July 8, 2004
After breakfast, I get my first official task - to make a white shield with three sides for the mysterious Winkler Titration. Still not understanding what the Winkler is, I create a shield. . I make it proudly and seriously- although most might laugh, with discarded cardboard that would be thrown overboard and tape on bright white computer paper. As I get to know the scientists, I let go of some of my ego and get brave enough to ask them to explain just what the "Winkler" is. With their help I begin to understand that by adding certain chemicals to the water samples, there will be a chemical reaction that indicates the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. My eyes will be the control eyes to see the color change, which signals the chemical reaction and indicates oxygen levels of the Winkler Titration.
This is the perfect project for me since I love to study color and I value OXYGEN! Previously I thought WATER was my essential requirement for life, but more reflection reveals that OXYGEN is our first and last interface with this physical world. The goal is to get 100 oxygen samples, perform the Winkler Titration, and compare the results with the CTD robot's oxygen data. Thankfully I depend on Richard, to help me develop my procedure, mix the chemicals and calculate the results. Together we wash the 32 Oxygen bottles - three times each! Lots of opportunity to get good at washing! I beam with confidence from simply learning to swirl deionized water in the flask, with all the opportunity to practice. Following these first baby steps, we read the lab manual explaining the Winkler Titration Procedure. Three seems to be the magic number, since I have to reread it again and again. Luckily Richard understands the chemistry, or at least tackles it and he mixes the sodium thiosulfate in the correct concentrations using high tech auto pipettes. They are like giant eyedroppers, only you don't have to squeeze them or gauge the liquid level. By dialing a number and pressing a button, you control the amount of liquid to suck up automatically. While my brain is marveling on the elegance and expedience of this simple dial and button, Richard's is tenaciously solving the math/chemistry problems to make our standards. With the rocking of the ship, my concentration also rocks in and out. Richard seems oblivious of the sea motion, which makes sense being a Hawaiian surfer boy. I feel exhausted just thinking about him solving the problem, while he gracefully plugs many equations into the computer, in his laid way. I am aware that it takes ALL DAY to figure it out. Richard seems to ride the problem as if it were a wave, enjoying every minute. I feel like shouting and celebrating when we finally get a procedure for our standard. Richard just smiles...which is enough. I carefully write it in my logbook. Again, whales appear at the perfect moment. Before I go to sleep, I find reassurance in asking Terri to explain the chemistry one more time to me. We read over the procedure again, and each time I laugh easier at my fear of the unknown. I "wink" and hug her goodnight.
Return to Journals Index