8 August 2007
Location: Offshore Site ~90 miles to Cuba
"Nets up!" Drop what you're doing and head to the stern deck. What follows is a ~30 minute synchronized scramble. Everyone mans their stations. Life vests on, Cedric speaks with his hands to the winch operator, Sean or John, to raise or lower the MOCNESS. Line operators, Joel or Tom, loop the corners and up it lumbers onboard with a sprig of Sargassum weed. Bob gives the massive frame a final torque and it lies resting on the deck. It's done with its job and ours begins. The team, hand over hand, hauls in the nets delivering the collection, in the cod ends, and stands them up on the deck. Hoses drawn and emptied of the sun-heated water, Zoe and I spray down each 1m2 net chasing the plankton into the cod ends. Martha and Carie spray down the big 4m2 nets. The results, a miniature trawl of microscopic creatures. Make that ten miniature trawls. It has become routine. We force the seawater out of the samples, concentrate the plankton, and preserve it in clear alcohol. We try to finish before we hear the Captain call out, "Ten minutes to the next station..." But often Zoe and I are left sieving a gooey gelatinous mess of plankton and the seawater is going nowhere fast. We keep our faith in gravity and humor and fill another sample jar.
Tonight we deploy the MOCNESS to ~1000 m to sample what's down there. It will take a long time to deploy and haul back from that depth. This will be the closest we get to Cuba ~40 miles to the south. It would be fun to attach a Styrofoam cup to the equipment going down just to see the effects of all that pressure. We'll see...