Paige's CO2 Adventure

“So if I need to go pee, when would be a good time to do that?”

Its hour six of my 12 hour shift. Winds and seas have died and we are going all gas no brakes on the sampling and measurements. Myself and my counterpart Cassandra have been constantly doing something the whole time. I ask the chief scientist and lead marine technician about my bathroom break.

They respond with silence.

Next time I’ll remember to bring diapers.

The Sample Ballet

Now that were underway and sampling 24/7, I am beginning to appreciate just how choreographed and efficient these research cruises are. Everything works like a well-oiled machine, with a language of radio calls and movements. There is a whiteboard, the “Board of lies” that contains any important changes to the schedule, and everyone proceeds accordingly. Mealtimes are STRICT and EARLY. No one is late for their shift, and if they are it just takes a quick look at the bunk assignments to determine which door to bang down.

From noon to midnight everyday my only goal is to get the CTD rosette loaded, deployed, correctly filled, correctly emptied, cleaned, and ensure that all the preliminary data is stored properly. Its repetitive but important. As follows are the protocols for prep, deploying, collecting, and cleaning the CTD rosette we use on the RV TGT.

Open and cock all of the 36 niskin bottles. These are the bottles that store all of the water samples. They have openings at the top and bottom, and are held under tension by a VERY strong spring. People have broken fingers not doing this carefully.

Clean and remove caps from all of the tools on the rosette. Our rosette has 36 niskin bottles (big black tubes that collect water), two CTD sensors (sensors that constantly measure conductivity temperature and depth), a sensor that measures chlorophyll (green pigment that phytoplankton produce), two oxygen sensors, and a LADCP (lower acoustic dopler current profiler) which is measuring particle speeds as we go through the water column.
Ensure the nozzles and caps are all tightened.

We consult with the echosounder, a type of radar coming from the bottom of the ship to measure depth, and choose a sampling scheme for the given depth, assigning a depth to each bottle.
Radio the deck crew and crane operator that we are ready to deploy. One crane operator and three deck crew work to get the CTD rolled out onto the deck and up and deployed over the boat.

We take all measurements (lat, long, temp, pressure) on the deck, on the surface of the water, and at 10m in the water. We monitor all the performance of the instruments from the computer lab.

Once everything is on and looking groovy, we ask the crane to take the CTD up to the surface and then back down to the target depth of 10m off the seafloor (currently around 4000m) As the CTD goes down we monitor the measurements, take notes of any anomalies, and wait patiently.

After reaching just above the seafloor (and being very careful not to touch it) We follow a sampling scheme we picked to space out the 36 bottles. For the next hour or two, we do a carefully timed dance with the winch operator of reaching certain depths, talking with the winch operator, taking measurements, and firing the bottles.

Once all the bottles are fired and the CTD is safely back on the deck, its time to collect the water and get some science done. The boat gets underway to the next station.

Before the cruise all the scientists who were collecting water samples worked out an order in which to sample once the bottles are opened. Generally, the more sensitive samples should go first. There is a massive pressure difference between the deep water and surface, and gas samples, for example, could be compromised if they are left exposed to surface pressure for too long.

While the CTD was raised in the water column, the scientists filled out what bottles they were going to use for what samples. Sometimes scientists need only the surface measurements, sometimes only every other measurement, etc.

For the next two or so hours we work our way around the rosette extracting water and logging samples in the correct order. Two hours may seem like a long time, so its important to mention that collecting water samples is not as simple as unscrewing a cap and draining into a bottle. Every variable has a different protocol for how to sample.

As the samples are collected, the scientist shouts the number of the niskin bottle they want to open and what sample number this will be. The “sample cop” checks the logs, and if they are good to go, shouts the information back at them and gives them the green light. The whole process is funny and loud and very wet, as most samples require that you rinse the device you are collecting in thoroughly multiple times.

Sampling is hands down my favorite part. Its cold and chaotic but everyone is working together, shooting the shit, acting a fool on the deck of the moving ship. It’s the only chance we have to be in the same space before the scientists begin analyzing the samples and the CTD operators have to go back and pilot another deployment. Usually someone brings a speaker. Good vibes only.

By this time the boat has reached the next collection station. Once everyone has taken their measurements, the niskin bottles are emptied and we start the whole process over again.
View from the deck as we sample the CTD, trying to keep warm.

Captians Log

Saturday 3-20-21
The Atlantic Ocean doesn’t give a shit about you or me or anyone. As I write this were going on two full days of suspended science because of dangerous sea conditions. Every time I look out a porthole the view is oscillating between sky and white capped blue grey chaotic swells. Ive gotten almost no sleep the last two nights with the pounding swell and suspense of lying in the pitch-black waiting to rock or roll or sink.

Monday 3-22-21
Lets ROCK!!!
Science is in full swing on the TGT! Now that the seas have finally calmed, were churning and burning through sampling. The stations at the beginning of this cruise are 3 miles apart, then distanced to 13 miles, then to 35 miles. As it stands after the weather delay we are 20 hours behind schedule. Its been a team effort to start putting a dent on that number, but as long as we don’t encounter any other storms I really think we can do it.


Where is the Thomas Thompson right now?

Lets find out!


Clockwise from left: Alana, admiring an Atlantic Ocean morning,  My fancy bunk room, Oxygen talking measurements and samples, alkalinity samples in the main lab.
XOXO Paige Hoel

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