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Paige's CO2 Adventure

Disclaimer: there are plenty of swear words in this post
Crew member Maria shooting an expired flare off the ship into the mid Atlantic nothingness

Your questions answered!

Does everyone swear?
Yes. A whole fucking lot. Its pretty funny actually to listen to some of the super established and respected scientists on this trip swear like sailors and tell nasty jokes

Hows the food?
SO good! I’ve been slacking taking pictures and honestly I am a big salad gal (lame I know) Lunch and dinner are while I’m on so I usually throw a big bowl together and take it down to my desk. That being said we’ve had some legendary dinners and lots of fish. Charcuterie comes out every other day in the afternoon and its GOOD.

Dolphins?
I’m gonna address this one head on. No fucking dolphins. Please don’t ask me again. Even if there were its really hard to get a good picture of a dolphin from a ship steaming at 12 knots over rough seas. Also I’m not a marine biologist and I don’t know anything about dolphins. Sorry to disappoint the vast majority of everyone reading this newsletter.

What do I miss?
Hahahaha gosh… nothing really if I’m being quite honest. I am starting to really miss some of my friends but I’ve always fancied myself as a pretty independent person. I’ve had more interaction, friendship, and socializing on this ship than maybe any other time in my life, let alone during COVID. I probably wouldn’t want to do this for more than two months, but as of right now I don’t want to get off.
I do miss my long morning runs, and I’m starting to miss doing my own research. I also didn’t download enough podcasts.
I do miss swimming. A LOT. Which brings me to another question

Dives?
No, I wish. Contrary to what you might think theres usually no diving or free swimming off an oceanographic vessel once its past a certain size. Someone was attacked in 1994 by a shark on a NOAA boat and since they’ve banned it. Although diving is very cool, its primarily of scientific utility to marine biologists, none of which on board. As a scientific tool, diving is fantastically inefficient for collecting water samples and chemical oceanography in general (bummer ☹) That being said, most everyone on board does love diving and has their licenses. Our ships nurse is also a dive instructor on the weekends in St. Thomas!

CO2 in the deep ocean?
Ah yes! Thank you for asking! The carbon cycle is a wonderful and complicated component of the ocean. In the surface understanding where carbon is going and what form it is in (CO2, organic carbon, etc.) can tell us whats living there and how life is doing at different levels of the food chain.
In the deep, (lets say below 1,000m) it’s a totally different ball game. When seawater makes the difficult transition from the surface ocean to the deep (which can only really happen a couple of places on earth) it preserves a lot of its properties, like salinity (salt content). The properties are preserved so much so that we can say with pretty high confidence where that parcel of deep water came from and how it is. One reason we want to analyze CO2 in the deep ocean is to date the water and find its origin. We can then compare spatially and temporally rich datasets to tell us how much CO2 the ocean is drawing down from the atmosphere at this present moment. We can go further and compare to past rates, and make predictions for the future.
Additionally, the deep water will eventually rise to the surface and “degas”, releasing the CO2 it contained back to the atmosphere. We want to know how much degassing to expect, and see how this degassing might change as us humans accelerate certain components of the carbon cycle with fossil fuel emissions.
The ocean stores the vast majority of its carbon in the deep, and without this deep carbon storage and drawdown of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean, the earth would be much MUCH hotter.
This is one of MANY reasons we want to measure CO2 in the deep ocean (and why its rather urgent) I am not an expert on the carbon cycle or CO2, but this topic I find to be fascinating. If this was not clear, or if you have additional questions, please let me know.


Oceans are deserts??
YES! Nutrient deserts!
What makes the cycle of nutrients in the ocean so vastly different from land is that the nutrients SINK in the ocean. If you are not in a coastal area, whats not caught is lost, sunken into the abyss. So it might not seem far fetched that the open ocean, like where we are, average depth of 5000m, is nutrient deplete, with very little biology and productivity to speak of. Few marine mammals enjoy hanging out in the open ocean.
Paraphrasing the oceanographer Bob Ballard, “people don’t realize that most of the surface of earth is mud.” 70% of the earths surface is covered in ocean and most of the seafloor surface once you leave the coastline is mud. Welcome to the ocean desert.

Lessons learned thus far?
My job is frankly the scientific bitch of the boat. And when we mess up, even if its something small like not tightening a cap enough on one of the 36 bottles on the rosette, people take serious issue. Some more than others… Stakes are high out here, and there’s little to no tolerance for mistakes
I already knew this before, but I am reminded of some of the entitlement of scientists. Even here many of them don’t converse very much with the crew, as if they’re not worthy of their attention. I was talking with one of the galley mates thins morning, Terrence, whos been working on this ship for thee last 10 years, and he expressed a lot of frustration with the attitudes of many scientists aboard the ship, and how INACCESSIBLE this science can be. PREACH TERRENCE!
I also learned that the crew has some rivalries. I think some of the winch operators have beef, and its caused some tension with the radio communications the past couple of days.
I’ve learned that pretty ,much everyone out heres is hooked for one reason or another. Everyone loves the ocean, the ship, this life, for different reasons. I love that.
I’ve learned you can throw organic easily decomposable food waste overboard when you're in the open ocean!
I’ve learned you can keep lettuce fresh for three (going on four) weeks


Lessons about myself?
Maybe I’ll address this in a future newsletter all its own.
 

Captians Log

Tuesday 4-6-21

It’s a good day to have a good day! The last three or so days on the ship have been frankly uneventful , which is a good thing. We’ve passed the half way mark with our sampling and are now in the TROPICS. After we passed 17N latitude the humidity jumped from 60% to 75%. Now some people cant hang with the heat. More and more of the crew are shaving their heads.

The chief scientist, Ryan, is very kind, and was on the shy side when we started this cruise. I now feel that hes opening up, and were enjoying lots of little silent moments together, staring down at the blue water, sitting together in the computer lab. Being chief scientist on a cruise is something that’s important for oceanographers, especially chemical oceanographers, to do in their career. That being said, it’s a huge amount of responsibility and from what I can tell, not very fun at all. You have to be  the bad guy a lot. You have to problem solve when things arise (and a lot of things arise let me tell you) You have to keep things on schedule. You have to communicate with resources and collaborators on shore. I know the responsibility of all of this is hanging heavy on him, and I’m thankful that we get to share some moments of reprieve.

Wednesday 4-7-21

I want to be honest about my experience on this ship and share both the good and bad, and not try to hold myself to the standard of being perfect (shoutout my therapist!) So I’ll share with you that I don’t feel respected by some of the scientific crew. Two people have consistently spoken down to me and my shiftmate Cass. I’ll also share that I feel resentment building the dayshift and the night shift in my position. I don’t think anything warranted this drama, and I’ve truly done my best to be kind and respectful to everyone on this ship. That respect is reciprocated by many, but the few that do not greatly affect me.
Where I do from here I do not know. I like open and honest communication, and a large part of me wants to air out the tension I feel building with the opposite shift, and make sure theres no bad blood between us because of assumptions or miscommunication. The weaker (or stronger?) part of me wants to swallow it, move on, and kill everyone with kindness. My hoped for the other two people that have disrespected me are lesser. One I thought was becoming a lifelong friend, and the total shift in their demeanor and manner of treatment was shocking and hurtful. I don’t know if its worth it to approach them and let them know I’ve been disrespected or if that’ll add fuel to the fire.

At the end of the day, I’m the least respected "scientist" on the boat. (I want to make very clear that the CREW of the ship has been nothing but kind, wonderful, fun, and welcoming) I hold the least power, and the manner in which many people talk to me remind me of that constantly. There’s no where to hide on a boat. And there’s no one to listen to you when you’re at the bottom of the food chain.

Scientists can be really  mean.

 

Where is the Thomas Thompson right now?

Lets find out!

Pictures!!

Clockwise from left : Abby and I marveling at the sargassum, another flare fired off the stern, and the Styrofoam cups we sunk to 5800 meters (before and after) (notice the head)  
XOXO Paige Hoel
paige.hoel@gmail.com

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