Twenty-four days on a research cruise may seem daunting at first, but when you take it one day at a time, the time moves by with ease. So what does a normal day look like on the R/V Ocean Starr? Well, it starts pretty early.
5:55 The bow thruster rumbles and shakes my bunk… the boat is waking up. Is it really time to get up already? I turn over and check the clock, 15 more minutes in a warm bed before a day of constantly fighting off a chill. My short commute of about 30 seconds, from my room in the bow to the lab in the stern, is justification to get in those last few moments of rest.
6:30 Breakfast. Reggae blasting in the galley sets the mood for the morning. From the fish lab we peered out on deck to see an icy rainbow lighting up the grey sky.
8:00 The crew in the wheelhouse radio down the command to haul back the surface trawl. I stagger and jump step with the swells to get into my Grundens bibs, float coat, hat, buff, and multiple layers of gloves to brave the cold.
Forceps in hand, we arrive at the sorting table to find the usual catch of jellyfish with fish tangled in the tentacles.
9:00 We sort the catch and identify the fish species (sand lance, capelin, age-0 Arctic cod, and sculpin are the typical finds).
Stinging nettle jellyfish flop loudly into bins as I weigh and measure the bell diameter. Bongo nets (for zooplankton and fish larvae) are then deployed. Nissa Ferm resumes her station at the microscope, identifying the creatures caught with a rapid zooplankton assessment. We all hear the dinging of the counter by her station, signaling another little critter is identified.
10:00 Time for the CTD. We suit up in our rain gear and knee pads, preparing to kneel for about an hour on deck collecting seawater samples from various depths. I walk out into the snow with my shower caddy full of sampling bottles. I filter the samples while the second CTD cast is launched and brought back on deck. We go out again to fill bottles for fatty acid collection and phytoplankton production experiments. Snow flurries swirl around us as large gusts of icy wind try to freeze our poor fingers as we take water samples that are even colder (about 5 degrees Celsius) from depths of 50 meters or more.
10:30 Time to filter again. I breathe a sigh of relief when we get to step back into the lab, take off our wet clothing and warm up our hands. Lisa Eisner pipettes water for stable isotope and nutrient analysis and collects the bottles for the phytoplankton experiments. We bring them out on deck to the incubation chamber (a tank of seawater). This has become our little aquarium where we keep some treasures from the beam trawls... today coral-colored basket stars are the main exhibit.
11:00 Lunch time! We all try to eat quickly while the perfect beam trawl location is determined by acoustics.
11:45 Haul back on the beam trawl. I step out on deck with my hands already wanting me to go back into the comfort of the fish lab. We are greeted at the sorting table with a mountain of brittle stars caked in mud. Time to get out the hose! The seawater of the hose and wind add extra chill to already cold-tormented hands. A few treasures are found with some patience, a keen eye, and forceps. We found an octopus, a nudibranch, some fish and many snow crab.
12:30 Count, weigh, and measure the 113 snow crab while Libby Logerwell, Robert Levine, Cathleen Vestfals, and Johanna Vollenweider identify fish species.
15:00 Done with beam trawl sorting and entering!
15:30 We have a meeting to discuss the next few busy days of sampling.
We make a plan trying to get everything completed in the Beaufort Sea while keeping to our scheduled arrival time into Nome.
16:00 Filter phytoplankton production experiment samples.
17:00 Dinner and time off!
19:00 I sit on deck looking for walrus, unsuccessful again….
21:00 I let the waves rock me to sleep while mentally preparing to do it all again tomorrow.