August 10, 2005
I made it to the University at 7:30 this morning, but most everything was already being loaded into trucks. Dave, Ross Singer (an undergraduate ocean engineering student and the team's all around go-fer), and Kelly seemed to have a certain place for everything and I was afraid of messing things up. So, aside from carrying a couple things to the loading area, I mostly watched and tried to stay out of the way. They seem to have a routine going here.
We drove back to Wickford, where the R/V Cap'n Bert is docked.
We loaded the equipment on the boat and set it up. Kelly explained how she filtered the chlorophyll samples as she was setting up the equipment. She has a small motor that pulls the water down through the filters. Then she carefully wraps each filter in a little foil pocket she makes and labels the station # and whether it was surface or bottom. Then she puts the samples in a cooler of ice.
Dave says we will do sampling first and then "tow." "Tow" means when the Acrobat, which is an instrument package is placed in the water and towed slowly behind the boat.
My job is to collect samples for nutrient testing. We won't do the actual testing of these samples, but will collect them for another Graduate Assistant to test. Testing for dissolved nutrients requires a different kind of small fiber filter from the one Kelly will use for the chlorophyll. The procedure is to draw water through a syringe and shoot it out over the side of the boat to "rinse" it. This is done three times. Then the syringe is filled, the filter attached, and this water is also expelled, this time into a plastic bottle, which is then emptied. This, too, is repeated three times. Now, I was ready to actually collect the sample. I again filled the syringe and replaced the filter. I forced the water from the syringe, through the filter, and into the plastic bottle. The bottle was labeled and put in the cooler of ice. This procedure was repeated 14 times- twice at each testing site (surface sample and bottom sample).
It takes about an hour to reach the first sampling site, which strangely enough is Station 6. While we were on our way there, Kelly took me in the wheelhouse and showed me a chart of where we were and where we were going. We will work our way up the Bay and Providence River. Then the Acrobat will be put in and towed back to where we started- Station 6. The tow takes about two hours.
We finally reached Station 6. Ross used a hose attached to a swimming pool pump to pump water into the brown jugs, which we would then take the water from for filtering. Ross and Dave would also put the Acrobat in at each site to collect surface readings.
The morning proceeded uneventfully. I didn't drop anything overboard and I only squirted Kelly with water a time or two. We went from station 6, to 7, then 5, 4, etc. until we reached station 1. After pulling the samples from station 1, the Acrobat was placed in the water for the two-hour tow back. I made a mental note to take some reading material tomorrow. Not much happens for the crew during the tow. Dave was busy with his equipment and computers. I'll get a closer look at those later.Still there are other things to learn about being on a boat. For instance, I had to learn how to use the "head." It seemed like something I should have known how to do, but toilets don't flush the same way at sea as they do in hotels. Even following directions, which were in writing on the wall, didn't help, and I eventually decided I was going to have to ask for help. That is when I realized I couldn't get the door open. Suddenly it was hot and stifling and I began to panic. I knew no one could hear me if I started to yell so I did the only thing a reasonably panicked person could do. I threw myself full force against the door. It flew open on the second try and I took deep breaths of more hot air, but it didn't seem to be so hot at that moment.
The Acrobat is a towed instrument package which sort of glides through the water. It has instruments to measure temperature, conductivity, chlorophyll and dissolved nutrient concentrations. Dave has two computers. One sends a request to the Acrobat for information and writes to a file. The other displays the data from the Acrobat in real time. The "wingstarget="_blank" on the machine enable it to glide from surface to depths behind the boat recording data. The readings will be cross-checked against the lab results from the samples we collected. The Acrobat also is equipped with an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to measure current by measuring the speed of organisms in the water by means of reflected sound waves.
It was after 5:00 when we docked back in Wickford. I was totally unprepared for how tired I would be when I got off that boat. Still, it was a great day, and after some sleep I'll be ready for morning.