Paige's CO2 Adventure

Today we saw our first Sargassum!
I was working out on the Main deck before my shift when I saw a small yellow clump off of the ship. Soon we were lowering nets off the ship and attempting to collect the little guys, a surprisingly difficult task when the deck of the boat is 10 ft off the water and the swell is 10-15 ft. Abby, a student from the University of Miami here to sample dissolved organic carbon, is a marine biologist by trade, and jumped up to help me clean and identify the samples we collected.
There was so much LIFE on this tiny patch of foliage in the middle of the open, nutrient poor, lonely ocean. As we progress to the equator we will only see more and more.
Man I love the ocean.
A small clump of Sargassum. A blip in the blue to us but a haven to many happy little ocean critters.

Welcome to the Sargasso Sea

Have you ever heard of the great Atlantic sargassum belt?

For those that have been following my journey from the beginning, I mentioned in the second newsletter that I would be sampling Sargassum. I am collecting data for a project that analyzes the nutrient ratios of the seaweed.

So why sargassum? And what do I mean by nutrient ratios?

Sargassum, like most living things, needs a few key nutrients to survive. The two that are usually in limited supply, and therefore limit the growth of the sargassum, are nitrogen and phosphorous. If you cut off a leaf of seaweed and analyzed how much carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous it contained, you could create a ratio. This would tell you, for example, that sargassum contains on average 106 carbon atoms to one nitrogen atom.

Seaweed is smart, and it can adjust how much nitrogen or phosphorous it needs to survive. If there is less nutrients available, it will bump down the ratio, using more carbon for every nitrogen cell it contains. When nutrients become more available, it will use more of those nutrients on average, using less carbon for every nitrogen atom.

Agricultural fertilizers contain excess nitrogen and phosphorous, so much so that these excesses flow into the ocean and provide these limited nutrients to marine life, sargassum included. This excess of nutrients, combined with warm sea surface temperatures that are condusive to seaweed growth, has resulted in some extreme seaweed blooms.

We are collecting this seaweed to later analyze the nutrient ratios. These ratios will be compared to other latitudes and previous years. This information will give insight to how we are affecting the natural cycles, and how things may be in the years to come.
So far, were REALLY far from land and were seeing a LOT of sargassum. More and more as we move south. More updates to come!
Sargassum drying ovens. These dried samples will be analyzed back on shore.

Captians Log

Friday 3-26-2021
Around 11 today, as the CTD was being pulled out of the water, something happened on the winch, and the CTD got jammed at the top of the winch. They pulled out the crane to unjam it, and most importantly no one was injured. Everyone watched in suspense for 30 minutes as the engineers and amazing crew came in to get the thing safely down. The wire that supplies energy to the CTD and connects it to the ship is very sensitive at the top, and because of what happened the decision was made to replace this area, which is often referred to as the “termination”
That’s the thing that amazes me about a ship like this… you just have to keep going. Countless repairs are done on the fly. Furthermore, these repairs are done as the boat is moving if possible, many done as the boat is moving and scientists are sampling data and its raining and were heading into a storm. Boat people are made different.

Sunday 3-28-2021 (Station 30 of 90)
  • Everyone on this boat is really into cribbage. I have tried, and I’m sorry to say I don’t get the hype. Apparently this is a common obsession on oceanographic cruises…
  • a swear jar has appeared in the galley. I think it would be filled quickly, however no one is carrying cash as we havent set foot on shore for weeks now…
  • Note to self, bring more gum next cruise
I’m really falling in love with this boat. Its repetitive and exhausting and just so much damn fun. I havent had a chance to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people like this since pre COVID. As an extreme extrovert I really draw my energy from the interactions I have with those around me. This wave of socializing and science and friendship combined with a major shift that was already beginning to happen in my life before leaving has been such a blessing.
I feel more alive and myself on this cruise than ever before. I feel nervous about facing life when I get off this ship in three weeks. I feel really valued here. Truly welcomed and appreciated. I am loving peeling back the layers of my new friends. I love that we have an opportunity to fill monotony with happiness or nonsense. And I love being around so many nerds. OCEAN nerds.


Where is the Thomas Thompson right now?

Lets find out!


Clockwise from left: Drew, Abby, and Nicolette spotting Sargassum, a port hole, my idiot friends Ben and Cass <3, and the CTD precariously wedged into the winch, being rescued by the crane. 
XOXO Paige Hoel

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