Diary of a Co-Chief Scientist: 24 Hours of Non-Stop Science

This post is really a reflection of the last 32 hours, in part because we are all too exhausted to compose a blog post and the internet went down. Now that we are connected and well rested, let’s recap! 

2015-09-29 16.12.56
Final checks on MOCNESS before deployment

We arrived on station around 11:00 pm (4:00 GMT), and immediately set to work. MOCNESS was the first task, with the first tow beginning at 3,200 meters and opening the nets at 200 meter intervals. After two hours we completed the tow from 3,200 to 1,600 meters, and the plankton samples were brought to the surface for processing. Once the MOCNESS was on deck, the mooring team (Doreen, Kayelyn, and Craig) assembled on the port stern at 11:00 GMT to enable the acoustic release and begin release procedures. We received messages suggesting that the mooring was on its side, but at 13:07 GMT it pinged a rapid and clear, “I’m vertical” signal, so we immediately sent the release code. The mooring returned the release signal, and we sent for observers on the 0-1 deck to watch for the float.

No sign of the mooring. Could it have been caught in the Loop Current and swept away from the site?

Anyone see a mooring?
Anyone see a mooring?

Thinking the mooring may have been caught in the current, we let the ship drift and even chased the mooring several miles off station. Throughout the chase we constantly pinged enable and range, and were successful keeping in contact with the mooring. We searched for six hours over miles of open ocean, but there was nothing.

I am Ahab and the mooring is my white whale. 

2015-09-30 19.00.37
The CTD was my dinner date

Around 18:00 GMT we ceased search operations for the mooring and prepared for the second MOCNESS tow. The MOCNESS reached target depth of 1,600 meters completed the tow to 100 m by 21:23 GMT. The MOCNESS was then detached from the winch line, and the CTD was prepared for launch while the larval team processed plankton samples. The CTD launched at 22:24 GMT with a target depth of 3,200 meters and retrieved at 00:22 GMT.

Following the recovery of the CTD, the mooring team (Doreen, Craig, and Kayelyn) sent several disable codes to the mooring off the port bow. Why disable the mooring? It saves the battery on the acoustic release, so we can come back and search again. Yet, after multiple disable commands, the mooring refused to communicate. This suggests a few possible outcomes: (1) the mooring released at some point today, and we did not see it, (2) the mooring is somehow stuck either on the escarpment edge or in some way trapped, (3) the batteries died or the float is in some way compromised so it cannot come up.

The team was falling over with exhaustion. Barely anyone had slept since 11 pm the previous evening, and spent the majority of the day outside looking for the mooring. It was a constant battle to stay hydrated and protected from the sun, but we looked after each other and got through 24 hours of non-stop science.  We hear horror stories of teams that don’t get along, but we’ve all become quite the deep-sea family!

These are my people and I love them.

Now let’s go back to Miami and avoid this hurricane!

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