On board the RV Roger Revelle in Auckland, New Zealand
Elisabeth L. Sikes

Associate Professor, Paleoceanography, Marine Organic Geochemistry

E-mail reports from scientist Liz Sikes aboard NIWA's Research Vessel Tangaroa

This research is funded by U.S. National Science Foundation* grant OCE-0726048 "Controls on alkenone temperature estimates in sub-tropical and sub-polar waters" awarded to Principal Investigator Liz Sikes and Co-Investigator Brian Popp (University of Hawaii).

*Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences,
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

email: sikes@marine.rutgers.edu
phone: +1-732-932-6555 ext 518

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April 20

 Right now I am doing last minute cruise preparation: I've packed the Mustang survival jacket which is a combination lifejacket and wetsuit jacket with reflectors (so they can find me if I get washed overboard -- just like the guys on Deadliest Catch), steel-toed boots -- there is a lot of really heavy equipment that can easily land on your foot if the weather is rough, and foul weather gear -- I have a pair of heavy duty rubberized overalls and a waterproof jacket. This is all
for working on deck. We will be in the Southern Ocean for the first part of the cruise and it is likely to be rough -- and the water will certainly be cold. We work no matter what the weather is so you need to be prepared.  My colleague from the University of Hawaii, Brian has shipped to Wellington the equipment we need to do our surface water incubation experiments. Our first job when we get there is to make sure that everything has arrived safely and in working order. But right now I'm making sure homeworks are graded and ready to be handed back to all the students in my "Introduction to Oceanography" class before I go. Tomorrow I will take care of last minute details in the office.

April 22

Today I finished packing and hit the road. Last minute things I had to do t
o be sure all was ready were to wash my steel-toed boots because New Zealand has very strict quarantine regulations about soils and dirt. There are many soil pests we have in the US that they don’t have in NZ, so they want to keep them out. If my boots aren’t scrubbed, Customs and Agriculture Quarantine Service might take them for cleaning or inspection and then I would have nothing to wear on deck.  I double checked my list and then put all my sea-going gear in my duffle bag and all my clothes in another.  I had to get it into 2 manageable bags so I could wrestle them by myself.  Then it was time to catch the train to the airport.  I fly from Newark to Los Angeles (5 and a half hours) and then I will get on the plane to New Zealand.  The LA to Auckland flight is almost 13 hours long, so it is a journey in and of itself.  They give you drinks and a full dinner (on international flights they still give you real food—if that is what you can call airplane meals!), show 3 movies, and then give you a full breakfast and there is still time to spare.  I’m always ready to be off that flight about half way across the Pacific.  Believe me, you know the Pacific is more than 3 times the size of the Atlantic after this flight!  Luckily the flight leaves at 10:30 pm LA time (which is after 1 am for me whose body is still on east coast time) so I can usually sleep on the flight.  This is good because the flight goes faster and because we arrive in Auckland first thing in the morning and I will have a full day ahead of me meeting with my New Zealand colleagues and doing last minute errands, checking our lists twice before we go to sea.  One thing about going out on the ship is if you forgot something there is no store to buy it at and we can’t go back!

April 24

After 26 hours traveling, I arrived in Wellington this morning at 9 am.  My flight got to Auckland at 6:30 am, where I cleared immigration and then customs.  It was a very good thing I had taken the time and trouble to clean my sea-going gear because the NZ Biosecurity service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is presently on high alert with fishing and sea-going gear like mine due to an outbreak of a virus that is killing abalone in Australia. They had a special notice posted about declaring any clothing or equipment that had been used in salt water.  I had to pull out all my foul weather gear, and especially the boots got a good close look to see if they were clean.  It all passed with flying colors. Next stop Wellington — a beautiful city a lot like San Francisco. One thing I like about the Kiwis (as New Zealanders call themselves) is their good sense and their good sense of humor.  Two years ago in the middle of the “Lord of the Rings” hoopla they decorated the terminal with a huge sculpture of Golum.  It’s not there now, but it is a great welcome to the country.

My day was spent getting final details ready for the ship’s arrival in port. We checked all our gear in the warehouse where all the gear we shipped is stored here at NIWA’s oceanographic facility.  But we are pretty much in a holding pattern.  The R/V Tangaroa is currently out at sea so when she arrives tomorrow, we will have to get the ship unloaded and then reloaded in just over a day so we can turnaround and get out on schedule Sunday afternoon.  Tomorrow will be busy.

NIWA Oceanographic Building

April 26

My colleagues from the University of Hawaii flew in yesterday morning. Brian will be in charge of the incubations that we have come to do.  Lisa and Nathalie will be essential in helping us get the job done.  What we are out here to do is try to find out where one particular species of phytoplankton (microscopic algae) grows in the surface layer of the ocean because this phytoplankton makes organic compounds with properties that are correlated with the water temperature. We use this property as a kind of thermometer of water temperature in the past – long after the phytoplankton have gone (tens of thousands of years) the compounds remain in ocean sediments.  We know the phytoplankton grow near the ocean surface – they are plants they need the light(!) – but we are not sure where exactly.  The reason we care is that sometimes the correlation to the temperature they record isn’t quite right – we know this because we measure the actual temperature in the place where they are growing. So we need to know what makes the phytoplankton (Emiliania huxleyi) get it wrong sometimes.  They aren’t actually getting anything wrong, it’s just that things other than temperature affect how they grow - like nutrients. If we understand better how they grow, we can get a better ocean temperature where we use these. So to do that we need to incubate some E. huxleyi plankton in a very controlled way that is as close as possible to their real growing environment, and essentially see how and exactly where they are growing and to do that we have to collect them and grow them up in bottles.

The Research Vessel Tangaroa steamed up the harbor bright and early this morning and the scientists from the last cruise are unloading their gear today.  Our gear is now double checked and we have everything packed for loading.  Our container goes down to the ship this afternoon and we will begin unloading bright and early tomorrow. Tonight is one last chance to go out and have a nice dinner in town before we head out into the swell.  The weather has been lovely in Wellington – sunny and calm, but there is a big 3 m (8 ft) swell coming in from the southeast because there is a storm in the Southern Ocean and that’s the way we are heading – the ship will roll a bit on our way out which means I will probably be a bit seasick for the first day.

Tangaroa passes an Interisland Ferry in Wellington Harbour The RV Tangaroa (left) passes an Interisland Ferry as she enters Wellington Harbour.

In case you were wondering where the name of NIWA's research vessel comes from,
in Māori mythology, Tangaroa is the god of the sea. He is a son of Rangi and Papa, Sky and Earth.

April 27

One more last minute change – the dock the Tangaroa came into was Aotea Quay, the main commercial port in Wellington.  This wasn’t really a problem, but the security is tight and we had to show ID’s and be escorted from the gate to the ship by security.

Preparations to leave filled the whole day today.  We had to be at the ship at 8:30 am and all the gear began to arrive and had to be loaded on before we go.  Gear that is too heavy to carry on -- including our big boxes of gear that were shipped from University of Hawaii -- gets lifted on by crane.  We’ve so many teams on this cruise that there wasn’t room for us in the usual labs so they lifted a 20-ft container onto the ship that’s fitted out as a lab inside for us to work in.  We then spent the day unpacking and putting our gear into the container and tying it all down so that it wouldn’t slide around once we got out of the harbor into the swell we expect on the way to the Chatham Rise.  Other things to do before we leave, was have the ships safety tour and stow my personal gear in my cabin ( had to carry that on myself!).  The ship had to move down the dock at midday to “bunker” which means refuel – the fuel they use in a ship is a very very heavy version of diesel that that’s called bunker.  There was so much to do and get onto the ship we didn’t get off until 6pm though we were originally scheduled for 4 pm.

Shortly after we left, we had a science meeting to talk about the plan, which was headed by the chief scienctist – Dr. Scott Nodder from NIWA.  We have scientists on the cruise from several institutions and nations.  We have a group from the Australian National University doing trace metals, our group from 2 different universities in the US and a contingent from Oxford University in the UK.  All this in addition to several separate teams from NIWA in New Zealand.  Even though Scott has had an organized plan for a while, it’s important to make sure everyone gets what they need for samples, and get everyone talking to each other to see where we can best share gear, coordinate sampling, and make things go as smoothly as possible with the time we have allotted.  For example: most of our samples will be water and we will be getting most of our water from the CTD rosette which has 24 sampling bottles that can collect samples any depth we choose, but it takes time to do that and we can only do so many hydro casts.  So we had to make up a water budget—what depth do you need water from?  How much do you need? Can you do with a little less?  Can we combine those two depths that are really close into one and have you share water from the bottle?  And so on….

About an hour after we left the harbor I began to feel queasy (I almost always do) so I headed to bed, which is the best place for me ‘til I get my “sea legs”   which means I get over feeling seasick. Most people feel a bit queasy to start and then feel fine after a day or two.  I’m usually better in about a day.

Science meeting Tangaroa docked at Aoteo Quay Loading Tangaroa

April 28

We woke up this morning to bright sun which was a treat because we left Wellington in the rain last night.  I think it was a bit unpleasant to be working in the rain for the ships’ engineers who were hooking up the electricity and water to our container!  It’s beautiful today, but it is windy – we are almost surfing our way south to our sampling site.  The waves are breaking along side the ship and a bit of water is rolling up onto the working deck.

We have spent the day putting together the gear that we will need when we arrive on station tomorrow.  We will be putting out some floating sediment traps so those need to be clean and filled with saline water – we added salt to seawater to make it more dense so the samples won’t wash out of the traps.  We set up filtering gear because we will be filtering a lot of water.  What we want are the tiny little phytoplankton that live in the water, because we want to look at their compounds -- so if we take the water and filter it through a very fine piece of filter paper that both traps and concentrates the part we are interested in. That way we can come home with a cooler full of samples – and if we didn’t we would have gallons and gallons of water that is too heavy to carry.  So the filtering rigs are ready (we can filter 6 samples at a time!).  There will be a lot of filtering going on tomorrow. 

The first thing we will do when we get to the site is release and recover a moored trap that has been out for 6 months.  Right now, it has a weight anchoring it to the bottom and floats keeping it upright in the water, but the floats aren't on the ocean surface - they are submerged.  We communicate with the anchor by sending a specially coded underwater sound. When the anchor releases, the trap array will float to the top and we will pull it on board.  The NIWA team will take the samples that it’s been collecting and begin to filter them.  Then we will collect water with the CTD for our work and begin filtering. While we are filtering a third team will get more water and begin their work… .

The CTD array with its bottles in the picture below is a pretty neat instrument. You can't actually see the CTD because its quite small and hidden behind the bottles. They don't really look all that muich like bottles you're used to, and are actually tubes with caps on either end that you can pull open and fasten open with a plastic wire. You connect that plastic wire (we call it a lanyard) to a central pin (one for each bottle) that clicks open when someone at the surface tells the instrument to.  The whole thing is on a cable that has wires down the center of it so that electricity and data can go back and forth to the rosette. The arrangement of bottles is called a rosette like the petals around a rose flower. The CTD ( conductivity, temperature, depth) has a pressure sensor that measures depth and at also measures temperature and electricall conductivity of the water which tells use the salinity. Llike most modern instruments we have several other sensors (fluorescence, light, oxygen) as well.  We can sit on board ship and know how deep the CTD is and then tell it when to close which bottles so we can have a sample of water many depths in the water column.  For our work we will be concentrating on the top 150 meters—because that is where our phytoplankton live.

Everything is almost ready.  We will be “on station” bright and early at 5 am tomorroe…so I am going to have an early night.

Surfing the waves on the Chatham Rise Lisa and the CTD with rosette of sampling bottles Filling the sediment traps

April 29

I woke up this morning at 4:15 am.  We were on station at 5 am and I had to be up and ready.  We put the CTD as soon as we had it loaded and ready to go.  On the way down Nicky plotted out on the monitor in the lab the temperature, salinity and oxygen for us to look at.  That showed us where the bottom of the mixed later was.  Brian made the final call on what water depths we wanted, and they “fired off” bottles (which means they sent a message to the CTD to close them) at the depths we wanted as the instrument was pulled back up.  Once the CTD was on board, we drained all the bottles from the rosette into big carboys (big plastic containers) that we had pre-washed and rinsed with seawater.  Then it was time to filter.  We need so much water — about 60 liters-- to collect enough of the compounds we are looking at  that we had to send the CTD down 4 times to get enough water from each depth to be sure we have enough to see what we are looking for.  That takes a while to filter. We had 3 different filtering rigs going and still we were filtering from the time the CTD came back on board until lunch. Then we had to change the O-rings on the CTD bottles.  Have a hard look at the picture of Nicky arming the CTD below, you can see those tops that are cocked back – they seal into the bottles with a rubber ring so they don’t leak.  The rubber rings that were in there were the wrong kind for the work we want to do, they give off some chemicals (not a lot, but with the culturing we want to do it makes a difference) so we took the old ones out and put new ones in that are what we call “more stable” which means they don’t leach (give off) as much into the water.

After all that work it’s now a waiting game.  The weather is much worse today than yesterday—not so much the wind – the waves and the swell are pretty moderate for the Southern Ocean this time of year, say about 3 meters—not enough to keep us from doing CTD dips, so we continue to do those.  The problem is that it is misty and foggy.  We need to be able to see at least a few hundred meters in order to do two of the most important tasks we came out here to do, both of which involve free floating instruments that we need to be able to SEE to pick.  First we need to bring in the sediment trap – after we release it from the bottom, it floats to the surface, but it’s radio beacon and light don’t stick up too much out of the water – so visibility is really important.  Second we want to put a floating array over the side with our incubation bottles on it. We need to let that go and then get it back.  Again even though both will have radio beacons on them we have to see them to get them…. And we can’t do that in the fog.  So we are holding on and hoping that the weather gets a little better for us.  No one is happy about this, but all of us know that this is part of going to sea.  The one thing you really can’t control is the weather.  Safety is the first priority and if the weather makes it unsafe to do we just don’t do it.

The only good thing about the weather is it brings the birds around.  Out here on the Chatham Rise we are both in the Southern Ocean and it’s very productive so there are lots of birds – big birds.  We’ve seen Wandering albatross and Royal albatross – these are two of the biggest flying birds in the world.  They have a 9ft (3 meter) wing span, and they look like very larger very graceful seagulls.  They have been following the boat all day, just soaring around doing loops around the boat.  I like to think they are curious about what we are doing – but it’s also likely that they hope we are a fishing boat and maybe they will get some leftovers!

Nicky arming the CTD Lisa and the filtering rig

April 30

Well, the weather didn’t get better it got worse.  The wind came up to about 50 km/hr, and the seas came up to 5 meters (yes, that’s about 16 feet).  So, the captain and chief scientist had to make the decision that it was too rough.  Too rough to bring up the mooring –we’d never see it in this swell and whitecaps.  Too rough to put out our floater array – we’d never get it back on board.  In fact with both of them we might see them, but then to get them it would put people in harms way in these seas.  So we had to give up on those, even though those 2 things were the main reason we are out here.  You can’t change the weather.  We’ve waited it out as long as we can doing all the other stuff we came for, but we can’t wait any longer.

What we did do was collect and filter a LOT of water. The Tangaroa is quite well built for collecting water in fairly rough weather – the CTD goes over the side amidships, which means because the cut-away where it goes over the side is about in the middle of the ship, that part of the vessel is the most steady.  Think about it—we are out here being tossed around pretty mightly right now, but the ends of the ship move a lot more, sort of pivoting around the middle.  The boat rocks (side to side) and pitches (front to back) and yaws (spins left and right) but for those motions the center is the pivot and moves less.  The boat also heaves – that’s the straight up and down motion – but that is mostly all the middle of the ship feels.  So the ride is better in the middle of the boat and low down – which is where the CTD is.  To put it over the waist high gate drops down (you can see that in the picture of the CTD in the cut-way) then the whole assembly is lifted off the deck and the A-frame it is hanging on swings it out over the side and lowers it in.  It was so rough last night.  We took a wave that caused the wire the CTD is on to jump right out of the block it hangs on.  A “block” in this sense is the wheel within a harness that spins to let the wire play out, so the wave hit the boat hard enough that things were airborne just enough that the wire slipped out of it’s groove in the wheel.  So, the ships Bosun and crew had to tie off the wire to take the weight off get it back in the block then wind the CTD on board to check everything and make sure the wire wasn’t damaged – it was kinked but not broken thank goodness – so down it went again. Once it was back on deck it’s a bit of a feeding frenzy.  We have so many analyses that the different teams on board are doing that we make up a “water budget” to calculate out how much each team gets for each analyses from each bottle --- AND who goes first, because if we are measuring gasses those have to be taken first.  You can probably understand that once you open the bottle to sample that lets air in, so the gas in the water changes pretty fast.  They have tags they slip over the tops of the bottles with who gets what and who goes first (look closely and see the white tags hanging on the bottles).  Some analyses need a couple of liters, some only need a few milliliters (about a cup or two).  But we all work quickly to get what we need and then the filtering begins.

When they pull the CTD back on deck, it sits on a little track that runs in a half-circle so they can pull it back into a little cubby out of the way of the weather.  If you look at people sampling they are still wearing steele-toed boots and most have on water-proof pants as well – getting those samples is wet work – and we are out on the deck with all the heavy gear.  If you notice, Marika is wearing a full-fledged floatation jacket with reflectors on it.  She just helped bring the CTD on deck, so she was out where the gate was down – and you are required to have flotation gear on – and those reflectors are pretty important if you go overboard in the dark.

Our team finished filtering at about 8 am this morning but the several New Zealand groups were up most of the day filtering their samples (while I was sleeping!!!.) I got up in time for dinner to find out that it was just too rough for any more sampling.  I could have guessed that just by looking out the window! That, and as often happens when things get rough – even if you have your sea legs, when a storm blows up and things get rougher a lot of people get seasick again… I felt pretty lousy last night and dinner just didn't sit well (the food was fine, just my woozy stomach).  So a bunch of us who were feeling lousy, went and sat (well actually laid) in the beanbag chairs  in the library and had popsicles for dinner.  This is a tried and true solution.  I felt better enough later to eat a bunch of crackers and then I crawled off to bed.  Even after sleeping 6 hrs between the time I finished filtering and dinner – I had no trouble sleeping all night – that is what rough seas can do to you.  With a little luck, things will be a bit better tomorrow after we steam north away from this storm.

Marika and Els CTD in cutaway with gate down Lisa and Debbie collecting water 

May 1

Today the weather was a little better—and most people who were feeling poorly yesterday were up and around today.  After a couple of naps yesterday I managed to sleep through most of the night (yeah!) If you aren’t feeling sick, being on a ship is like being in a rocking cradle all night… it makes me sleep well.

Today we are still in a 5m swell, but the winds have died down from 50 knots (I was wrong yesterday – they were quite a bit stronger than 50 km per hr—more like 70!).  The weather was good enough that we could do a full station on the top of the Chatham Rise (no floating arrays just what we call “wire work).  Originally only the Kiwi team was going to sample at the top of The Chatham Rise, but because we didn’t get to put our array at the Southern site, we decided that it was prudent to get an extra sampling station in.  So, we were all on station at about 10 and we started CTD first—more filtering for us, but we had that round done in time for lunch.  Then we took a multi- core: this is a device that sits in a tripod and takes mud samples very gently—so that we get nice surface mud.  It’s a pretty fancy device --It sets down on it’s tripod (actually octopod) and then pushes the little plastic cores into the mud, then arms swing under to keep the mud in. –after coring, We can take the mini coring tubes off and then sample the mud.  Just like the CTD and other devices we hang on the wire -- it takes the winch man above working the wire and a couple of people on the deck to get it in the right position.  If you look carefully at the picture you can see a man in working life vest up above where the blocks are – he is the winch driver—he operates the winch that controls how fast the wire comes in and goes out, and he can see the guys on the deck below who are handling the instrument – so they work as a team to get our instruments out and in.

Why do we want surface mud?  that is where all the chemical and biological action is.  The NZ team is looking at a lot of things,  among them, bacterial activity – what?  They are looking to see how much and how fast the organic matter that falls to the bottom gets eaten – and in the deep ocean bacteria do a LOT of that eating.  After the tubes are taken off they are sectioned and processed .. right away.

After the multicorer came on board, the crew had to lift it out of the way so that we could put the CTD in that place and then send it down again… so we had a second bunch of water to filter right after lunch.  We take almost the whole CTD worth of water for our organic analyses.  We’re looking for just a couple of compounds that record sea surface temperature – they are made on species of phytoplankton and the species that makes this compound isn’t the most abundant one out here, so we need to filter
and concentrate about 60 liters of water to get enough to see what we are looking for – so we have the CTD tech, Nicky, fire off 6 bottles at the same depth and then we combine all of them and filter them onto one filter – that will give us enough!! We even more than usual so our colleague in Spain can look at them in a microscope and see how many of our species is actually there.

After we finished sampling the ship began steaming north  for our next station – we finished all the filtering and then headed to bed.  If the weather is good tomorrow we will be up all night preparing to get the floating array over the side.

Nicky and Brian Taking cores off the multicore Scotty in action Winch assembly

 May 2

We steamed most of yesterday to get from the crest of the Chatham Rise tothe mooring site on the north side.  This is our next station.  The reason we come to this exact spot is because there is a mooring her (there is one at the south site as well, but remember the weather was so rough we couldn’t get it on board, so they didn’t release it.  What is the mooring? It has sediment traps hanging on it—what these are, is they are big cones that hang in the water on the mooring line collecting whatever drops out of the surface ocean. Kind of like big garbage cans – except that what falls into them is really interesting – really! Sorting through peoples trash can be very interesting.  The cone has a set of cups below it and they rotate about every 2 weeks  So we can tell by sorting through what falls in our cups what was living in the surface ocean over the trap virtually week by week.  This tells us a lot about how the whole ecosystem works without us having to be out here for weeks at a time.  Going from the bottom to the top—it has a big anchor, then a release mechanism which will release when we send it the right radio signal, above that is a deep trap, and several floats, above that another trap and more floats, and above that a radio beacon so that when the anchor is released the whole thing rises to the surface and hangs there just underwater with only the top floats and beacon sticking out so we can find it.

Everyone is a bit more cheerful with the weather better.  There is still an impressive swell running, but with almost no wind here, its long and low, so it's comfortable.  No whitecaps today.  Again, our team got an early start – we have to do all our sample collection and preparation before dawn, because we need to get the array over the side as the sun comes up so it can hang in the water during the day – we want those phytoplankton to grow in our bottles, so when we get them back and work up the data we will be able to tell how fast they grew. Why do we have to hang them back over the side?  Why can’t we just grow them on board?  Because it is very very hard to recreate the actual light conditions on the ship that exist in the water column.  Light doesn’t penetrate into the ocean very far and the most accurate way to do that is to put the phytoplankton back where we found them and let the natural light work for us.  One of the things we are looking at in this experiment is how light affects what compounds they make so we have to be as accurate as possible!.

But first, collecting water:  The reason we have to do this at night – is that if we do it in sunlight the phytoplankton that came up from the deeper levels where there isn’t much light would grow like mad, even in the hour or so it takes to put them back down. The lights on the ship are one thing – but sunlight would really make a mess for us.   The CTD collected water from several depths that we want to look at (just in the top 100m)  we put a lot of water into big clear carboys, then they were spiked with a label – what this “label” is, is just carbonate with the carbon being all the heavier isotope (13C).  Because this is really different from what is in the ocean (but completely safe) means we can then use to measure how much of this carbonate the phytoplankton took up when they photosynthesized.  Then the bottles had to be put in their own nets and hung on a think line back over the side in the water.  We were careful to put the water back to the right depth—water from 70 meters goes back down to 70m and the water from 10 m back to ten.  The bottles have to be very carefully sealed and strongly clipped to the rope, then we let the winch lift the heavy bottles up for us, and then lower them away.  The last thing that goes on is the surface floats and beacon—we have to find the darned thing so we have see it… in this swell that will be a bit of work. If you look carefully at the picture of the array over the side, you will see what a small thing we will be looking for in a few hours But for now, we sit and wait and hope the radio beacon keeps working so we can get it back.

I’ll head to bed for a nap because we start again at dusk and will work though most of the night again.  But meanwhile the Mooring team has shifted into action.  They are locating the trap mooring by radio, and as soon as they find it they will haul it on board, take the samples off and then reload it and put it over the side again… I am wishing them luck, because we need samples from the traps too.

Brian tying up the bottle nets Securing the bottles Bottles going over The radio beacons The flotation buoys

May 3 (part 1)

The last thing we did last night (which was actually early this morning) was deploy the array with our culture bottles. We have to do that just after dawn so all the phytoplankton don’t go crazy in the day light – and then that hangs out in the water til it’s dark again.

The mooring team got the sediment trap mooring on board while I was asleep. They have to take it apart to get it on board because there are about 2500 meters of line holding the whole assembly together. The bottom here is about 3000 meters deep and so, if you want a trap to hang at about 500 feet below the surface you have to string line from the bottom, and put mid water floats all and floats above your instruments to keep the line tight and vertical. The mid water floats are glass balls with air in them that’s about the only thing that doesn’t crush under the pressure that far down. To keep the glass balls from breaking they put them in plastic covers nicknamed hard hats. I’ve got a picture of Russell one of the seaman holding one up—they can’t be heavy, because the are floats – and they really do look like hard hats. Right now, our mooring techs are resetting the instruments getting the data off and, putting in new batteries, new parts etc so that it will last another 6 months and getting ready to put it back over the side.

Meanwhile Scott is working with the trap – if you look at the picture you can see it looks like a big cone with little cups on a wheel underneathit. These are the cups that rotate every 2 weeks. Those cups also have a preservative (or you can call it a poison) in it so nothing can grow in them and eat what has dropped into the trap over the last few month. The trop of the trap has a honeycomb sort of screen in it so nothing bigger than 1 cm across can get in – both of these are because you occasionally get “swimmers” that get into the trap – things like little fish—that swim in and take advantage of the fact that we’ve collected all this good food. Well, this time all that precaution didn’t work so well there was a 20 cm (6 inch) fish in one of the cups. He’s so big, he must have gotten into the trap when he was a lot smaller and lived there for a while eating the goodies that fell into the trap before he got greedy and tried to swim into the poisoned cup… and HE became the sample. It’s a little
disappointing to find him in there because we aren’t really sure how long he was hanging out in the trap before he died. We can still use the samples, but we will have to be thoughtful when we interpret the data.

I took a nap as soon as we finished getting our gear over the side, because I got up so early, and when I woke up, the weather was still sunny—but the wind had come up. This makes it harder to see the floating array and harder to get it back on board ship. By late afternoon it was gusting 35 knots – and we were bouncing around again. We took a couple more CTD dips for the rest of the science party and another multi core.

By the time it was time to bring in our array, I was blowing pretty hard and the sea was up – but the GPS locators worked like a charm, and we found the array pretty quickly and could see the flashing strobe lights. The hard part now was bringing it in with the ship heaving around so much. Thank goodness we had the Bosun, all the deck crew and come help from the mooring guys helping Brian. When the seas are like this you want as much experience and strength as you can get. After getting the strobe in our sites, they had to toss a grappling hook out and grab the tail end of the line with the floater bouys (NOT the side with the instruments!.. think about it, you don’t want to damage them!). Once they got their hands on the array it was a matter of hauling it in – in reverse order that it went out. First the buoys, and the beacons, then the top set of bottles – these were hung at 10 meters below the surface.. they have to be disconnected from the line and then they can winch the bare line up, to get the next set of bottles, take those off , winch up again and so on until our bottles from 4 depths (3 bottles per depth) were on board. It took all the strength of all the guys working to get that line in close enough to hook it at each bottle level and get it on board. If you look you will notice how taut the lines are in the photos – the wind pushes the ship one way and the underwater part of the array pulls the other. It was a tough recovery – but the ships crew really made it look easy – it went very smoothly despite the weather!. Now that it’s on board, it’s back to filtering we have 15 20 liter bottles to filter before we can end for the evening – that’s about 3 hours work.

Collecting the cups A swimmer in the cup Strobe light along side Trying to catch the array

Floater buoys on board Hauling the line Bottles coming on board Bottles on board

May 3 (part 2)

We finished filtering our array samples at about 9 pm last night and headed straight tobed because our team was due to take 2 more rounds of water from the CTD array starting at 4 am.  While we slept the other teams took another multi core and a deep CTD (also called a hydrocast).  Because my team is only looking at phytoplankton and how they grow on this cruise, we’ve only been sending the CTD down to about 250 meters and collecting water from the top 100 meters.  It’s important to also look at the full water column so, the other team did a hydro cast to the bottom, and collected water from the 3000m up from the bottom.  When they were done, we were on again.  This meant that the mooring team were on come dawn – because they need daylight to get the mooring overboard.  The ship just keeps working 24 hours a day, and  fit in what everyone needs to do as carefully as possible.  You don’t need daylight for a hydrocast – so often that gets done at night.

Unfortunately, the weather came up again since last night .  Blowing about 35 knots this morning.  I was blowing harder that we liked last night when we brought the array on board, but it went well, given the good crew we have on the Tangaroa. It was getting pretty darned bumpy this morning as they were putting the array out – waves and water came up the back of the ship more than once as they were putting the mooring together and putting it over the side.  Fortunately, the sediment trap mooring goes over the side top first so you can do that in slightly rougher weather than you need to recover it.  So, you put the floats out first and they stream out behind the ship at the surface, so you aren’t trailing an anchor --  then they string all the gear and mid-water floats and the sediment trap onto the array and the last thing to go over is the anchor weights… these then fall to the bottom, and the whole array follows it and ends up standing upright in the water column, with the floats far enough below the surface to keep from getting hit by boats and other traffic (we hope!).  It takes several hours to string the mooring array and then release it.

After that our team wanted one more hydrocast of water… it was getting almost too rough – but we got it and began filtering as we head north.  As I write this, the weather has come up even more (45knot winds) with a swell of about 4 meters.  And it is a “beam sea” what that means is the wind and the waves are coming at us from the side – in this case the port side – so that means the boat is leaning pretty darned well to starboard.  Lots of things in my cabin have jumped off my table and slid across the room.  This is because I didn’t tie them down, and as the seas came up and we started steaming my first priority was to get everything in the labs
secured.  Making sure we don’t have spilled chemicals and samples destroyed is more important than finding my shoes on the other side of the cabin and my empty water bottle on the floor.  So the place is very ship-shape with everything either stowed or lashed down.   We had to do our last bit of filtering in these conditions which was a little hairy!  It’s hard to brace yourself for a big roll, with two hands full of things like water and filters that you can’t contaminate or spill!  We lost a half a jar full of filters on big roll this morning.   But we are done, we are stowed and all we have to do for now is ride out the storm.

The water ladies Top floats on the mooring Mid-water floats The sediment trap goes over

May 4

The weather continued to get worse yesterday afternoon and into the evening – The winds came up to over 50 knots. The heading we wanted  was north – we want to head up and around East Cape on the North Island , then around into the Bay of Plenty on then on to Auckland.  Last night the winds were from the west and south so we were being blown over to starboard and healing over (leaning) well to starboard.  Things were getting rough.  Every time there was a big roll you could hear something else fall or roll somewhere on the ship  By sundown, the captain made the decision to head into the wind for a few hours.  This is what you have to do when the wind and seas are too much and the ship is getting beaten around too much by the weather.  The reason you head into the wind is to take the waves and wind head-on. The bow of a ship is meant to cut the waves, and taking the waves head on means the boat pitches more from front to back – but it doesn’t roll as much, and this is the safest position you can put the ship into. The thing you don’t want is for a big wave to combine with the wind and slap the boat over on its side.  Last night before we changed heading, we were taking some big rolls – uncomfortable at some point become dangerous.  So, for several house last night we headed southwest – very slowly so we didn’t backtrack too much, but enough headway to keep the ship from taking on too much water.

The sea was amazing – it was also raining in this strong wind (so I didn’t get a single picture to prove it).  It was blowing so hard that the wind was blowing the tops off the waves so that even more sheets of water were hitting the ship—all pretty dramatic and quite beautiful.  Being in a storm at sea is when you really appreciate the strength of nature all you can do in a sense is hunker down and do what you can to be safe and hold on.  Don’t get me wrong here-- we weren’t in any real danger last night – the storm was well within the sort of conditions this ship can take – but it doesn’t mean that captain is going to take any chances.  That’s the kind of captain you want.

Today we woke up to a “following sea” that means the waves are from behind us and pushing us along and we are sort of surfing them as we go. We are back heading north and the wind has died down a lot so it’s comfortable again.  Today’s job is to stow everything we brought with us back into the containers they came in so we can get it all off the ship.  The ship is going into dry dock so everything the science team brought on has to come off.  It would anyway, even if there was another cruise because we would need to make room for the next team.

We’ve spent the morning getting our gear out of the container that was our lab for the cruise.  There is a picture from bridge looking aft on the ship and you can see 2 blue containers – the forward one was ours, the other one was for the trace metals team. You can also see all the salt on the window that I took the picture through – that’s from the rough weather last night.   Brian sent most of his gear out in 3 white shipping crates and we had to get the gear back in those boxes in the same way so that it would be sure to fit.  It will be picked up by a shipping company when we get to Auckland and sent to his next cruise which is only a couple of months away.  Once the crates are packed we are done with the lab work.  Next job is to make sure we have all the data copied, and samples logged and packed.  Almost done!

Brian packing The container labs

May 5 Coming in to port

The weather stayed fairly reasonable all day yesterday – not calm but not like the night before. Our computer tech Ivan took some amazing pictures of the storm which he shared with me and I’ll add here – you can really see the ship lean over and the waves breaking against the side before we turned and steamed into the wind.

Having the weather stay calm enough was quite a relief because we had to pack all the gear into the crates it came in and get it ready to have it be sent to the next cruise.  That meant that we had to have the boxes open out on the deck, and we don’t want to get too wet or blown around doing that.  By the end of the day we had everything put away and time to sit down and relax.  A special treat was a really large pod of dolphins (I think there was about 50!) that came out and played alongside the ship for a while, and then 3 of them went up to the bow of the ship and “surfed” the bow ball.  As the ship goes through the water it pushes a wave of water in front of it and the dolphins have figures out that if you get right on top of that wave you can catch a fast ride – it must be fun because the 3 of them rode that wave for about 15 minutes before they got tired!

This morning we came into Auckland harbor fro the north through the part of the Huaraki Gulf where the America’s Cup races were sailed and around the corner into the harbor.  It was a beautiful day and it brought everyone out on deck.  After working so hard and getting through such rough weather everyone is really happy to enjoy the view (and I’ll admit it, anxious to get off the ship !) It’s called “channel fever” that feeling, as the boat comes into the channel on the way into the harbor, that you just want to get out and GO!.  But we can’t do that yet. First, we need to take on the pilot who will guide the ship into the harbor.  The pilot comes out in a pilot boat, climbs on board and then guides the master of the ship on how to navigate into the dock.  This is done for every ship that comes into a port that is not it’s home port and so it’s not familiar to the crew.  The pilot only works his home harbor, and this system is to make sure there are no accidents with such big things as ships coming into such tight spaces.  Once we get really close to our berth a tug comes along side, and ties up to us to guide the stern of the ship around and get us up along side the wharf.  So we are here!  But we still had to off load and wait for the truck to come and pick up our gear that had to be shipped.  But by about  4 o’clock we were done and could take off ourselves.

A nice quiet dinner with good friends really finished off the day well.  The next day we had a chance to go up One Tree Hill in Auckland and have a view of the city.  The island behind us in the picture is Rangitoto, the same one that you can see in the picture of the pilot boat bringing the pilot on board.  Rangitoto is a big shield volcano that sits in the middle of the harbor and you can see it from so many places it’s kind of an icon of the city.  It’s good to be on land!

A wave breaks over the ship Dolphins jumping Dolphins surfing A big wave in the storm
Pilot boat The pilot comes aboard Rangitoto Island in the background The tug pushes us to dock

Brian on One Tree Hill Auckland Harbour Folks on deck approaches port Liz on One Tree Hill

Other Outreach Activities

Pulse of the Planet:  
Public lecture and professional development at the Liberty Science Center.  Missing SINK: Carbon Dioxide and the Ocean Connection  

Salutations from the Southern Ocean: A Scientist's Web Log Reached Further than Expected

R/V Roger Revelle in Wellington
Earthquakes and Tsunamis: 4th grade Scientist in Residence program at Community Park School, Princeton, NJ