Showing posts from August, 2019

Die Verankerung (the mooring)

My samplers emerging from the water I clapped my hands together to stimulate blood flow to my fingers. Bouncing on my toes a little, I pulled my scarf higher over my face. It wasn't even that cold outside, except I had been standing there for hours. Three moorings were being recovered, and I had samplers on one of them. I wasn't sure how long the recovery would take, but I did not want to miss it. The long, thin line of the mooring rolled over a pulley suspended over the side of the ship. White spokes painted onto the solid orange wheel spun clockwise, marking meter after meter as the line was spooled onto the winch. Every once in a while, a device would surface – a funnel-shaped sediment trap or a columnar ADCP. The boson would raise his closed fist to signal the winch to stop; then crew and scientists would attach lines to the device, raise it with the crane, and set it down gently on deck. Sampler after sampler was carted away to the various labs as I waited patiently

Workshop woman

Friends, I described my ideas for experiments to start on this cruise as "half-baked," and I chose that word purposefully. It wasn't meant as an insult to myself but rather a true reflection of reality. There was limited opportunity prior to the cruise for me to meet with the ROV team about the underwater operations I wanted to complete, and besides, we're using a smaller ROV this year than previous years. I had definite goals and plans in mind, but I knew I was going to have to improvise. I basically showed up on board with a box of raw materials and have spent the first week trimming my samplers to the ROV's space and weight limitations. In terms of my baking metaphor, I showed up with batter and a selection of differently-shaped cake pans. The cages and frames I built out of PVC One of the items I want the ROV to plant on the seafloor are predator-exclusion cages. The rectangular cages are meant to keep predators like sea stars and fish away from some of


The atmosphere on the main deck was electric. Scientists gathered excitedly near the row of shipping containers stored in the bow. Zip ties were cut, locks were undone, handles were turned, and one by one, the giant metal boxes that carried our gear were cracked open and their contents dispersed. We spent most of the morning striding back and forth along the main hallway, carrying boxes, dragging pallets, or signaling teammates. The hallway filled with an organized chaos for the next few hours as box after box and pallet after pallet emerged from the containers. Those whose belongings had not yet emerged stood in the corners, helping where they could and always watching for any item bearing their group's color code. This was my task for the first part of the morning, as I alternated between lending a hand and staying out of the way. My three boxes had been shipped to the AWI's warehouse months ago, and while I had a verbal promise from the logistics departments that my things w

Dinner for one

Every year on New Year's Eve, a video called "Dinner for one" plays on German TV. It's on every channel, every year. It's tradition. What's strange is that the film is in English, and it has little if anything to do with New Year's Eve. The film is about an old woman's birthday. She is old enough that most of her friends have died, but she still insists on celebrating her birthday with the same old crowd around the table. She sets the plates and fills the wine glasses and then conscripts her butler to play the roles of her deceased companions. He spends the evening running from chair to chair, holding conversation and toasting his employer. Course after course, the butler consumes enough wine for 5 or 6 people, and as the film goes on, he becomes increasingly and hilariously drunk. Since we left Polarstern's home port in Bremerhaven, Germany, my shipmates and I have felt very much like the butler in "Dinner for One." We hit bad weathe


Back in December, I received an e-mail from my collaborator, Thomas, in  Germany. My old working group at the Alfred Wegener Institute was going on  a research expedition in August 2019, he wrote, and they were planning to  use an ROV to establish a new experimental station in the HAUSGARTEN long-term ecological research area in the Arctic deep sea. Did I have any  good ideas for new experiments, Thomas asked, and did I want to come on  the cruise? Polarstern in port in Bremerhaven, Germany Um, YES. Friends, when a trusted colleague offers you a spot on a  world-class research vessel and free license to start any experiment you  want, that's an offer you accept. Did I want to come? Please. Is the ocean  salty? I responded almost immediately and told Thomas I was in. I also scribbled  down 5 or 6 half-baked ideas for experiments to try, but more on that  later. This expedition is important enough to me that I planned the rest  of my summer projects around it. I scheduled t