The Night Watch Experience by Steve Walters

I jumped over to the night watch, which is 5:00pm to 5:00am. This after combining the two shifts for a total of 22.5 hours. I slept very well. Where the day watch is primarily used for sediment sampling, the night watch uses the IKMT and the MOCNESS to bring up different specimens from various levels of the water column. We also deploy the ZOOPS. This device uses acoustics and a camera to take flash photography of zooplankton. The night watch is composed of just SIO grad students. For me it’s like watching kids Christmas morning. Every time a net comes up every one is gathered around the lab tables trying to see what came up. We’ve seen fish, squid, sharks,jellies,and even an octopus or two. Once every thing is out and in trays scientist identify, catalogue, and take photographs of the catch. the night watch attempts to get as many deployments out as possible. When the nets are out every one is in the main lab watching the screens. These screens show the depth of the tow, wire tension (very important) bottom characteristics, speed of the boat, speed of the nets, and how much wire is out. there is consent communication with the wheel house so that the net angles are correct. After about an hour or two the nets come back up. We then go to deck and secure the device and see what we have caught. Last night we ran a deep IKMT which brought up more presents for the grad students.
We had 3 small filetail cat sharks and a very hungry octopus. The octopus was actually eating a small fish in the holding tank. Working at night really is different. We have a very wet deck because of the marine layer. Tonight it is very foggy with zero visibility. You can only see as far as the boat’s lights shine on the ocean. You really don’t want to mess up at night. The night watch allows me to jig fish for Humboldt squid. So far we haven’t caught any squid. The boat has moved to a new location so maybe this will be the day.
This will be my last blog. Our days at sea are numbered. The science has been great. The best part has been the opportunity to work with other teachers, professors, young scientist and the crew of the Melville.This is an experience that I will forget. I know that the student’s will be the true beneficiary of this trip. They will have the opportunity to be involved with the information and the science for years to come. I can’t wait to get back to my students. Hopefully being exposed to this experience will give some of them the dream to someday be on a research vessel out in the middle of the ocean seeking answers to questions that have yet to be asked.
As Dr. Greg Rouse said, ” If we understand the ocean, we can understand the world”.

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