August 29, 2009
We have arrived back in Woods Hole, Massachusetts at 7 am this morning. We successfully completed over 100 stations (plankton tows) in spite of having to come in one day early due to Tropical Storm Danny. Tropical Storm Danny did weaken but still had enough force when it passed Woods Hole later today to have given us a rough time and prevented us from doing any work.
As I sit here in my motel room watching the heavy downpours and brief bouts of wind, I think back over the last two weeks, what I've reported in the journal entries and the people I've met. First of all, Fritz is actually Chris. It just depends on who I listen to when his name is called. We never actually sat down as a group and introduced ourselves which is why I never answered this one scientist who thought my name was Kevin until yesterday. I also do not think I spent much time talking about the crew.
The crew of the Delaware II is a mix of NOAA Corps. and Wage-Maritime civilians. First the NOAA Corps, who make up the ship's officers, except for the Ships' Master (Captain). There are normally 4 but this time there were 6 because two were training to replace the Executive Officer and the Operations Officer. They hold rank equal to that in the US Navy and they have the same pay and benefits as US Naval officers. In fact one officer did a lateral transfer from the Navy to NOAA Corps. Another officer transferred from Fisheries to the NOAA Corps program. For more details on this program go to the NOAA website. The officers shifts were 4 hours on and 4 hours off.
The rest of the crew is civilians who are Wage-Maritime Union members. They are Able-Body Seaman, Engineers, Cooks, Steward, and the Ship's Captain. I understand when the Delaware II's Captain retires a NOAA Corps officer will become ship's Captain. Some were fisherman who decided to make a change and some, like Erin, wanted a change from office work in the civilian world and is now in training to be a ship's engineer. Then there is Murray who was an extra in the movie "Jaws" which was filmed on Martha's Vineyard not during the summer. Imagine the people swimming and playing in water that was probably in the 60 degree temperature range. COLD! The civilian crew ship was 12 hours on 12 hours off. Some were midnight to noon and some were 6 am to 6 pm.
Since this will be my final journal entry, I want to take a moment to reflect over the past two weeks. I know actually 11 days but it is called poetic license for a reason. I learned a lot about what tiny creatures live in the sea and where they are likely to be found. Salps, a jellyfish-like creature was our constant companion south of Woods Hole while arthropods (know as Clingons) were forever in our nets on George's Bank. The Gulf of Maine and a few other spots were copepods and krill. We collected these for a lab in Poland who has been helping monitor the ecological health of the North Atlantic for decades. Seeing LARGE sharks consume the carcass of a Wright whale that was apparently the victim of a collision with a ship was great but my personal thrill will always be seeing a whale breech less than 40 yards from me on the ship.
The work was fun and I learned a lot about microscopic organisms and field research. The ship NEVER stopped rocking or rolling, depending on wave direction in relation to the boat. It is amazing how people crammed into a small work area can get along so well for 12 days on a boat. I would do this again if available; it was that good an experience.
Thank you and goodnight.