Friday, August 6, 2010

Ahoy, Matey!

Lattitude: 42 degrees North

Longitude: 068 degrees West

Well, I boarded ship early this morning at 07.00.

That’s nautical talk for 7:00 a.m.

By exactly 0.900, we pulled up the gangplank and set sail. Actually, I don’t know whether it’s really called a gangplank or not. All I know is that once the plank was hoisted up and removed there was no backing out. Not that I would want to abandon ship. After all, this cruise is something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time and besides I already told everyone about it!

Once on board, I found my “stateroom.” It’s a cute little room with bunk beds and closets and a little sink. I am sharing my room with a very nice gal named Sarah Kehoe. She’s an earth science teacher at Framingham High School and also a guest on board, like me. The big difference is that she seems to know a whole lot about science and is not afraid to get mud on her hands!

First on the day’s agenda was an orientation session with Dee. She said that we should be sure to separate our organic, paper and plastic trash also that we should conserve water, which means no “Hollywood Showers” (I loved that). She explained that we each get our own WHOI coffee mug and it is our responsibility to clean it out and put it back on the shelf in the galley. And finally she said that we should never, ever wear a hat in the galley (the kitchen). Next we learned about safety on board the ship and how if there's a drill (and there will be several) we should wear long sleeves and a hat. Good thing I brought my beret! And finally, we watched a 20-minute safety video. Truthfully, it was a little unnerving. A lot can go wrong on a ship and I left with a whole lot of respect for the captain and the crew.

In the afternoon, we had a safety drill and we were asked to put on these very colorful Survival Suits. I hear orange will be all the rage this fall.

By late afternoon, we came to our first stop. The Wilkinson Basin. And then suddenly, the entire ship went into action. It was kind of amazing and a little dramatic. The scientists and crew put down this big multi-corer into ocean. They call it “The Spider” because it looks like a giant spider. It has eight cylinders and within a few minutes they hoisted it up from out of the ocean and it was full of mud. They also pulled up a huge thirteen foot gravity core along with eight multicore barrels—the biggest one was 90 centimeters.

Oh, and everyone was very happy and excited about this mud. I loved watching Kathryn Rose from WHOI go to work. She is a Super hero! And don’t you just love her sense of style? She makes mud look good, that’s all I can say!

This mud will be especially helpful to Dr. Lloyd Keigwin, Chief Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Dr. Cynthia Pilskaln from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Dr. Pilskaln is researching the flux of material in water columns and Dr. Keigwin studies the foraminifera (that’s the tiny one-celled creatures that live below the sea) and what this means in terms of the past and future of the ocean.

Oh, and what’s all this mud good for? Are you kidding!? This mud is important stuff. This mud holds the mysteries to life itself—the answers to the why and where and when of climate change. And so, we took very good care of our mud pies and cut them into little cake-like discs and then gently placed them in zip lock bags and labeled them with magic markers.

I have to confess, I really like playing in mud!

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