The first couple days of the cruise felt like a false start, but transiting to Trinidad Head off the coast of Northern California two days early acted as a reset button.
The plan to head south early stemmed from some weather that was threatening the Newport stations. During the 21 hours of travel, the team was able to work on the MOCNESS sensors, which had stopped responding, not allowing any physical sampling to be done off Newport. The main lab table turned into a work bench with the chief scientist, a resident technician, and several engineers huddled around the MOCNESS’s electrical guts. Everyone who wasn’t actively helping seemed to instinctively clear out of the work space, not wanting to add any more stress to the room.
It’s in hindsight that I can recognize how disconnected I felt from the process at the time, because there wasn’t much process to speak of. Every hour some new frustration was popping up and the regimented collecting and testing I had expected hadn’t started yet. It wasn’t until day four of the cruise, the morning we arrived in Trinidad Head, that the amount of practiced science happening started to outweigh the time spent on repairs.
Once the first California station went well, things started moving fast. The original plan was to spend four days off of Newport, alternating ISIIS imaging days and MOCNESS sampling days, then repeating the process in Trinidad Head. The reality was that we lost two days of sampling in Newport and if we wanted to complete all of the cruise objectives, we had to double down. It was time to fit four days of work into two at Trinidad Head so we could loop back to Newport with three days left to collect data.
Suddenly, the labs switched from a handful of scientists roaming around looking for things to do, to seemingly double the amount of people all rushing to put the protocols into action. Each station’s samples had barely been processed by the time we reached the next, throwing everyone from first to fifth gear.
But the chaos was welcomed with open arms and everyone acclimated to the new pace almost immediately. As the rhythm was set, I started feel more grounded. This is what a research cruise is like.
We’re currently sitting back at the Newport dock as I’m writing this. Much more has happened in the last week than what I’ve written, but processing it takes time and perspective that I’ve yet to gain. One thing is for sure: I have no shortage of material for my final story.
I am a third year journalism student at the University of Oregon with a focus in traditional written journalism and interview techniques. Science communication is an underrepresented field of journalism that I’m excited to explore and produce content for through this internship.