Today we cast off from San Diego and headed north towards the Santa Barbara Basin. It’s the first time I’ve been on a research cruise longer than a day trip, and we’ll be at sea for 9 days! The R/V Melville is surprisingly huge- it’s taken me an hour of exploring to properly get my bearings, and I still haven’t been everywhere yet! There are two science labs – a huge lab downstairs where everyone has set up their microscopes, filtering devices, and any other equipment they might need. Since the ship is a moving platform, everything must be anchored down in some way – bungee cords, rope, no-slip padding, etc. The upstairs lab is smaller, but has a couple of computers with internet (that we’re all very grateful to have!).
We’ll be in transit to the Santa Barbara Basin until about 2am, at which point the night watch will help deploy and check the instruments we’ll be using throughout the cruise. Full deployment of equipment, water filtration, and coring begin with the day watch at 0500 tomorrow. The watches run from 0500-1700 (day watch) and 1700-0500 (night watch). The scientists and graduate students are split up by what time of day they are collecting their data, while the educators will spend the first few days learning about day deployments, a night learning about night deployments, and then split up to help out the day and night watches for the remainder of the trip.
So what does ‘being on a watch” entail? When you’re on watch, you’ve got to be near the main deck to help out with any equipment deployment and recovery. Although the ship crew direct our efforts, we operate the winch that lowers the instrument into the water, we hold lines on either side of the instrument to make sure it doesn’t sway too much, and we move the A-frame (the arch-like structure on the aft of the ship) back and forth, which moves the instrument from over the ship deck to over the water where we can then lower it by letting out cable from the winch. The ship has engines that make sure it stays exactly in place when it needs to – for example, if we are trying to take a core of the seabed at a certain location.
After we finish the deployment, the instrument must be recovered (picked up from the water and placed back on the ship), and then we can start analyzing what the instrument collected.
Everyone is currently gearing up for tomorrow’s sampling and starting to edit some great footage for the daily videos that will be posted during the week. Be sure to check out the ‘Daily Video’ page starting on Monday!