Sunday, August 8, 2010

I meant "sediment", not "sentiment"

Lattitude: 39 Degrees

Longitude: 067 Degrees

This is my August horoscope from Susan Miller’s,

Cosmic storms will rumble through the heavens in early August, but you may be one of the very fortunate ones who will be blissfully unaware of all that's happening to others. Planks will be falling, the ship will be rocking, and you'll be swinging in your hammock, reading your iPad, completely unaware that the boat nearly capsized. When told the captain had a near miss, you'll look up blankly and say, "What are you talking about?"

Seriously, that’s my August horoscope for Aquarius.

Okay, so I admit it. I am feeling a little blue today.

First of all, I am homesick. Not seasick, thank goodness, but definitely homesick. I sat on the deck this afternoon and as the Knorr was steaming along, making big waves, I looked out into the distant horizon and saw nothing. Nothing but blue, blue, blue water. Well, I guess that’s no surprise, since we are in the middle of the ocean. But suddenly, it dawned on me that I am in the middle of the middle. I am days from land, from home and all that’s familiar.

And I’m not just talking about what’s familiar in terms of land, but what’s familiar in terms of my life. I am in deep water, both literally and metaphorically. I wish I had brought a copy of Elle Magazine with me. I wish I could go for a mani/pedi right about now.

I wish I could get on the phone and talk to my friend Laurie who’s an actress/writer in New York City and honestly, I’d be thrilled to hear about her latest boy-troubles!

More than anything else, I miss Dr. William Thompson! (That’s would be my scientist/husband). Here he is in his lab at WHOI.

He brings me coffee every morning. Now, more than ever before, it has dawned on me what an incredible luxury this cafe á la Thompson is for me! This isn't actually a cup of coffee he made, but it gives you the general idea. Pure luxury!

Here on the Knorr, I must wake myself up and somehow make it down to the kitchen—excuse me—galley—and fetch my coffee before it closes at 8:15 a.m. I think that’s the time—truthfully, I missed breakfast this morning. I did figure out how to make the coffee and I did fetch myself a mug, but still.

I suppose I have become spoiled. Yes, very spoiled.

And this brings me to the point of this blog post. While I am a total slacker—by that I mean, I prefer to write about things than actually do things (okay, not always, but a lot of the time), these climate change scientists are working nonstop! They are so passionate about saving this planet and especially our ocean from the onslaught of climate change—that they are up at 2 a.m. lugging in these large gravity cores. They’re at their computers charting out the best waters to drop the cores. They’re using radio signals and operating something called a “man basket” where a man sits in a little booth high above the ship, directing all this huge machinery. And then, when the time is right, they set to work, quickly and efficiently cutting through the pvc (hard plastic) and capping the tops, labeling them, and securing them, while this enormous steel vessel rocks and rolls and shifts beneath our feet.

All this done with speedy professionalism.

And what was I doing last night at midnight while all this action was going on?

Sleeping in my “state room.”

And so, I confess, I also completely missed Dr. Cynthia Pilskaln’s sediment

trap launch! But I was given this photo from the event.

Cindy is the gal with the long, blonde hair and the California tan. In fact, she is from California originally. She grew up in the Laguna Beach area and fell in love with the ocean when she was a little girl, playing with hermit crabs in the little tide pools around the beach. She actually created little contests for the hermit crabs.

Here is a photo of this wonderful scientist.

And here is a picture of the mermaid clip she often wears in her hair.

She knew from a very young age that she wanted to study the ocean and so she majored in geology at the University of Vermont as a way to get into oceanography. Cindy then went to Harvard where she got her Masters and Ph.D. in geology with a focus in sedimentary chemistry processes. Today she teaches at the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford.

So, about those sentiment trap moorings. See the yellow cone in the photo above? That’s designed to collect sinking particle matter in the ocean which either becomes sediment or is consumed in the water column. Cindy’s research is all about looking at the connection between surface ocean productivity events and the connection between what happens in the upper ocean, the shallow ocean and how all that gets translated into the sediments. I think sediment is actually fancy talk for mud. (Yes, we’re back to mud again!)

It’s sediment core not a sentiment core.

Yes, I have just been informed that for the past two days, I have been blogging about “sentiments,” when I meant to say “sediments.” Hmmmm…I wonder what it all means? Somehow, I’ve even turned the mud into something a little emotional, a little heartfelt. A sentiment. But, really, I apologize. I meant to say “sediment.”

But actually, mud is very complicated stuff. It includes plankton and all sorts of organic matter and can hold a record of long and short time scales. So, yesterday morning, the group of scientists dropped the sediment traps to 150 meters and 250 meters, and then they put down a big anchor and in May, Cindy and the scientists (doesn’t that sound like the title for a new t.v. show?) will come back and send a signal to the unit on the wire below the trap which will release the mechanism, wake it up, and then it’ll rotate and open, and magically (actually, very scientifically) the trap will float up. Each of the thirteen cups collects material samples and then rotates every twenty-day over the next eight months. Wow. Once she retrieves the samples, Cindy will be back to the lab doing microscope and chemical analyses to determine the amount and composition of the particle materials that have settled to the bottom of the ocean.

And why go to all this trouble? Well, the ocean is warming. And when the ocean warms, there are fewer nutrients for the phytoplankton and if the phytoplanktons have less food, then the fish have less food and if the fish have less food, well then the penguins have less food! And who would want to hurt a penguin! (Okay, I may be a little off on that last part, but you get the idea. This is important work.)

And now, I am going to say good night, because while it’s past nine o’clock, the ship is bustling and we are about to bring in a gravity core and everyone is wide awake about to go into action once again. This time, I am determined to stay awake for it! Bon soir!

1 comment:

  1. Kat
    This is Greg, your next door neighbor. I am enjoying your blog. It seems that I am the opposite of you in that I would rather do things then write about them. Just look at this trip as an experience that very few of us get to do. I am envious. Hope you stay awake.