Day 4 Senior 2014 Thesis Cruise - small boat blog

Day 4 - small boat

A stiff wind blows briskly over the off-green water of Nootka sound. With the clanging of hooks and the rasping of steel cables, a call goes up to lift the mighty Weelander from her perch on the aft deck. Today’s the day that the small-boat work begins, and the first step is to get her in the water. Together, the crew keep the 15-foot craft in check as the crane hoists her over the side, dropping her somewhat unceremoniously on the sea below. With this initial step completed, the crew begins preparing a ladder to transfer the scientific party to the Weelander from the main ship, the Thompson. After a brief, exhilarating tussle with a ladder down the side of the ship we make it to the deck of our new home, welcomed by her captain, Dave.

Water and starfish are on the menu today. With her captain and 5 scientists as crew, the Weelander sets off to collect some data. We start with water samples, where we collect surface salinity measurements in addition to samples to test for dissolved oxygen and CO2 content. Occasionally we collect small 1 mL samples for sulfate analysis, while Matt keeps an eye out for good sea star survey sites. When we find one, he straps his underwater camera to a pole and lowers it over the side, poking into nooks and crannies on a hunt for the beasts. While the sea stars remained elusive on this expedition, our search technique produces meaningful video that shows that this method will work as a method for capturing video of both the creatures and the sea floor. This brings us hope that future searches may yield useful images of sea stars in their environment.

As we make our way eastward, collecting data and samples along the way, we make sure to keep an eye on the land around us. Nootka Sound is truly a beautiful area, and the pristine condition of the water and forests situated in this picturesque fjord make me think back on our home, the Puget Sound. These same brilliant waters and verdant forests were likely the first things seen by early settlers when they laid their eyes on the Puget Sound, which I imagine would have made for a compelling argument to settle the area. This untouched beauty brings a mixture of emotions; I’m at once disheartened that the Puget Sound has lost this gorgeous landscape and comforted knowing that this great green bastion exists somewhere, preserving the natural splendor of the area.  This omnipresent wilderness is a fantastic thing to enter into and explore, and I’m grateful to have such an incredible opportunity.