Editor's Note: University of Southern California geobiologist Katrina Edwards is taking part in a three-week drilling project at the Atlantic's North Pond—a sediment-filled valley on the ocean floor—designed to locate and study what she calls the “intraterrestrials”: the myriad microbial life-forms living inside Earth's crust. This is her sixteenth blog post. To track her research ship's current position, click here. To see all her posts, see "60 Seconds in North Pond."

STEAMING TOWARD DAKAR, SENEGAL (March 8, 2009)—We are at the end of our third day of transit to Dakar. This transit is much smoother than our last (two) by far—we have remarkably calm seas, and many of us are getting our first decent sleep since we got on this ship.

Still, this part of the journey is packed with activity. The chemists are hard at work cranking through whatever measurements they can make shipboard. We now have good measurements of oxygen levels in the samples, and others are being determined now, like the amount of dissolved carbon that comes from the microbial breakdown of organic matter laid down with the sediments.

Other normal end-of-cruise activities take up our time, too—We have to begin breaking down the labs and cleaning up to get ready for our arrival. The cruise report is being put together fast and furious. A cruise report is a document that details what happened on the cruise—it is the definitive record. It includes information on where we went, why we went there, what kind of sampling we did, what kind of measurements we made, where the samples and sample processing is going, and who will do what after we leave the ship. Cruise reports are critical documents for making sense of the data you will generate "back on the beach." But they are a lot of work!

Other lighter activities include our Ping-Pong tournament. Reinhard, the good doctor on board, set up this tournament. In all honesty, I do not understand how the teams are put together, but I am participating, and so far have played three matches. Yesterday I had my first win, with our captain, Klaus, as my doubles partner. The game is good exercise (sort of) and good fun (definitely), and keeps everyone entertained with stories of this and that match.

After totally killer work days with our coring and geophysics surveys, and although we are still very busy, there is a new tone in the air—the wrap-up and cleanup, and getting ready for the next stage!

Photos of scientists working in the chemistry lab and playing Ping-Pong courtesy Katrina Edwards/USC