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.