Thursday, September 7, 2017

Gray-blue

Right now, I am on the ship’s bridge. I have my laptop on one of the windowsills so I can look out over the bow as I write. The sea surface is calm and blue-gray, rippling absent-mindedly beneath a similarly-colored sky. The waves are irregular, or rather, there are several different waves laid on top of one another. One is slow and rolling, another short and sporadic, all barely affecting the texture of the dampened ocean. A flock of gray-and-white birds is circling the ship, coasting on wide-spread wings just inches from the water.

I haven’t spent much time outdoors lately, but I know we’ve had bad weather. Sometimes, I could feel the ship rolling side to side as I sat at the microscope. Other times, I felt the ship pitch forward as we steamed. Unexpected waves or thick ice floes would send my swiveling chair into a spin and my poor, microscope-bound eyes into a frenzy. Still, I made it through.

I have just finished the analysis of the deep-sea settlement experiment, and I am extremely excited about the results. There are distinct patterns in the recruitment of animals on the plates. I can now describe to you the size difference in individuals living different distances above the seafloor and the variable species composition on differently textured surfaces. The experiment has given us new, valuable information about how communities develop in the Arctic deep sea, and I look forward to writing up the results when I get home.

There are still several days left in the expedition, so I have plenty of time to tie up any loose ends before we get back to port. With the plates now finished, I only have to take home a small jar of specimens, examples of each of the species I found living on the plates. I can pack up my microscope and lab supplies for shipment. In the meantime, several groups on board are still deploying vehicles and collecting data, so I’ll help colleagues where I am needed.

I am grateful for the chance to explore the Arctic, for the experiment entrusted to me, and for the rare and valuable dataset I now have. Like the gray-blue sea, I am calm and content.

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