May 19, 2009
Woke up to an incredibly beautiful morning. The moon and stars were visible, and I went out on the back deck to check it out. The MTs were getting the Zodiacs ready, as they anticipated a good day. They were right! The visual survey team got geared up with the cameras, binoculars, cold weather gear and computers for data input. The tow fish (box that is constructed with sonar to make an image of the water column beneath - just like a fish finder on a bass boat, except this one is calibrated to show the exact size of objects) was readied to gather water column surveys from the side of the ship and the Zodiacs were geared up for prey mapping of the area. I stayed on the bridge and assisted the visual survey team. They rotated thirty 30 minute shifts: two outside, one starboard and one port and two recording information coming in on the handheld radios. Doug assigned Collin and me to work the computer for the tow fish. Making sure that the sonar is turned off before the tow fish is brought out of the water is vital to its functioning. Watching out for ice chunks large enough to damage the tow fish was also one of our tasks, as a chunk larger than it could disable it. The cost of the tow fish and the associated computer equipment around $150,000, and I felt the pressure of ensuring its protection.
The wind gods were back with us and stayed low all day. The glassy surface of the water also lent some beautiful photo opportunities. The survey team documented about 75 humpbacks and we saw killer whales, seals, penguins and lots of different bird species. Just spectacular. As the sunset at the early hour of 3:30 p.m., I stayed on the bridge watching the beautiful change of the colors of the ice and snow and then the stars and moon. Looking at the stars was incredible and we noticed the constellation Orion and the fact that it is "upside down" from what we are used to observing! Dave also pointed out Orion's Nebula and we viewed it through the image stabilizing binoculars, which was amazing! Then Doug and Ari pointed out the Southern Cross overhead; another feature that I have always been interested in seeing! The prominent four stars of direction in the southern hemisphere. Reminds me of the words from the song by Crosby, Stills, Nash "when you see the southern cross for the first time.....it's as big as the promise, the promise of the coming day." Quite appropriate for me and for the seniors that are graduating tonight from Fairhope High School! Congratulations to y'all and good luck on your own voyages!