Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sargasso Sea

We are officially in the "Sargasso Sea" now, which is just another name for the North Atlantic gyre, or an area of the open ocean that has currents that spin around it on all sides. The North Atlantic gyre is surrounded by the Gulf Stream that runs north along the east coast of the United States, this then turns east and eventually converges with the Canary Current running south off the coast of Africa. This particular ocean gyre is called the "Sargasso Sea" because of a type of sea weed called Sargassum that accumulates there. The currents presumably cause the sea weed to collect in the gyre, and it can be seen everywhere throughout the Sargasso Sea.
Sargassum floating near our boat
We are now headed to Bermuda, and should arrive there early tomorrow morning. Everyone is busy planning what they want to do as soon as we get off the ship-most people have plans to go to the beach and go snorkeling. Then, we have a party in the evening at the BIOS station (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences) where we will have some dinner with some other scientists who work there. Once we leave Bermuda on Saturday morning, our first station will be at a station that is named BATS (Bermuda Atlantic Time Series). This is a special station in the ocean because scientists go to this same exact spot in the ocean many times a year and make several different measurements each time. Thus, we have a "time series" of measurements like temperature, salinity, nutrient levels and chlorophyll levels for the past 20 years. Our data, from this cruise, can then help to decipher some of the trends perhaps that have been seen in the ocean measurements that have been previously made at this same location. Time series locations in the oceans such as BATS have been very important in helping scientists to understand how the oceans have been changing over time. Another important time series station is "HOT", or the Hawaiian Ocean Time Series. Many cruises like ours tend to overlap with these particular stations when they are in the same area, so that data can be compared between different years and different scientific groups.

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