The stateroom I share with Jordi Maisch is pitch black, as if twilight itself went to sleep. It’s 4:59am, and I woke up just before my watch alarm would vibrate my wrist. The air is stale like a flat soda, but I’ve grown accustomed to the funk of two men confined in a small stateroom. In quiet protest, I turn off the watch and stare up at the bunk. My eyes strain to adjust to the darkness while my brain tries to remember where I put my shirt that I was going to wear. Under my pillow? On the hook across the room? Or maybe it’s a clean shirt day from the drawer? In all likelihood, I will put on my shirt inside out, only to be called out later by the science crew in the late afternoon. Why they don’t call me out earlier still perplexes me. But, I am trying to be a good bunkmate and not turn on the light while Jordi sleeps. Each day, I count my lucky stars that he does not snore. I hear him breathing softly above me in the bunk above. Holding my breath, I sit up from my bunk quietly, praying that it doesn’t make a sound to wake him. The ascent to vertical feels like the slow climb on a roller coaster and ultimately this motion secures my fate of getting up for the morning. Wobbly from the lack of sleep and gentle roll of the ship, I attempt to put on my pants. Socks are stuffed into a pant pocket to be put on down in the lab near my Xtra Tuffs. The smell of bacon permeates the ship, an odiferous welcome to the day. I open the door to our stateroom and secure it tightly…normally without a sound but today, a slight click. My legs propel my body involuntarily—the quest for coffee. I am certain that each morning my eyes are still closed as I walk into the mess like a zombie in search for caffeine. Fortunately, I am greeted by seven or eight other zombies all searching for the same thing.
0600. The R/V Ocean Starr is on a science station. Science crew don their life jackets and hard hats. Not much is spoken at this early hour. Brains are still foggy and full of cobwebs. At this stage in the cruise, mornings at 0600 roll like muscle memory. The CTD rosette is being prepared to be deployed. Folks who will be filtering water crowd behind David Strausz who operates the CTD computer from the lab. Mugs of coffee are brimming with steam coming from the tops. I grab my lavender nitrile gloves and write down on my right hand the bottles of water from which to draw water on the CTD. Later, these bottles will be filtered for chlorophyll, an indicator of phytoplankton biomass and abundance. Thus far, I have probably filtered more than 500 liters of Northern Bering and Chukchi water single handedly. That’s around 250 bottles of Dr. Pepper that you would get at the store. The phytoplankton team has probably quadrupled that number collectively for other experiments. Some water is used for phytoplankton growth experiments, phytoplankton species identification, measuring oxygen and nitrate, harmful algae, nutrients in the water, how nutritious the phytoplankton are (i.e., fatty acids) for zooplankton, and the list goes on. No water is left behind after it has been collected. Most of the samples are collected, then frozen at -80 Celcius to be later analyzed in the lab.
My camera batteries were charging overnight and are ready to go. One camera is fixed with a 35mm lens and the other a 50mm. The boat’s beam is narrow, and the deck and lab are cramped which affords only small focal length lenses. I regret at times bringing my longer lenses for their weight and sheer inconvenience. That said, however, I feel closer to the action than on previous cruises. Mooring deployments are about to begin. Pete Shipton calls to the bridge for permission to drop the transducer, a device used to communicate with the moorings underwater.
The power light flashes on both cameras.
Time to start another day—it’s Groundhog Day.