much for our colleagues as each student’s research has very different requirements. Knowing exactly which sampling stations and what variety of sampling another student wants can be near impossible when their fatigued state makes it difficult for even they to remember what the plan was. In addition to the sea sickness, there appears to be a mysterious virus passing through members of the crew. One of our own UW Oceanography instructors has been struck as well as at least seven of the ship’s crew. Many of us treat every flutter in our stomach as a bad omen of things to come. We all hope for good health, and will continue to stay hydrated and rest as well as we can.
In spite of these harrowing times for our fellow voyageurs, there have been high times had on the high seas. The weather started off cloudy today but cleared up after lunch to reveal sunshine and blue skies. Several of us took the opportunity to lay out on one of the weather decks and soak up some much-needed vitamin D. There were several successful CTD casts and net deployments that provided us all with good practice for the busy times ahead. My own manta net tow yielded some styrofoam pellets (exciting and the subject of my own research), several small fish, jellies, and shrimp like zooplankton. The sea looks so desolate and empty that these signs of life brought delight to the students around to witness them. We have one week left in this research cruise, and we arrive at the eddy early tomorrow morning. The real work is yet to begin. Wish us well.
January 10, 2020
Chris: The Journey to Cape Town Part: Munich
The past three days have been a whirlwind of flying, confusion, and exploration. Originally the entire senior thesis group was scheduled to fly from Seattle to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to South Africa. Everything changed when a part (which we have speculated was my reading light) was broken and needed to be ordered from Minnesota. After a 5 hour delay we boarded the plane and finally set out on our adventure.
Touching down in Amsterdam, we were uncertain of where we would be going. We rushed to some counter for lost souls and were informed that half the group would be going from Amsterdam to Munich in Germany and then to South Africa. The other half was going to Istanbul, Turkey, and would be getting in later than the Munich group to South Africa. Luckily, I got my golden ticket to Munich and had just enough time to grab a meal and fly the hour and thirty-minute flight to Germany. The Munich airport was essentially a ghost town with large pretzels and the only trouble we had was the police stopping our group at passport control. It turns out the Amsterdam passport control had stamped 2019 instead of 2020 so they had to go through a process to change it and instead of changing my passport to 2020 they changed it to 2002, but eventually we got to the gate and boarded our 11 hour flight to South Africa. I got a solid 3 hours of sleep throughout the entire trip, but it was nice seeing all the new countries (airports) especially since I hadn’t left the United States before this trip.
We spent the 8th in South Africa exploring and the country is quite beautiful. I wanted to spend more time on land, but science called! We set out today and so far very few of us are surviving the tossing waves. I’ve been one of the lucky few to not get seasick and hope to survive the night! Everyone is enjoying their time on the boat and we have all had a lot of fun so far in South Africa! I’m excited to map the Agulhas Ridge in the coming days and to get a more in-depth look at everyone’s science.
Emmet: The Journey to Cape Town Part: Istanbul
Emmet’s home to SeaTac airplane: 8 hours. SeaTac airport to Amsterdam: 9 hours. Amsterdam airport: 5 hours. Amsterdam to Istanbul??? Why? What happened?: 3.5 hours. Istanbul? Waiting at airport and looking at all the things we can’t afford: 3 hours. To Cape Town, South Afrika: 10 hours. In total, about two days of travel to get to South Africa.
We are now on the ocean, and we have not slept much. Many people are feeling the sea sickness. But we are in high spirits and we are so excited to collect samples for our senior thesis projects. I am very thankful to be here. *Rushes off to view nepheloid layer data*
January 9, 2020
The Thompson Senior Thesis cruise is underway. The ship departed Cape Town on Thursday afternoon. Sailing was delayed as the luggage of more than half of the science party was delayed. Nearly all(!) of it arrived at 2PM local on Thursday. Most of it was soaked having been left out in the rain somewhere. So the ship's laundry dryer is in full swing. The ship sailed an hour later. They were only six hours late in departure so hopefully with good weather they can make up that time.
The first science measurements were carried out just off Robben Island where a tow was taken to look at plastic concentrations. The ship is now steaming south towards the eddy. A blog written by the science party should appear in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, a couple of pictures of the majority of the science party including two of the South African who joined the cruise. Indeed, Table Mountain in the background: a truly exceptional sight.
January 7, 2020
The science party all assembled at SeaTac ready for the 13:30 Delta flight to Amsterdam connecting on to Cape Town. Unfortunately, the plane had mechanical problems and was delayed almost 4 hours in departure so the connection was missed to the non-stop from Amsterdam to Cape Town. The fourteen students and two faculty in the party were then rebooked on two different flights, one via Istanbul to Cape Town and the other via Munich, Frankfurt to Cape Town. There will be some very weary people arriving approximately 14 hours later and many more hours in planes.
But as the pictures show there were some enthusiastic students arriving with anticipation and hope at SeaTac and even some smiling faces at the transfer desk as flights were re-booked in Amsterdam.
Shown on the front page now is a small picture generated today of the currents off South Africa. The cruise is headed towards the lozenge-shaped eddy to the left center of the graphic. The strong anti-clockwise circulation of the eddy is very clear, and it has separated from the main Agulhas Current which shows its retroflection back towards the east. The large eddy the students will be studying is the main mechanism for transferring heat into the Southern Atlantic Ocean from the Indian Ocean.
The science party is due into Cape Town now around 1400 hours on 8 January. Then we hope to have some good information direct from the students.
On Monday, January 6th, 18 seniors set off from Seattle for Cape Town South Africa to undertake a 10 day cruise on the r/v Thompson. This is the senior thesis cruise and each student has their own scientific question, their own project that they have developed over the past three months.
The area the ship will be working in is a crucial area for heat transfer from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Eddies, 450 kilometers across and 3000 meters deep, break off from the Agulhas Current in an area known as the Agulhas Retroflection region about 300 miles south of the Cape of Good Hope. These eddies are a critical part of the global conveyor belt of heat that drives ocean circulation.
Some projects will be looking at the variation in zooplankton across an eddy, others looking at the dynamics of mixing at the edge of the eddy, and yet others looking at the changing chemistry and productivity within an eddy. One project will deploy profiling floats that go up and down 1500 meters and profile up and down within the eddy for a month.
Each project is the thesis and focus of one student. But added together this work will be a unique study of the complex aspects of Agulhas Eddies.
First, the students fly 10,800 miles via Amsterdam to Cape Town taking about 27 hours. The ship is then loaded and the science cruise begins. Working 24 hours a day on 4 hour watches, the students and the four scientists/faculty who are with them will be collecting data and samples. The return journey is equally long and the seniors return on Martin Luther King day and start to catch up with the remainder of their courses.
But I am sure the experience of seeing the Southern Cross, the experience of collecting data and comparing with satellite data and model output will all combine for a memorable experience.