There is a tremendous amount of effort that goes into each and every single research cruise. Currently, the R/V HSBC Atlantic Explorer has 167 of funded ship days. These funded ship days are grouped into research cruises that may last a single day or for up to several weeks. The duration of each cruise is determined by not only the awarded funding, but also by the ship’s size class. The Explorer is capable of roughly 4 weeks (or roughly 42 days depending on fuel usage/food supply) out at sea before returning to port, which is typically on the dock at BIOS or an annual trip to Puerto Rico. Oceanographic research vessels of a larger size class are capable of even longer at sea before a port stop.
This past Sunday, the AE returned to port, mid-day from a monthly 5-day research cruise for the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study. Now, in just two days (Monday/Tuesday), the ship, it’s crew, and the participating scientists must off-load the previous cruise to prepare for the incoming team of scientists. On Monday, incoming scientists from South Carolina, Arizona, Alabama, and Rhode Island arrived and reviewed their shipped and stored materials in preparation for Tuesday’s load. The ship departs tomorrow, March 14th (or at least as I’m writing this it technically departs today).
The load is not necessarily complicated, but there is self-induced stress involved for each sliver of the research team hoping and double-checking that all the necessary materials needed to perform proposed experiments and sampling requirements are present. One of the major items to be loaded was a mobile research “lab”. A research vessel is equipped with basic laboratory needs, but for much of the time additional research “labs” (essentially a container van, kitted out for the designed needs) may be required. Additional or more specific space may be necessary for experiments using radioactive isotopes (which we will be on this cruise), or in this instance to provide Dr. Lomas’ flow cytometer a place to live on board.
For the most part, materials arrived, gear is now loaded, people are happy, and the ship is ready to go. What a generalized statement. The cruise plan for Wednesday calls for a departure at 1400. From there we will steam south towards our first sampling location, within an anticyclonic eddy feature, chosen by chief scientist, Tammi Richardson and colleagues. Perhaps 10 hours of steaming, then the actual work begins.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update (FROM THE OCEAN) and the breakdown with Tammi Richardson on the cruise’s main research question:
How does plankton community composition and trophic interactions modify carbon export from the euphotic zone?
Research Technician, Phytoplankton Ecology Lab
Schroeder Elementary, Class ‘98