Two weeks at sea:
Oceanography on the J.P. Tully
June 28thIt’s been foggy today, rolling in ten minutes before sunrise and not lifting until late afternoon when the tops of the mountains appeared over a band of cloud. We’ve been further from shore than this, returning from Cape Flattery overnight to stations on the Victoria Sill today. Currently I’m on watch, we have 12 hour shifts and I’m on the noon-midnight for the next few days. Most people have a set shift, I’m the exception as my biological sampling happens at different times so my watch will have to shift accordingly. I like it that way – it means to a certain extent that I can work when I want to (although I’m working now and I’d much rather be hanging out down below). Last night I was hanging out with a couple off duty crew and listening to their stories of ships they’d worked on. It’s amazing the rich lives they lead, Ian was a deckhand on a cruise ship, John was in the Navy … we drank good scotch (Tom has family in the Shetlands) … good conversation and country music ?!?
I haven’t been seasick so far but the weather’s been pretty mild rolling swell. Life in the lab … we’ve all been rocking to some good tuneage, so far there hasn’t been any music wars although my punk music seems to be banned. We did have Tom Jones earlier today. One of the head scientists claimed to know three people who’s mothers slept with Tom Jones, another guy on the ship claimed to have dated a woman who gave Tom a blow job. He said she was quite bitter about the whole experience. Things you learn while at sea… Last night. I had strange dreams too, I must be remembering my dreams more often due to the rocking of the boat.
We actually have a parrot onboard which belongs to one of the female seamen. I’m sitting next to it now as I write this and we’re having a whistling contest. The bird is winning. It’s just after lunch and we’re nestled in among some islands not to far from Victoria. Calmer than yesterday, but still cloudy though…
We’re spending 36 hours doing ADCP surveys (Acoustic doppler current profiler) which just involves steaming around in a small grid pattern over and over again to look at flow around topography. This means we don’t actually have any science to do so we’re all sitting around. I stayed up ’till 4 am last night doing some data processing but at this preliminary point I don’t have enough data to actually do any science. There’s too much variabilty during the two week tidal cycle so I really need next week’s data to do anything more.
So this afternoon we all hopped in the hot tub on the upper deck (did I mention that this ship has a hot tub?) and had a few beers (far preferable to the american boats which are dry). We noticed that the bridge had turned the surveillance camera from the aft deck (where they watch to make sure we don’t all fall in) to point at the hot tub, specifically in Amy’s and my general direction.
I talked to Tom last night and he said that I made the captain and the first mate’s day when I showed up at the hot tub in a bikini (actually a two piece Speedo training suit, we’re not talking skimpy here). My sleep patterns are now officially screwed, I worked in the lab from 11pm to 3am last night just watching equipment and trying to make the transition to night shift. Tom got off at midnight and kindly kept me company for the first couple hours then Geno (from U of Washington) came in and we debated the merits of Starbucks (I’m not a fan). Geno’s grew up in the US-occupied zone of Panama, really interesting perspective on things. Ryan (who’s from N. Carolina) woke at 5am to watch the sunrise with us, beautiful! We don’t see enough sunrises in our lifetimes.
Had a tough time sleeping this morning, I was really tired when we hit station. I screwed up a bit on my stations, dropped a bottle which could lead to contamination, may have sampled twice from the same Niskin and then one Niskin was leaking which means I didn’t get the replicate bottle for the 5m depth. Basically I lost 5-10% of my data. Not the end of the world but frustrating.
Dawn came this morning at 4:30am and we had a long slow sunrise where I took far too many pictures which are likely to turn out bad due to low light levels. The night crew all went up to monkey’s island and watched the sun come up over this lighthouse at Race Rocks off Victoria. So beautiful.
I was talking to Matt, one of the stewards onboard, and I found that he swam for a club team in Victoria and knew my roommate from first year university at Guelph. We shared some horror stories about the girl and laughed. Canadian swimming is small enough that you normally know people in common but this was an especially close connection.
Guess what! I got to pilot the ship today! It’s been exciting,we had a helicopter exercise today where my supervisor went up to take infrared pictures of the water. The ship is large enough that we have a helicopter landing pad out the front. When it returned to drop Rich off, I went up the bridge to watch and after the first mate, Darren, let me pilot the ship. I dodged a couple logs (not easy in a ship this size) and made a 90 degree turn. It’s harder that it looks because the boat takes a while to react and we were in a strong flood tide. I think I “drove” pretty well. While I was up there we heard two mayday calls too. One guy had beached his sailboat and a woman called mayday then didn’t respond. Should we be the closest coast guard boat to an emergency we’d get diverted to search and rescue but the chances aren’t likely. We were talking to Maggie (one of the female crew) today and she talked about a trip she was on to the Arctic where the ice was so thick that it came right up to the ship and the crew wasn’t allowed outside because of the danger of being attacked by a polar bear. Wow… can you imagine it?
American Independance Day
Today’s shift has been incredible! It started with a beautiful sunrise at 4am and then before breakfast we did a cast with dolphins (Pacific white side). Then after breakfast we saw killer whales just 40m off the boat. There were three of them, I saw one jump right out of the water, white belly and all. People pay $50-70/3hrs to go on whale watching trips around here but I don’t see how you could get that close. They came right up to us…
I’ve passed my mid-trip blahs – friday, saturday, sunday I was tired and would have liked a break but now I’m much more in the swing of things. This trip is going so quickly, two weeks isn’t a long time. It’s 10:30am and my shift basically ends in one hour. Working nights is a different experience, you can divide the shift into 3 separate parts. The first four hours from midnight are dark and deadly quiet. Depending on where we’re sampling, sometimes there’s lights on the shore and sometimes it’s completely dard. This is my second favourite part of the night. It’s cool to be the only people up but it can be bloody cold on deck at that time. The next shift is my favourite, 4am to breakfast. The sun’s coming up and the sea’s calm. It’s stillness… prevades everything. We talk less and look more in this shift. Finally the worst part is 8am to 12; everyone else gets up and makes a lot of noise and I’m usually tired and cranky. But the end is in sight…
Tarun, Amy, and I all went hot tubbing after dinner but Tarun abandoned us after about 20 minutes. He’d been gone for all of two minutes when the Captain (andy), the first mate (darren), and the chief engineer (randy) showed up. It was like their girl radar went off “females alone in the hot tub”. Amy and I were trying so hard not to laugh but the officers were so obvious around women. While the Canadian Coast Guard is trying, they still have a long way to go before there will be gender equality. I guess that’s true for physics though too.
We hung out with them for a beer and then went down and watched the Euro 2000 final just a few days late. We had already heard France had won but we got tapes sent out to us from Victoria. What a cool game!
I’m tired, this lack of sleep is killing me. I’m going to nap a bit then work out in the gym and endit all with a hot tub. Two days ago I say whales in from the tub, can life be any more beautiful? You know what always keeps me going, why I have faith? Whenever I’m depressed I step outside and realize just how beautiful the world is. The stillness of my backyard at4am, going for a run through the woods … we live in the most perfect world, that makes me believe in magic.
Cruise ended July 9th, I returned home after very little sleep and a lot of good adventures.
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