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Status Update: Day 3 at the Cyclonic Eddy


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June 19th, 2012

We stopped at one of our target points — a place where the scientists thought there would be lots of phytoplankton — a few days ago. The weather is nice, and the ocean is surprisingly calm (knock on wood). I’m hoping it stays like this for the rest of the trip. Everyone laughs when I say that. I think that’s a bad sign.

Here’s our trajectory over the last 24 hours.  Mostly we’ve been floating about.

The general plan for this cruise is to steam towards spots that look good on the satellite images (for how that works, click here for an earlier post explaining how the scientists are using imagery to chart their course) and then stop for 4 days to do all sorts of sampling the water and trapping coccolithophores and measuring things like productivity and viruses.  We’re on our 3rd day here, but the scientists are talking about heading north this afternoon rather than Thursday. There just aren’t many coccolithophores here. We’re finding the remnants of them — liths and stragglers — but not the bloom the science team had hoped for.

We’ve seen whales the past few days. They’re migrating north, following blooms of krill. We know there’s krill here, because about seven pounds of them got stuck in the engine yesterday, and had to be scraped out and dumped overboard. Kay Bidle, the chief scientist, says that krill and whales are a bad sign for us, since they tend to come after the phytoplankton we’re hunting.

So tomorrow morning we’ll probably head north to a new spot, in hot pursuit of the blooms of Ehux everybody wants to find and that I’ve been promised. In the meantime, check out my view from the deck!

During this trip, I’ll be answering your questions about the science, this boat, and life onboard. Want to know how we search for plankton, why we’re here, or what the food is like? Just ask me! And if you’re wondering how I got here, check out the groups that made this adventure possible: Mind Open Media and COSEE NOW.

Previously in this series:

All Aboard: how you can be a part of our research blog
You wanted to know: what are these phytoplankton?
You wanted to know: what am I bringing to sea?
Greetings from Ponta Delgada! We set sail tomorrow.
Steaming North: how the scientists are trying to find plankton
The superstar sensor: what is a CTD?

Rose Eveleth About the Author: Rose Eveleth is a producer, designer, writer and animator based in Brooklyn. She's got a degree in ecology from U.C. San Diego, and a masters in journalism from NYU. Now, she makes sciencey stuff for places like The New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider and OnEarth. Follow on Twitter @roseveleth.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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