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Lori Saldana’s BlogII

by admin ~ July 30th, 2014

Two views off the working deck in the aft of the boat: Late afternoon and then sunset. The crane is used to raise and lower research equipment.

Sunset up here was about 11:30; sunrise will be around 7 am. Long days, good for getting lots of work done in daylight.

Lots of pelagic (offshore) birds following the boat. Sometimes they land or crash-land on board, requiring some assistance in the morning before flying on their way. Jaegers, storm petrels and other species have replaced the near-shore puffins from yesterday.

Lori3 Lori4

Lori Saldana’s Blog

by Murray Stein ~ July 30th, 2014

Science! With humpback whales on the side…
Tuesday July 29
I completed my first 12-hour data collection work shift late last night and immediately went to the galley to ingest some calories before sleeping- not usually a good idea, but things are different on board a working ship.

For one thing, food always tastes better at sea. Perhaps its the fact someone else has prepared it for you, and our cook is excellent; she uses fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious and in-season, prepared well at each meal. Roasted squash, made-from-scratch soup, well-seasoned salads and soups on thick, warm bread. It’s nice to have a great deli down the passageway from the science lab!

Add to that: we have been engaging in physical work for many hours on a cold deck. With cold water running around our feet, and at times over our hands, as we gather water samples and look for plankton and trace amounts of mercury and cesium- the first, a persistent and toxic pollutant, the second, a radiation marker linked to the Fukushima accident.

All of this activity on a pitching deck means our metabolism is on supercharge. The sun is still warm, but the water and air is not, so we keep our skin covered against the ocean breeze and occasional splash of water. We wear hard hats and life jackets while working near the overhead cranes that lift the heavy water collection equipment off the deck, gently lower it into the sea, and retrieve it after it descends to nearly a mile deep water below us.

Also, on board a ship in rough seas, all of the body’s muscles are constant if low level at work: a pitching deck requires core muscles to respond quickly to small, sudden changes in the body’s center of gravity. A swinging door requires extra effort to open and close gently, to prevent it from slamming and awakening a sleeping crewmate down the passageway who has also been on a long shift. And every door and cabinet has an extra hook that must be unlatched to enter, and re-latched to secure. Drawers have sliding latches. Flat surfaces like galley tables and desks in the lab are covered with sticky material to keep cups, water collection bottles and/or computers from tumbling.

It’s a bit like a backpacking trip over challenging terrain, carrying extra weight, using new devices, and maneuvering through foreign, rough territory, except the engines are doing the work of moving everyone forward, while the ocean, wind and currents are occasionally doing their best to impede that forward momentum and toss everyone on the deck overboard.

I’ve never been to sea this long (12 days) before, but I happily jumped at the chance to participate in this research cruise, even before knowing the details of what sampling would be done. I enjoy being in the ocean, surrounded by sea life, but I prefer to do it while also doing science. Lounging on the Lido deck, reading novels while sipping cocktails and eating at the buffet would bore me to tears.

Yesterday, as we left port at 9 am and were in calm waters closer to shore, we practiced preparing, lowering and raising the CTD- a device for testing various components of ocean water. (C= conductivity, T= temperature, D= dissolved oxygen.) 30-liter plastic water bottles are attached and triggered to be opened via computer software, on command from the ship, to collect water at various depths. Other devices measure light transmission/water clarity and salinity. Careful notes are taken during this procedure, to record where/when the water was collected, longitude/latitude, surface water conditions, etc.

Once retrieved, delicate equipments must be rinsed with deionized water to clear it of salt and other debris that could interfere with recording information. Bottles are opened, samples collected, filtering of plankton is done, specimens are placed in small bags and frozen or refrigerated…and this is all done every hour. Time between stops at research stations goes quickly, and then- it’s time to don the hardhats, life vests, and prep the CTD for another dive.

I haven’t worked on this particular device before. It was a lot of learning in a short time, and my brain was tired as I began my first 12-hour shift.

But as we worked, we also saw many puffins flap by, looking exotic and awkward; they are actually more graceful swimming underwater than flying above. Various gulls swarmed overhead but not as loudly as aggressively as the ones down south. And yesterday afternoon, between specimen collections, I spotted a small pod of whales on the horizon, leaping, then turning tails up for dives, and blowing small clouds of mist into the air.

Being on the ocean, at times like this, is like heaven. But I also know a small change in water and/or atmospheric pressure can lead to an angry sea and quickly turn the ocean to hell for those of us on board.

Despite this possibility, I always sleep soundly and deeply on boats and ships- it’s a bit like sleeping in a water bed inside a moving car, constantly moving, with the engine humming through the bulkhead and other noises reminding you that water is nearby: splashes on the hull near your head, or a louder splash overhead as a taller wave washes over the deck.

Unfortunately, when my family travelled by car into the mountains for camping tips, I was often the one who got carsick from the twists and turns. This also happened when we went sailing, but then I bought a boat and lived on board… and things improved. Perhaps sleeping on the water, being in near-constant contact with the sea, helped my body accept the pitching and rolling without complaint.

But going to sea on sailboats is one thing- working aboard a 135-foot diesel-powered boat in Alaskan waters is another. So my first day aboard, while still in port, I took one of the “-ine” drugs (bonine, dramamine etc.) as a preventive measure. I took another tablet the first morning at sea, before starting work, then 1/2 tab at night before bed, to help me sleep and ensure my stomach is up for the rolling seas that can come with little notice.

This morning, as I write this and prepare for my next shift, the seas are indeed rough and clouds have moved in. (I tease the night shift crew, and tell them “it was calm and sunny when I went to bed- you broke the ocean!”) The DVDs and books on the library shelves shift side to side as I write, the empty chairs across the table, fastened to the galley floor, rotate as if occupied by ghosts turning for a better view out the porthole.

Yet my stomach is still calm as I eat a breakfast, drink coffee, and write this post, marveling at how my inner ocean has found peace with the rolling sea around me, hoping it continues for the duration of the cruise…

And then the Chief Scientist comes in and announces: whales!

I grab my binoculars, run up 2 levels to the bridge… but they’ve gone. We joke the captain used them as a pretext to attract company during a slow time between stopping at research stations, and swap a few stories about past voyages while scanning the horizon in front of us. Nothing.

I turn to return below, and through the windows looking back, over the research deck in the aft section of the ship, that’s when I see … a humpback whale. It leaps, lifting its massive body completely out of the water, creating tall waves as it slams back into the sea. Small “puffs” of whale breath dot the horizon: there are more, just out of sight.

They were likely the same whales the Captain had seen, before they dove to let the noisy ship pass overhead, then resume their surface activities.

And that’s how I spent my second morning at sea… so far.

My official 12-hour work shift begins in 45 minutes. More water to collect, more specimens to freeze… and perhaps a few more whales to observe.

Lori1 Lori2

 

 

Point Sur Heads North

by admin ~ June 27th, 2014

Research Vessel Point Sur Heads North.

After months of preparation the lines were slipped and the R/V Point Sur sailed out of Moss Landing harbor the morning of June 5th on the first leg of her trip to Alaska and back. This first leg bore the company of the MLML Chemical Oceanography and Marine Pollution Studies Laboratories whose job it is to investigate the biogeochemical cycling of mercury in the coastal zone. Funded by the National Science Foundation, MLML students and scientists are working with several other investigators from UCSC and CSUMB to understand the processes that give rise to large concentrations of methyl mercury they recently discovered in fog water, and the impact this has on coastal terrestrial ecosystems. One preliminary finding is that spiders from foggy areas along the coast (redwood forests and maritime chaparral complexes) have 1,000 times more mercury in their tissues than do spiders from non-foggy areas, and the mercury appears to be coming from the ocean, carried in fog. But how, remains a mystery. The MLML team is sampling the water column, sediments, plankton, neuston and fog water, analyzing these samples for a variety of mercury species. In addition, blue water diving excursions are being conducted to elucidate the structure of the epipelagic ecosystem and sample components of this system that may be responsible for the methylation of mercury. In spite of some gale force winds and 20 foot swells offshore, the cruise has been very successful and the first science presentations last night by both students and faculty. Plans are to stick closer to shore and continue sampling up the coast to Eureka. Spirits are high and the data keep coming. Stay tuned.

 

Scientists ready the “Multicorer” for deployment to collect sediments and overlying bottom water from the continental margin

Scientists ready the “Multicorer” for deployment to collect sediments and overlying bottom water from the continental margin

Dive team prepares to depart the mother ship

Dive team prepares to depart the mother ship

Analysts Amy Byington and Autumn Bonnema prepare samples for volatile mercury analysis

Analysts Amy Byington and Autumn Bonnema prepare samples for volatile mercury analysis

Wes Heim and Autumn Bonnema sample the CTD Rosette

Wes Heim and Autumn Bonnema sample the CTD Rosette

The diatom Thallasiosira spp  caught by divers in a marine snow particle.

The diatom Thallasiosira spp caught by divers in a marine snow particle.

 

 

Welcome Home Point Sur!

by tpastuszek ~ May 3rd, 2013

 

There are those stacks...Alex Wick has them in his sights

There are those stacks…Alex Wick has them in his sights

It is official, the R/V Point Sur has reached her home port in Moss Landing.

 

A great group of people made up our welcoming party on the dock, waving flags from MLML campus

A great group of people made up our welcoming party on the dock, waving flags from MLML campus

Arriving back at the dock, the entire crew was honored and impressed with the turnout that formed a great welcome home party.

 

The Point Sur flying the American, Californian and National Science Foundation flags, with our call sign and of course, our penguin mascot!

The Point Sur flying the American, Californian and National Science Foundation flags, with our call sign and of course, our penguin mascot!

Everyone arrived back home safely, including our mascot, an Exta-Tuff sporting penguin that has been signed by the crew and scientists on board during this journey. We continue to celebrate and reflect on this accomplishment and send out much gratitude for all those who supported us during this endeavor.

Check out the news coverage by KION on our return!

http://www.kionrightnow.com/story/22147942/point-sur-vessel-back-home-from-5-month-trip

 

 

Almost Home – Stacks, Here We Come!!!

by tpastuszek ~ May 1st, 2013

 

A view of the stacks at the power plant in Moss Landing, CA heading into the harbor at sunset

A view of the stacks at the power plant in Moss Landing, CA heading into the harbor at sunset – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

This Thursday, May 2nd at 0900 the good ship Point Sur is due to reach her home port in Moss Landing, CA. The anticipation is building among the crew as we realize the end point to our historic voyage. So much has happened in the 5 months and 5 days we have been gone.

Here is a list we compiled of some fun facts:

  • 19,906 – our total nautical miles sailed
  • 81,212 – gallons of diesel to power the boat to Antarctica and back
  • 2,274 – pounds of meat cooked and eaten
  • 59,346 – gallons of fresh water used
  • 6 – foreign ports visited
  • 2,120 – eggs consumed
  • 9 – ocean-bottom seismometers recovered
  • 11 – pilots who sailed aboard the Sur to assist in navigation
  • 1880 – miles sailed through the Chilean Fjords
  • 146 – pounds of coffee brewed
  • 45 – scientists who worked on the Sur
  • 110 – CTD casts made to obtain water samples
  • 22,584 – watch hours stood

 

The Point Sur docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA

The Point Sur docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA – Photo by Megan Donohue

Thanks to our friends at Scripps for hosting us on our first docking back in the States. We are now in between San Diego and Moss Landing and continue to make our way home. We look forward to reconnecting with friends and family, sharing stories from our adventure and hitting our favorite eateries and watering holes!

To all of our supporters, thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and following along our amazing journey. We are all proud to have accomplished this voyage and to represent the entire MLML community…..SEE YOU SOON!

 

 

 

Water, Water, Mas Agua

by tpastuszek ~ April 25th, 2013
Front Row: L to R - Andres Valverde, Erika Lee, Luis Felipe  Navarro, Ruben Castro, Eduardo Santamaria - Back Row: L to R - Maria Fernanda Gracia, Ashley Wheeler, Rene' Navarro, Thomas Rago, Curtis A. Collins

Front Row: L to R – Andres Valverde, Erika Lee, Luis Felipe Navarro, Ruben Castro, Eduardo Santamaria – Back Row: L to R – Maria Fernanda Gracia, Ashley Wheeler, Rene’ Navarro, Thomas Rago, Curtis A. Collins

As the Point Sur crew arrived in Mazatlan, Mexico a party was there to greet them. Not your typical party of spring breakers on vacation, but a scientific party, comprised of American, Colombian, and Mexican researchers from three different universities: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Naval Postgraduate School, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. Chief scientists, Dr. Ruben Castro (UABC) and Dr. Curtis Collins (NPS), brought their colleagues and students aboard and together with the Point Sur crew, embarked on a scientific expedition sampling the waters at the entrance of the Gulf of California and around the Baja Peninsula.

Map of Collins/Castro proposed stations. Blue dots indicate an across Gulf section in Pescadero Basin and red dots are stations along the Baja California coast that would be used to trace the flow of Gulf of California waters into the Pacific Ocean.

Map of Collins/Castro proposed stations. Blue dots indicate an across Gulf section in Pescadero Basin and red dots are stations along the Baja California coast that would be used to trace the flow of Gulf of California waters into the Pacific Ocean.

Surface waters in the mouth of the Gulf are highly productive, however subsurface waters contain very little oxygen, forcing biological organisms in these waters to use excess nitrogen to survive. As the Gulf and Pacific waters mix, these subsurface waters are transported by the California Undercurrent, possibly having adverse effects on fisheries in southern California due to the lack of oxygen.

Graphic depicting levels of salinity in and around the Gulf of California. The red, orange and yellow colors are a higher concentration of salinity and the purple, and blue are lower

Graphic depicting salinity levels in and around the Gulf of California as mixing occurs with the Pacific Ocean. The red, orange and yellow colors are a higher concentration of salinity and the purple, blue and green are lower.

To understand how these two water bodies interact, a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) probe is being used to measure physical properties of the water column. As the CTD is lowered through the water column, real time data is relayed back to the ship’s computers and can be observed by the researchers. Niskin bottles are used to capture water samples at various depths.

Ready on deck, the CTD package is set to deploy at sunrise - Photo by Ashley Wheeler

Ready on deck, the CTD package is set to deploy at sunrise – Photo by Ashley Wheeler

The samples will be analyzed for nutrients, salt content, and biological productivity. Since leaving Mazatlan, a total of 65 CTD casts have been deployed and recovered, collecting over 400 water samples and we are still counting, working to complete 9 more casts on the way home!

Deploying the CTD - Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Deploying the CTD – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

What is unique about this expedition is the camaraderie that has enveloped the Point Sur because of the international community aboard the ship. This project fosters the continued cooperative, international ocean studies that are necessary to understand joint management of common ocean resources. Although our heritage, nationality, and even our native languages differ, these factors do not inhibit our ability to relate and connect with one another. We all share a common goal – knowledge – Science unites us around the globe!

Ashley Wheeler - Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Ashley Wheeler – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Blog post contributed by Ashley Wheeler, MLML graduate student – For her thesis, Ashley is completing a comparative study on the erosion of salt marshes in Elkhorn Slough. She volunteered to assist in this cruise to expand her fieldwork and increase her ship time experience….Thanks Ashley!

Bunny Day on the Sur

by tpastuszek ~ April 3rd, 2013
Final products of a fine dye job are ready to be hidden for an egg hunt - Photo by Scott Hansen

Final products of a fine dye job are ready to be hidden for an egg hunt – Photo by Scott Hansen

When the holidays arrive, regardless of which one’s you may personally observe, it is important to seize the opportunity for a little fun and morale building on a ship. Currently the crew is transiting to Mazatlan, Mexico and managed to have some fun dyeing eggs on Saturday and throwing an egg hunt this past Sunday….kudos!

Scott Hansen sent in the above pic with the following message: “Happy Easter from 10 degrees South. About 600 miles from the Galápagos Islands.” Keep following the Sur along her journey by using the vessel tracking tool on our website.

Scott Hansen, Barrett Carpenter, Kim Gardner, Amy Biddle and Matt Davis wrangle eggs and dye while at sea - Photo by Steve Lamb

Scott Hansen, Barrett Carpenter, Kim Gardner, Amy Biddle and Matt Davis wrangle eggs and dye while at sea – Photo by Steve Lamb

Thank you to the current crew on the R/V Point Sur for continuing to make progress on this long journey to complete more science and bring the Sur back to her homeport! And, thank you to our Relief Chef, Steve Lamb, for finding the food color in the pantry!

 

Seismic Studies by OSU in the Chilean Subduction Zone

by tpastuszek ~ March 25th, 2013

 

Moorings deployed by Oregon State University are recovered from the ocean floor and aboard the R/V Point Sur - Photo by Scott Hansen

Moorings deployed by Oregon State University are recovered from the ocean floor and aboard the R/V Point Sur – Photo by Scott Hansen

Last week, the Point Sur arrived back in Valparaiso after seven days of scientific operations off the coast of Chile. Led by Chief Scientist, Anne Trehu, the scientists onboard were a dedicated bunch of seismic researchers from Oregon State University who deployed ten moorings in May of 2012.

Each mooring, weighing about 600 pounds, sat on the ocean floor to collect seismic and hydrographic data for almost a year.

One of the moorings being recovered after spending almost one year at the ocean bottom collecting seismic and hydrographic data - Photo by Steve Lamb

One of the moorings being recovered after spending almost one year on the ocean floor – Photo by Steve Lamb

Situated over two thousand meters deep on the Chilean subduction zone, they were collecting data on a ‘megathrust’ fault: an area of extreme tectonic activity. Not too far away, to the south, the Valdivia subduction zone is known for the Great Chilean Earthquake in 1960, which had the highest recorded magnitude in history, 9.5!

An image from Wikimedia depicting an explanation of subduction

An image from Wikimedia depicting an explanation of subduction

The first two days of our trip were more successful than we could have hoped: we retrieved all but one of the moorings from the ocean floor, and the cruise wasn’t even half over.

Another successful mooring recovery in progress - Photo by Steve Lamb

Another successful mooring recovery in progress – Photo by Steve Lamb

But the final mooring proved to be a stubborn one, and did not want to leave the muddy bottom.

For the next three days, we dragged 5000 meters of wire across the  ocean floor, hoping we would haul in the final mooring, or at least  dislodge it from the bottom so it would float to the surface on its own. After countless passes, we had to give up and head to shore.

It was a very successful cruise. We sent our scientists off with nine out of ten moorings, plenty of ocean-bottom surveys, and even a T-shirt or two. Once the data is processed and analyzed, researchers  will have a better understanding of tectonic movement, and why some earthquakes cause devastating tsunamis while others do not.

We have resumed our transit north. Next stop: Arica, Chile!

This blog post was written by Amy Biddle, sailing as second mate on the Point Sur

Transitting through the Chilean Fjords

by tpastuszek ~ March 13th, 2013
Southern Chilean Fjords - photo by Scott Hansen

Southern Chilean Fjords – photo by Scott Hansen

After two months of hard work and scientific excitement in Antarctica,
the crew of the Point Sur is headed North. The ship seems large and
empty with only eight crewmembers as we transit through the fjords of
Southwestern Chile, but the change of pace is welcome.

Map showing area between Punta Arenas and Valparaiso, Chile

Map showing area between Punta Arenas and Valparaiso, Chile

Because the fjords are sometimes difficult to transit, we have two
guests onboard: pilots from Valparaiso who have studied these waters
and made this transit hundreds of times. Standing five hour shifts,
one pilot is on the bridge at all times, expertly navigating us
through narrow channels, past floating salmon fisheries and around
rocky shoals.

Navigating through the Straits of Magellan - photo by Scott Hansen

Navigating through the Straits of Magellan – photo by Scott Hansen

Forged by glaciers, the fjords are a magnificent display of the power
of wind, ice and water. As we journey north, craggy, barren rocks jut
out of the water. Cliff faces with cascading waterfalls and scraggly
trees surround us. The sea floor below us is just as bumpy as the
landscape ahead of us. In a mile-wide channel the water might be as
much as a thousand meters deep, or it may be dangerously shallow, with
rocks just beneath the surface. It’s a good thing our pilots know
these waters well.

Amy Biddle in Antarctica - photo by Scott Hansen

Amy Biddle in Antarctica – photo by Scott Hansen

This blogpost contributed by Amy Biddle. Amy sailed on the Sur for the Antarctic expedition as an A/B and is currently sailing as Second Mate for the transit North. Amy works full-time at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and is also an up and coming author. Check out Amy’s website and read about her debut novel, “An Athiest’s Prayer”

Navigating Antarctica – Ice and Weather

by tpastuszek ~ March 11th, 2013

Point Sur in the distance past an ice flow

Indeed it has been an epic journey for the good and trusty ship Point Sur and her capable crew. The Antarctic part of the voyage has come to a close and we would like to recognize some of the many agencies behind the scenes that assisted us along the way.

As some of you know, Antarctica is a hostile environment in many respects. There are two very important factors responsible for this. One is the never ending change in the ice conditions and the second is the weather.  Not necessarily in that order, but they both go hand and hand. Either one of these factors can be a show-stopper in the meeting of science objectives and, more importantly, the safety of the ship and all that sail aboard her.

An example of a satellite image of ice conditions provided by the U.S. National Ice Center

An example of a satellite image of ice conditions provided by the U.S. National Ice Center

During this deployment to the frozen continent we received daily updated ice and weather reports which proved to be invaluable in assisting us in the decision making  process for a safe and productive voyage.

Imagery depicting weather conditions and sea state for the working area of the R/V Point Sur

Imagery depicting weather conditions and sea state for the working area of the R/V Point Sur

On behalf of Captain Rick Verlini, the Crew and Scientists aboard the Research Vessel Point Sur, we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to the folks at the following agencies:  The National Ice Center in Suitland, Maryland – The Navy Fleet Weather Center, in Norfolk, Virginia – The Navy Fleet Weather Center in San Diego, California.  Their professionalism and timely, accurate weather and ice reports contributed greatly to safety and success of the R/V Point Sur during this expedition.

Capt. Diego Mello, photo by Tara Pastuszek

Capt. Diego Mello, photo by Tara Pastuszek

Captain Diego Mello contributed this post and sailed on the Sur during the Antarctic expedition as the Onboard Ice Advisor and Chief Mate. Capt. Mello works full-time at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and we greatly appreciate the lending of his expertise to support this voyage.

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