Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's My Job

Some of the Woods Hole Scientists waving goodbye as we pull away from the dock
We shoved off on Sunday from Woods Hole, with a few of the Woods Hole faculty members there to wish us well and wave goodbye. There was hardly a breath of wind, and the sun was out. We couldn’t have asked for much better weather. On Sunday we did a bunch of safety drills, which included putting on our survival suits, also known as “Gumby suits” because you look like Gumby when you put them on. They are huge wetsuit-like suits that cover your head as well, and have lights and reflectors on them. Everyone on the ship has one in case of an emergency. Usually the only people who have to put these on at beginning of the cruise are the people who are sailing on a ship for the first time, but the captain made all of us put them on. I should have had my camera for that, because it was quite a sight to see 32 Gumbies walking around.
Deploying the GEOTRACES rosette of sampling bottles over the side of the ship.
Inside our make-shift lab, also called the "bubble" because it is made of walls out of plastic to protect from the metal ship.
We got to our first station in the evening, and stayed up all night collecting water samples, and filtering them. My job on this cruise, involves getting everyone on the ship’s sampling bottles ready before we put our sampling instrument into the water. The instrument we use has 24 12 liter bottles attached to it, along with some other instruments. We send it over the side of the ship on a wire, and then we close each bottle, at which ever depth we would like to collect water from, by clicking a button the computer on the ship. Then we have 12 liters of water from 12 different depths, because we usually close 2 bottles at each depth. At each station, we do this twice, so that at any given spot in the ocean where we stop the ship and gather water, we will have samples from 24 different depths going from the surface all the way down to the bottom of the ocean (usually about 3000-5000m). This is a big job. To do this, we first gather everyone’s bottles and put them in separate crates corresponding to which depth they would like a sample from. This makes it easy for us when we are filling up the bottles, so that we can just take one crate at a time. Once we have all the bottles ready in the crates, then we are ready to deploy our instrument over the side of the ship. This takes 4 people to do. One person operates the winch, which is a big crane that can support the weight of the instrument. One person gives hand signals to the person operating the big crane, and the other 2 people operate “tag lines” which are ropes attached to the instrument so that the instrument doesn’t swing when we raise it and put it over the side of the ship. The instrument then goes down in the water to all of the depths we want to sample, then we bring it back up on the deck. We take the bottles into a large “van” that is on the deck of the ship, which is a make-shift lab made out of a large shipping container. Since we are sampling for metals, this protects the water from getting any contamination from the ship, since the ship is a huge hunk of metal. Then we fill up all the bottles for everyone on the ship who wants a sample, and then distribute them and put them away. Some scientists on board are analyzing the samples right away, and others are taking them back to their lab to analyze at home. The whole process takes about 8-10 to complete, then we go to sleep and do it again!


  1. Hey Randie!
    Awesome blog! I enjoy reading it a lot.
    My research focuses on metals in water as well. Silver nanoparticles and their toxicity to ammonia oxidizing bacteria in the secondary wastewater treatment.
    Do you know Dr. Samuel Luoma? I'm just reading his book about 'Metal contamination in aquatic environments'.. ;)
    Have fun in Bermudas!

  2. Yay glad you like it! And yay for studying trace metals!