August 23, 2006
Yesterday was the last day of the southern leg of the cruise. The last sampling station was completed just before noon and I quietly celebrated the fact that there would be no more hosing of plankton nets, preserving and bottling of plankton samples or sieving of sediments for at least another 24 hours until the northern leg of the cruise starts. The science team had collected a total of 68 plankton samples and over a dozen sediment and water samples, an endeavor that sounds fairly simple but involved an immense amount of effort by eight people working around the clock. The sample collecting phase is only the first part of the scientific work involved. Once the samples arrive at the various analytical labs, in the USA and abroad, there will be many more man-hours required to complete the chemical analyses and biological identification work. Once all the data is obtained it will be made available on data bases for other scientists to use.
I was happy that the ship-based sampling work was over, at least for the time being. During the last few hours of the cruise I relaxed and enjoyed the view as land appeared ever nearer. By mid afternoon I could see the boats and buildings of Woods Hole Harbor once again. Moored at the dockside were two other large research vessels that had been out at sea when we had left the harbor last week - the Knorr (belonging to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and the Endeavor (belonging to The University of Rhode Island). It was certainly a joy to see buildings, trees and streets again after days at sea. The first visitor from land was a red admiral butterfly that fluttered across the rear deck in what seemed to me like a welcome home gesture.
All of us onboard were eager to set foot on solid ground and no time was wasted in disembarking as soon as the gangway was in place. There was quite a flurry of activity, as the scientists unloaded their samples, the crew members drove off to spend a few precious hours back home with their families, and goodbyes were exchanged with some of the science contingent (Barbara, Jon and Carly) who would not be returning for the second leg of the cruise.