Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cruise Update: Day 6

Position: 29 05.514 N Latitude
091 56.312 W Longitude
Steaming East

Today has been a very productive day aboard the Pelican. We completed our westernmost transect today and have begun steaming east with plans to sample a few more coastal sites before making our way back to Cocodrie, LA, on Friday morning.


Water and sediment samples were collected from all of today's stations and Caroline (our visiting high school teacher) helped deploy her third boxcore of the cruise.
As we steamed toward the coast this afternoon, we encountered the very obvious front marking the transition from greenish-blue shelf water to turbid Atchafalaya River water.

Many scientists onboard analyze their samples as they are collected. Now that the cruise is winding down, we are beginning to compare our data and speculate about their implications. Radium isotope data collected by Jim Krest's group from USF St. Pete has revealed that, in addition to the Radium supplied to the region by the ocean and by the rivers, there are additional sources of the isotopes being supplied to the region. The excess Radium may be a result of groundwater input, offshore oil and gas production, and/or resuspension of the sediment on the seafloor by dredging, shrimp trawling, etc. Also, Wei-Jen from the University of Georgia, has determined that dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations from the Mississippi River are more elevated that those from the Atchafalaya River. The implications of these results are still being explored, and collaboration among the scientists will continue throughout the coming months.


The weather continues to be warm and sunny with calm seas and magnificent sunsets.

We got a special treat today when Iuri joined our cook, Steve, in the galley to make ceviche from fresh fish caught overnight. Ceviche is raw fish cured in lime juice and mixed with celery, tomatoes, and onions, served cold with tortilla chips. It was excellent!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cruise Update: End of Day 5

View Position on Map
Position: 28° 43.37' N latitude
092° 55.87' W longitude

We are on the westernmost transect of the research cruise, and have just finished the last station for the night. We expect a fresh start early tomorrow so that we can finish this transect and move on to some other sites as we head back to the Pelican's home port in Cocodrie, LA.

In the meantime, everyone is busy processing samples from the day's efforts to free up space for tomorrow. For the radium samples, our counting equipment has been going non-stop, and we have the lab bench lined with samples waiting to be counted. Plus, we still have seven barrels processing on the back deck which will have to be counted as well. So, at least for the crew from USF, there won't be much rest tonight. With less than three days left of the cruise, we will be doing all we can to collect samples from as many stations as possible.

But, it's not all work and no play. In between stations we have had a lot of fun, enjoying the beautiful weather and getting to know each other. Joining us on this second cruise is Caroline Coker, a science teacher for the Mobile County Public School System in Mobile, Alabama.

Caroline has been a great help with sample collection, and we've even got her helping to process some of the samples for Total suspended solids (TSS) and dissolved radon. So far, Caroline has helped to collect 2 box cores, and obviously doesn't mind getting dirty.

Also joining us is Iuri Herzfeld, a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii, Department of Oceanography. Iuri is working on finishing up his dissertation at UH, but is interested in gaining a variety of oceanographic experience along the way. Most of his research has been from small boats (and he has even taken water samples from coral reef systems in Hawaii using personal water craft), so he was excited to come along on the Pelican. He, too, has been a great help with the sample collection and processing, and he managed to learn the procedures in record time. He is also a master of disguise...

(Hold mouse over image for Iuri's quick change)

(you may have to be patient if you have a slow connection)

A Respite

While most of our time at sea is spent working, sleeping, or eating (see “Battle of the Bulge” post from a few days ago), there can be significant free time when stations are spaced far apart. That is the case now as we are on a six-hour steam west. Some people are catching up on work, be it calculations, sample processing, or instrument maintenance. Others are napping or watching TV (currently showing a bizarre foods show via satellite...sauerkraut pie anyone? ).

But this is also a time to enjoy the sea and sky. Today the weather is nearly perfect: warm and sunny with little breeze and there are low puffy clouds in the sky. We are far enough away from the coast that the water is blue, as one classically thinks of the sea. But along this coast one also finds brown water, laden with suspended sediments from the river. And, between the brown and the blue, there is green water, colored by the microscopic plants that thrive on the nutrients from the river, but which need to wait for the brown sediments to settle out and allow life-giving light to penetrate the water. It is the plant productivity of these green waters that provides organic matter (i.e., “food”) to bottom waters on the shelf, thereby increasing respiration and driving the oxygen depletion that is problem here during the spring and summer.

One thing that is in short supply aboard ship is silence, or even quiet. The ship is essentially a big diesel power plant, so it is noisy most everywhere. On the Pelican, you can find relative quiet on the bridge as well as outside on the bow or forward areas of the fo’c’sle or 01 deck (the deck above the main deck). The only time I’ve come across silence at sea was accidentally. Several of us were on a zodiac in the North Atlantic south of Greenland. We had headed away from our noisy research ship in order to collect uncontaminated water samples when the outboard motor on the zodiac quit. Suddenly we were silent, rolling on five-foot ocean swell. We were not actually in any danger, so this was a rare and sublime chance to enjoy the sea estranged from human sound.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cruise update Day 4

Position: 29° 16.33 N latitude
091° 36.80 W longitude

We are enjoying a slower-pace day at sea today. Some of the crew have taken our smaller boat up into the Atchafalaya River to collect water samples for studying the change in salinity from fresh river water to open Gulf water, much like we did in the Mississippi River a few days ago.


The weather has remained in our favor with calm seas and warm temperatures. Most of us were anticipating rough seas and are delighted to be able to stow away our foul weather gear for this cruise. We've also enjoyed some beautiful sunsets at sea!


Because we are awaiting the return of our small boat, no stations have been completed yet today. However, Caroline (our high school teacher) got to try her hand at box-coring this morning. We collected the core from nearshore waters south of the mouth of the Atchafalaya River and extruded the sediments at exact volumes. This allows us to study the pore water contained within the sediments, as well as study the grain size of the sediments. As with most cores from this region, it consisted of dark brown, jello-like mud with lots of pore water.


The situation in the galley remains one of pure temptation, as Alan mentioned earlier. Last night (11/02/08) we enjoyed King Mackeral for dinner, caught by the crew of the Pelican on 11/01/08. That was accompanied by a spicy seafood soup, roasted potatoes, squash, broccoli, salad, fresh bread, beef brisket, and ice box cake for dessert. Lunch was a Mexican feast with fish tacos, quesadillas, beans and rice, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and homemade guacamole.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Battle of the Bulge

One thing that everyone comments on at sea is the food. It is usually quite good (the crew insists on it) and it is certainly always plentiful....too plentiful. For breakfast this morning, the standard order was a mound of scrambled eggs, some bacon, and buttered toast. For lunch the selection consisted of vegetable soup, warm ham and cheese sandwiches, eggplant lasagne (my favorite), huge boiled shrimp (amazingly succulent), caesar salad (with anchovies), and biscuits. Last night’s dinner consisted of chicken filets with cilantro-garlic mayonnaise (that topping would make an old shoe taste good), tuna in filo rolls, Portobelo mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and bacon (first rate!), potatoes served two different ways, soup (didn’t see what type), and jello with a mixture of berries.

Ah, but the food doesn’t stop with the meals! Always on the table in the galley are containers of candy and cookies, a bowl of trail mix, and fresh fruit in case you decide you want to be healthful. Of course, if the candy and cookies aren’t enough for you, there is a freezer full of ice cream that you are always welcome to invade. In fact, you can pretty much eat anything that’s available.

Now this plethora of food might sound like paradise at sea, but it’s a problem. In the waiting time between stations, the galley is the main place aboard ship that people can gather. So, one sits there in the waiting boredom amidst temptation. The vast selection at mealtime doesn’t really provide one with choice: since the food is all good, one wants to sample it all. Many people also find that the slow rolling motion of the ship tends to make them a little tired and hence they lose what little remaining self-control they had.

The marine tech aboard ship tells me that he has gained 20 lbs on long deployments (only to lose it on spending extended time at home). The more fit looking crew tend to take one moderate plate of food and immediately leave the galley. I had a friend who once confessed to gaining 36 lbs on a 36-day cruise. And, for those of you tempted to just increase your level of exercise, remember there’s no place to jog aboard ship and no exercise room either (at least on modest sized ships like the Pelican).

So, what’s a poor boy like me (with loss of self-control) to do? One strategy (following that of the more fit crew), is to avoid the galley....but as chief scientist, I shouldn’t go into hiding. Another is to skip a meal (but then there are those ever-present snacks calling my name). You can also invent a special diet for yourself. For instance, one can readily become a quasi-vegetarian. I say quasi because, although the cook would certainly oblige a vegetarian or any other special diet, no one on this cruise has requested such a consideration. And, I don’t care to ask the cook for special food preparation on his part just because I’ve lost control.

Well, it’s almost dinner time. So, I’ll just go contemplate this problem in the galley. It’s a rough life.

MAG-Mix2 Day 2


The weather so far this trip has been much, much nicer than during MAG-Mix1. We have moderate breezes, sunny skies, and the seas are not nearly as rough as our first cruise in May. The mornings and evenings have been a little chilly but perfect during the middle of the day.


The sampling has been almost nonstop. Last night (10/31/08) we sampled the change in salinity from open water in the Gulf of Mexico to freshwater in the Mississippi River. During MAG-Mix1, the Mississippi River had high discharge so we didn't have to travel very far upriver to reach freshwater. However, during this trip we had to go all the way to Venice, LA, and still didn't reach truly freshwater (0 PPT). During high river discharge like we had in May, the freshwater can push the salt water all the way out of the river, but when the river flow slows, the salt water comes back in.

Near Venice, LA, we collected extra water from the lowest salinity water we sampled. This water will be used in a series of mixing experiments later in the cruise. A lot of our measurements look at what is dissolved in the water, but we have to remember that the river also carries a lot of sediment, and when the river water mixes with the salt water, a lot of chemicals wash off of the sediments, which increases their concencentrations in the river water.

Other things can be changing the chemical concentrations at the same time, so we like to perform a mixing experiment to determine how much of the change comes from just this mixing process, and how much comes from other processes. A few of the other things which might change the chemical concentrations are 1) organisms could be using the chemicals when they grow, or releasing them when they die; 2) chemicals could be coming in from other sources, like ground water; 3) chemicals may be being removed from the water as the sediment clumps together and settles out.

Science Party:

It seems like everyone on the boat is in good spirits this trip. With the modest sea conditions, no one has really been suffering from the mal de mer. at least not as much as during MAG-Mix 1. Also, we started off on a bit of a holiday, so the mood has been very light-hearted as people occasionally popped up on deck in costume.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Up the river!

This morning we did our first station in about 95 meters (310 feet) of water at a location about 15 miles south of the Mississippi River delta. We got all of our pumping equipment working and also were successful with our bottom-trip sampler. The bottom-trip sampler has a simple mechanism that “feels” the bottom and closes two water sampling bottles so that we get water from within a few feet above the sediments.

From this first station, we then headed into the river, entering Southwest Pass, the largest of the delta outlets. We collected samples as the salinity decreased to nearly fresh water. By dinner time we were at Venice (Louisiana, not Italy) which is as far down the Mississippi River that one can get by road. This being Halloween night, many people jokingly suggested we head into New Orleans for some trick-or-treating. However, ship time is not cheap and this is being paid for by a government grant, so work calls. We’re headed back down river, it being the turn for Jim’s group to sample.

In honor of Halloween being our first day at sea, my “costume” consisted of a napkin converted into an image of a Dramamine bottle which was then taped to my chest, and I gave a suitably sick look. There were others who brought wigs for a good laugh. And then, my tech carved a pumpkin to look like me. I am now munching on the roasted seeds from that pumpkin. Does this mean I’m eating my brains? How suitably ghoulish!

Before departure

Co-Chief Scientist’s Blog, 10/30/08
Greetings from Cocodrie, LA. We’ve all arrived and are in the midst of loading ship and getting set up. As co-chief scientist, my duties right now are to make sure everyone in the scientific party knows where to set up and where they can bunk as well as communicate any of their needs to the ship’s crew. I also talk with the captain and marine superintendent to make sure they understand our cruise plan and any special equipment or sampling needs. Fortunately, the LUMCON folks who operate the R/V Pelican are a great bunch, more than willing to help insure a successful cruise. And, most of our scientific party were with us for our May cruise, so they pretty much know what to do. Thus, I can sit back, write my blog, and wait for the occasional cry of “Alan...where does this go?” Oops, I hear it now, time to do something! (Or maybe it’s time to make my bed...even though I’m chief scientist, I have to make my bed, just like everyone else.)

Right now, the crew is getting the trace element winch installed. This winch has a kevlar line on it, rather than the usual steel cable. This kevlar line allows us to collect samples with minimal metal contamination. The crew is also loading on a small motorboat aboard so that later in the cruise several people can go on a side trip up the Atchafalaya River, the other big outlet of Mississippi River water besides the bird’s foot delta. Students and techs are busy setting up various sample processing gear as well as “plumbing” the ship with our clean water line. This water line consists of teflon-lined plastic tubing and allows us to pump uncontaminated seawater into the lab from about 20 ft off the side of the ship.

Our scientific party consists of scientists, students, techs, and a postdoc from several universities (University of Southern Mississippi, University of South Florida, and University of Georgia) as well as a high school teacher from Alabama. Our teacher/volunteer will take this experience back to her students...perhaps some of them will become oceanographers or geochemists.

We will be departing at midnight, 12:01 am on Halloween! About six hours after departing, we’ll be off the mouth of the Mississippi River. We’ll do a test station to make sure everything (or do I mean everyone) is working and then head up the river for a few hours. After that we’ll do four lines of stations, working our way west towards Texas. In about a week, it’ll all be over...except for all of the analyses we’ll need to do back home in the lab.

Update: 7:30 am, Halloween. We're approaching our first station and our group is slowly arriving in the galley as they find their sea legs. Fortunately, the seas are not too bad.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cruise 2 begins next week!!!

Everyone here is excited (and busy) with the 2nd MAG-Mix cruise coming up next week. We just found out 2 weeks ago that all of the sampling equipment we stored at LUMCON got washed away during the flooding from Hurricane Ike. DOH!

Among the lost items were our pickle barrels that we use for collecting large-volume water samples (200 liters, or about 50 gallons). Inside the barrels, we had stored our PVC suction hose (300 ft of 1.25" ID), and the discharge hose that runs from our pump to the barrels (~40 ft of 1.25" ID). All gone! Also, we had left the two large tanks (~250 gallons) that we use for collecting really big water samples from offshore, and these have not turned up either. Well, so much for saving money by not shipping the supplies back and forth.

Needless to say, we have been incredibly busy trying to track down new supplies. The pickle barrels have become popular as back yard rain barrels, so not only are they in short supply, but the cost has gone up from $4/each to $15/each. Leslie and I finally found some last week, and we picked them up from Mr. King's donkey pasture in Odessa, FL on Monday (I wish we had taken the camera - there really was a donkey in among all the pickle barrels).

The hoses have been ordered, and they should be assembled and on the way to our lab by now. In addition, we are purchasing a new high-volume pump as a back-up so that we don't have a repeat of our experience from the 1st MAG-Mix cruise. We are also re-doing our small pumps which we use for processing the water from the pickle barrels. The old ones were just too slow! They often took 10 or twelve hours to pump a barrel of water through our Mn-Fiber, and our goal is about 3 hours. Our new pumps should do a better job, but it will be quite a bit of work over the weekend getting everything ready.

In between all this, everyone is really busy with school work. Alanna has decided to not come on this cruise because of her heavy course load (Calculus II, in particular), so Iuri Herzfeld will be joining us, instead. Iuri is a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, but he's been helping out with my lab for about a year. Leslie and Erik are both coming, again, so they are making sure they are ahead in all their course work. And, I'm teaching 3 courses this semester, so I am busy lining up guest lecturers and exams for when I am on the research cruise.

I hope everyone enjoys the blog. I'll try to post to it once more before we hit the road on Wednesday, and then we should be able to keep it updated daily while we are at sea. Feel free to post comments and email us with questions.

Wish us luck!
-Dr. Krest
USF St. Petersburg

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Last Full Day

Our last full day at sea began beautifully.  We spent most of the day traveling back to Cocadrie.  We were almost as far as Texas.  However, we did make a few additional stops on the way.  Wanting the best data possible, we took some samples between our previous sample lines.  We also resampled a station.  This allows us to see if our results can be repeated.

We pulled three sediment cores today, that we will be bringing back o St. Pete t process and analyze.  We just don't have enough time to process them here.
Erik and Leslie pulling a box core.
The seas started out calm today, and got rougher as the day went on.  Many of the crew began feeling sea sick again, but some medicine helped with that.  The rougher seas made pulling samples a bit more difficult, but everyone was in good spirits, because we are nearing the end.  
Leslie putting stoppers in the subsample.
Our beast box core was today.  Usually there is about  foot of water on top of the sediment in the pvc pipe we use to subsample, but today it was just sediment.  We put a vacuum seal stoper in the top, and wood circles in the bottom.  We then wrapped the bottom in cellophane and duck tape.  This will allow us to transfer the entire tube back to St. Pete. 
Since we spent most of the day traveling, there was a lot of down time.  Many of the crew fell asleep during the down time, because there is not much else to pass the time. We have a station tomorrow morning at 5 am.  After finishing that, there is a 5 hour steam back to Cocadrie.  We will spend most of that time either packing or catching up on sleep.

I feel that this has been a very good experience.  I met a lot of scientists, who I will be keeping in contact with after this trip ends.  I also saw how dedicated scientists are to their work.  I even learned that I, yes I can get sea sick.  Yet, however important this trip as been to me and my future career.  I will be happy to walk on land tomorrow.  I will enjoy roaming areas greater than a 119 ft boat.  Lastly, it will be nice not to have to jump out of a top bunk to a floor that is constantly moving.

Continue to check this blog over the next year.  I will be updating it with news from the lab in St. Pete.  We will also be boarding the Pelican again in November for a repeat of this trip.
Till we meet again. . .

Last night on the Pelican

Tonight is the last night on the Pelican, and the research is winding down. Everyone is excited to start packing up, but we still have one sampling station scheduled for early tomorrow morning -- the sampling is planned to start at 5:00 am. Then, it's a few hours of steaming to get back to Lumcon where we will offload all our gear and head home.

Alan Shiller's trace metals sampling group has a relatively short drive back to the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi where USM's Department of Marine Science is located. Kyeong Park will drive a little farther, back to Mobile Alabama. Jim Krest's group has the longest distance to travel, back to St. Petersburg, Florida.

But first, Dr. Krest and his group are planning to head west a little ways to get another sample of the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City, Louisiana (image from US Army Corps of engineers, and downloaded from Wikipedia). Dr. Krest is concerned that the samples collected during the cruise might not have been far enough up the river. His big concern is that there might have been some influence of the salty water from the Gulf of Mexico, and wants to make sure that he has a good representation of the river's chemistry.

Then, Krest's group will head back towards St. Petersburg, stopping for the night in New Orleans before the final drive home. Dr. Krest hopes to grab some Mississippi River water from near Jackson Square and then grab a cup of coffee and some beignets (French doughnuts) at Cafe Du Monde before starting the long drive back to St. Petersburg.

New Orleans

(Panoramic image of New Orleans taken by M. Lamar Griffin, Sr. with permission granted by the author to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts; downloaded from Wikipedia).

We should have some time to answer more questions tomorrow morning while we steam back to LUMCON. Just in case we don't, we want to give a shout out to the students at Campbell Park Elementary School, Palmyra Macedon Central School District, and Belcher Elementary School and Lakeview School. Unfortunately, we had some technical problems that prevented some of the schools from accessing the blog, and we also were late in notifying other schools so they did not get a chance to participate. We promise to work out the details better for our next cruise in November, MAGMIX-2. In the meantime, we plan to keep updating this blog as we process all of our samples over the summer. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

It seems like we try to do a little more science every day. Recently, we started taking grab samples of the sediments at each station, using a Ponar sampler. This is a very quick and easy way to get a sample of the bottom sediments, but it does not go very deep, and the sediments can get mixed up because of the way the sampler works.
The Ponar goes down on a cable , and when it hits the bottom, it releases a pin. Then, when the cable pulls back up, the jaws of the Ponar close and scoop up the mud. We will do some analyses of the sediments when we get back to the lab. Here's a quick video of the Ponar coming back on deck, just before we open it up to check the sediments. At this station, the sediments were very thick, about the same consistency as modeling clay. Leslie loves to dig into the mud to see what we got!

There was a question about how we get our food. We rely on Randy, the ship's cook! He's awesome! Randy trained as a chef at a culinary institute in New Orleans, and he used to work on private yachts. Randy has worked on the Pelican for a little over a year. We are all curious to know what kind of magic he could do if his stove, oven, and grill did not roll all over the place! Here he is, grilling some food for dinner on one of our calmer days.

Sam is one of the crew on the Pelican. His title is the Assistant Engineer, but he does a little of everything out here. He works from 6pm to 6am, and during his "watch" he is responsible for making sure everyone is safe. He runs the winches to deploy all the gear, and he helps out all around the boat. Here he is, getting ready to fillet some of the fish that have been caught over the last few nights. During the night, the Pelican often travels long distances between sampling stations while the scientists take a break to get some rest. If we get to the next station early, we often tie up the Pelican to old oil rigs, and if anyone has the energy they can fish for a little while.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Today we are close to the edge of the continental shelf near Louisiana, and life is abounding.  Our depth is a little over 85 meters, and the seas are calm.  At our second station two dolphins announced their presence by slapping the water with their tails and jumping.  

We got a surprise in our sediment sample as well.  A small benthic crab 
was buried in the mud.  He is currently living in a petri dish next to my computer.  
Our next station is about 5 hours away.  So, a lot of the crew is catching up on sleep.  Tomorrow we will be finishing our furthest stations.  Then, we will begin steaming back towards port, sampling along the way.  With only a few days left, be sure to ask us any questions before the cruise ends.

Happy Birthday Robin!

Turn up the volume Robin.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Half-Way Through

Due to problems with the internet, I cannot post any pictures tonight.  However, I can give a brief description of the day.  Most of us got a 4 our break today.  The Pelican was too large to reach a few of our sampling sites, so 3 people in a small boat collected them.  When they returned, they were able to get a few pictures of the boat, which I hope to post tomorrow.  We have been running a transect today which runs south of the Atchafalaya River.  We will be ending the night with another core off of an oil rig.  Check this blog tomorrow for crew interviews, and check the website in the next few days, as we update the personnel section.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Storm Ahead/ Suspended Sediment

After receiving our replacement pump this morning, we began pumping samples from all depths again.  It was rough seas, and it got worse when a storm rolled in.
The storm front off the starboard side of the stern.
For a large part of the day, I was entering data into the computer from our log sheets.  We use log sheets to record latitude, longitude, water depth, salinity, time, and suspended sediments.  This information will be vital when we are analyzing our data later on.
While I was inside working on log sheets, some of the scientists were working outside.  My outdoor shift was finished before the weather got too bad.
Also, we have been analyzing suspended sediments in our samples.  To do this, we put a filter of known weight on top of an erlen meyer flask.  We then pour water from our sample over the filter, and into a vacuum.  The vacuum on the bottom side of the filter lessens the filtration time.  We can then weigh the filter.  The difference between the starting point and the ending point is how much suspended sediment was in the sample.
Today we have also been extruding pore water from the sediment we collected last night.  More about this process can be read on the magmix website.  It is currently 11:21 at night, and we are steaming to new station.  This will be the last station of the night for us, and we intend to pull a sediment sample. It will be about 2:30 am before we can get to bed. 

Friday, May 2, 2008

End of day 2

It's been a very busy and productive day, with lots of excitement and a little bit of fun. Woke up to find 3 more barrels rolling around on deck because of the heavy seas. Rescued them and secured them with even more rope, but every time the ship rolled, a wave would come aboard and pop them loose again. Finally, we just filled them half full of water to give them some weight, and that seemed to do the trick.

At our first station for the day, we managed to get the radium pump intake down 78 meters, and even had a little bit of hose left over. A near record for this system.

On our second station of the day, our high volume pump failed. We had just commented that it seemed to be putting out an odor when it suddenly shorted out and stopped working. The ship's engineer believes a large capacitor blew out, possibly having gotten wet. For radium sampling, we switched to using the ship's system which draws water in from about 3 meters below the surface. We located a replacement pump near LUMCON, and we hope to have it aboard the Pelican tomorrow morning (03May2008).

With the sediment from the box cores, we are trying to pressurize them enough to force water out through a filter, leaving the sediment behind. Leslie and I each managed to over-pressurize the system, sending the mud into our collection beaker. After a little re-engineering, it looks like Alanna has successfully set up our first mud section on the squeezer -- we've managed to collect about 100 ml so far, one drop at a time.

No fishing tonight. We are steaming towards our next transit line which will take us from near LUMCON to offshore waters again. Lots to do tomorrow as we will have to wire and plumb the pump as soon as it arrives if we want to get water from below the surface, and we have lots of stations to sample.

Deploying the Box Corer

Dr. Krest and Leslie deploy the box corer, with the help of Sam, the engineer, who controls the crane.  Watch Leslie. 

How to Sample pt. 2

Our pump shorted out today.  So, we have only been able to sample surface water.  We have been able to use the ship's midas pump in deep water, but in shallow water we have been reduced to throwing buckets overboard.  Tomorrow a boat is supposed to meet us at our first station with a new pump.  We will then be able to sample multiple depths again.
We began sampling sediment tonight.  We used a box corer, which digs down into the sea floor, to get the sediment on board.
Once the box sampler is back on board, we can take a subsample with a piece of pvc pipe.  WE then make a seal on the top and bottom of the pvc, which keeps the sediment in.  We can then push the sediment up through removable rings at the top of the pipe.  We then put the mud pies in zip lock bags with labels.  We can then test extrude and measure pore water.  We can also test the sediment for radium.

How to Collect Samples

This is a video of Dr. Krest, Leslie, and Erik launching the CTD, with the help of a crane this morning.  Our hose is attached to the rim of the CTD.  This is how we get it to the appropriate depth for sampling.  The CTD can also measure salinity, temperature, and depth, among other things.
Dr. Krest, Leslie, and Erik are feeding the hose, as the CTD nears the bottom.  This picture is about 22 miles offshore of Louisiana.  After the CTD, with our hose attached to it, reaches the appropriate depth, we record salinity for that depth, and begin drawing water up to the surface with the high-volume pump.
This is the high-volume pump.  Depending on what we are testing for or what kind of experiment we are performing, we will then empty the water into either a canister or a barrel.  Once the water is in a container, we take subsamples.  We test these subsamples for suspended sediment and salinity.

Dr. Krest and Leslie filling canisters with water from the Mississippi River. 
Dr. Krest is mixing canisters of water with different salinities together for a mixing experiment last night.  After most of us had gone to sleep, Dr. Krest and Erik stayed up with crew to fish.

Dr. Krest displaying his catch.

Erik displaying his catch.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Video of the Swells

This video clip is off the stern while traveling.  About a dozen oil rigs can bee seen in the distance.  Currently we are finishing sampling on our first station.  Our coordinates are 2845.2612 degrees North and 8932.97 degrees West.

Still Steaming...

We are still underway to our first station. The seas are 3 to 5 feet, which makes for slow going. This morning, we woke up to find out that we lost a number of our big plastic barrels when a wave washed them out of their tie-downs. It's very difficult to spot a black barrel in the water at night. Most of the barrels were recovered, but it's disappointing to lose any.

Along with one of the barrels, we lost a small pump that we use to pass the water through our manganese-fiber (the manganese fiber collects the radium so that we don't have to ship 100's of liters of water back to the lab for processing). It looks like we'll be able to put the extra travel time to good use, rebuilding the pump we lost from spare parts.

With the moderately rough weather, quite a few of the science party are feeling queasy. Unfortunately, the forecast is for higher winds tonight and tomorrow, with the seas building a bit and staying rough through tomorrow. Once we get our sea legs, we should be fine.

Later today we'll get a break from the weather for a little while. We will start offshore and head up the river, collecting water samples based on the salinity. The Pelican has an onboard system which measures the salinity in real time so that we can target salinity levels of interest, and sample them as we drift back down the river. Heading up into the river should give us some calmer seas for a few hours before we head back out for our transects along the coast.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We're Off!

We just switched from shore power to ship power, and we've have cast off from the dock. Most of the science party and crew have already crashed for the night. It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be very busy. After about 8 hours of steaming, we should be at our first station off the mouth of the Mississippi River. Then we will steam upriver, through Southwest Pass. The river is at a very high flow right now, because of flooding upriver in the Ohio River Valley.

Logistically, things are going pretty well, with just a few glitches. The biggest problem is that one of our controllers for the RaDeCC counters is malfunctioning, so we only have two counters instead of four. We'll fiddle with it more tomorrow, but even if it does not come back we should be in good shape.

Time to get a little rest while we can...


Loading the Boat

Dr. Krest, Leslie, Erik, and I left the USF yesterday at 1:30 in the afternoon, after loading the trailer and truck.  We drove all the way to Mobile, Alabama before stopping for the night.  Then today, we drove through Mississippi, to Louisiana, past New Orleans, and stopped at Cocodrie, Louisiana.  Cocodrie means crocodile in French.  It is an appropriate name, as many crocodiles inhabit this marsh land.  This is where lumcon is located.  We arrived about 3:30 in the afternoon and began transferring our equipment from the trailer to the Pelican.  
Leslie and Erik carrying barrels.
After a short pre-cruise meeting in the galley, which provided valuable safety information, we began nailing and lashing our equipment to the lab benches.  
This prevents the equipment from falling over while at sea.  
Erik lashing the RaDeCC pumps to hooks on the lab bench in the dry lab.
So far, the only mishap we have had concerns the RaDeCC.  The one of the converter boxes which relays information from the machine to the computer is not working.  So, we can only run two samples at a time instead of four.  I have heard of a few things breaking in the wet lab, but I do not have specific information.  There are about 15 scientist onboard and 5 crew members.  So, it is a full ship, with a lot of equipment.  We 
are still working on odd jobs, such as lashing barrels and pumps to the deck.  We leave dock at 12:01 am Thursday.  We will arrive at our first station 6-8 hours after that.  Leslie and Erik will be working from 12 am to noon, and Dr. Krest and I will be working from noon to midnight everyday.  Expect more blogs from the 4 of us tomorrow.  I am going to try to upload video of what we are doing in my next blog.
Dr. Krest is putting I-splices and back-splices into a rope we use for lashing.  This reinforces the rope.  I am editing on pictures for this blog!
The Pelican at sunset.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Science/Research Vessel

The goal of this research project is to better understand how the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers mix with the water in the Gulf of Mexico.  Freshwater, which comes from the two rivers is very rich in an element called Radium.  Saltwater, like the Gulf of Mexico retains, has very small amounts of radium.  So, we can tell how freshwater is mixing with saltwater by testing for concentrations of Radium.  Other scientists on board will be tracking how freshwater moves into the Gulf of Mexico by tracking nutrients and metals, because they are also found in freshwater.  We will be using different specialized machines to count Radium in the water samples we collect.  For more detailed information on the science behind our research, and on the are the trip will cover, visit our website:

The research vessel we will be traveling on to the sites at which we will take sample is the RV Pelican.  The RV Pelican is a 116 ft.  vessel owned and operated by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.  Its port of call is the Marine Center in Cocodrie, Louisiana.  For more information on on the RV Pelican and for pictures, visit it website:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Welcome to the Mag-Mix Blog

Welcome to the Mag-Mix Blog.  We will be adding updates through out the week on the science of our upcoming trip, the team of scientist, and how we are getting ready for the trip.  Feel free to leave comments or questions as the trips progresses.