July 11, 2004
At 25.56N 111.22W we are in the Sea of Cortez and are steaming 10.5 knots per hour. Multiply that by 1.136 and you get almost 12 miles per hour. Steamin'. After breakfast at 0730, everyone is busy in the lab; only the pilot whales who greeted us off starboard seem to know that it is Sunday. Brian, Terri, Richard and I are repairing the netting around the incubation bottles to deploy in the array in the Gulf of California. At this point I am not quite sure what the array is, and visualize that it is a string of huge bottles of water suspended at different depths in the sea. Brian explains that the incubator bottles are important because light (underwater) is difficult to replicate in the lab. He is concerned about the effect of moonlight and wonders when the full moon is. We interpolate that it will be full on July 31st. Right now there is a new moon, so there should be no interference.
The lab is buzzing with activity: Chief Engineer Ron is measuring a space for another computer terminal. Bianca is measuring her filters so she can determine the population of phytoplankton per area. Chris is using a chromatograph, setting up to test for nitrogen in the seawater.
At 1100 we arrive at our first CTD station and deploy the CTD over the side of the ship. Fred, Jeremy and Greg Dick are at the computer, clicking and relaying to Matt in the winch room when to trip the Niskin bottles one by one. Brian plots the depth against the fluorescence and oxygen saturation. The graph shows that in the upper ten meters there is over 120% oxygen saturation, which corresponds with the low fluorescence. We hypothesize that there is a lot of photosynthesis happening and therefore, a lot of phytoplankton in this zone.
I re-read the Shipboard Technical Support Handbook, which recommends using the Winkler Titration to confirm the CTD calibrations, which reaffirms my mission. Conveniently after dinner at 1845, the CTD is recovered and we scurry around collecting our first samples! Then we secure all the equipment, and move to Gulf of California CTD station 2 for a TOW-YO survey to explore for hydrothermal vents. Greg Dick, a grad student at San Diego State University commands the TOW-YO station like a pro! He admits to me that as a freshman he did not know what he would study, but found biology interesting. Then he met John Delaney through a NASA internship that he applied for via the Internet. Delaney's work on the search for the origins of life has inspired both Greg and me. After studying his graph, Greg proudly announces that he found a plume at 200 meters off the bottom. He is so excited to be aboard and carry out his experiments because no one has collected data from these specific sites for 20 years. The Guaymas Basin is known for its fast growing hydrothermal vents. Greg's research question is: Why is this basin the fastest site for growing microbes? Somehow I know that Greg will be famous some day, although he looks like a big kid as he fills up another glass at the pop machine.
He tells us often that he misses his girlfriend. It is fun talking with him. I ask if he has any advice for my students, and he suggests, "Challenge yourself as much as you can. Go ahead and take the hard classes. They will help you later."
At 2200 I collect fifteen samples. I shake them, cover their lids with seawater so that no air permeates, then wrap them in a makeshift cardboard blanket and secure them for the night.
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