Back from the sea

Why, yes, I am reading Hamlet underneath a perfect rainbow. I swear all marine science is just like this. Photo by Chang Shu.

Hi internet! I just spent the month of July sailing (yes! sailing!) from Honolulu to San Francisco aboard Sea Education Association’s vessel SSV Robert C. Seamans. (I went out with them last year as well). SEA’s main mission is education, and for students seeking an incredible, life-changing introduction to seafaring and ocean science I can’t recommend their programs highly enough. But you don’t have to take my word for it – check out the student blog.

This cruise, I was aboard as a visiting researcher, riding along so I could work my evil bidding on the zooplankton of North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and Subtropical Convergence Zone. I also helped sail the ship and run science operations as part of B Watch, and did my best to indoctrinate the students into the glories of the planktonic universe. We caught some top-notch critters – including something very special that I will blog about very soon. (Hint: Not a kraken.) Other excellent biology: a huge hyperiid amphipod swarm over a hundred miles across, the raptorial copepod Euchaeta (a giant copepod that shreds other copepods with giant spiked appendages) , delicious mahi-mahi and albacore tuna, and of course a pod of bowriding common dolphins. To tide you over, here’s a photo taken on this cruise of one of my very favorite copepods, Sappharina spp. So pretty! The males have iridescent displays to attract the ladies.

Sappharnid copepod. Isn't he handsome?

I also made a very important discovery. Non-denatured ethanol, which is used to preserve organisms for genetic work, often comes in huge 20-gallon drums. These particular drums were helpfully labeled – see the wording to the upper right of the large red Flammable Liquid diamond. Make sure not to drink scientific-grade non-denatured ethanol on Pesach, fellow Jews! Note: Even if alcohol were not strictly banned on board US research vessels, which it is, 95% ethanol is NOT for consumption! Besides, your plankton needs it more than you.

Also four cups of this would kill you.

Other non-science perks of this particular voyage: reading Hamlet underneath a rainbow while anchored off O’ahu (See top photo. HOLY CRAP THIS IS MY JOB! Well, not the Hamlet part), truly amazing food including fresh homemade bagels, singing a lot of shanties, and of course wearing my Deep Sea News Hat while sitting on top of the foremast.

I looked down. The deck was very far away. That explains my expression in the other photo.
On top of the foremast in my awesome Deep Sea News hat. Why aren't I smiling? Cause holding the camera with one hand and desperately clutching the ratlines with the other takes CONCENTRATION!

12 Replies to “Back from the sea”

  1. M.G.-

    You make science cool. Glad you made it back safe and sound and full of samples.


  2. What are the really big blue calanoid copepods we get in our neustonic plankton tows? Someone told me Acartia but I figured you’d know.

  3. I don’t really know too much about your science that you’re studying Miriam. But from an outsiders point of view, as an animal lover in general, the photo of that sea creature is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it. Thank you so much for sharing that wonderful journey on the ship at sea.

  4. I really think we should start a new blog series entitled “Scientific Adventureland with the Deep-sea News Beanie” I SO should have taken that hat to Japan with me!!

  5. Wow, great photo and sounds like it was a great trip. What was it like spending a month out at sea ?

  6. To me, one of the best feelings in the world is watching the land vanish on the horizon, knowing that I won’t see it again for a month. I love blue-water sailing and I love the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre ecosystem and I get excited every single time the plankton net comes out of the water. There are so many wonderful creatures out there and you never know what you’re going to catch – iridescent blue sea slugs, jellyfish the size of your fist so transparent that you can barely see them even when you know they’re there, a vast swarm of millions upon millions of mottled brown amphipods… I love that I don’t have to think about anything except the sea for a month, and I love the companionship that arises when 35 people and a 130 foot ship and the endless horizon are the entire world.

    But usually when people ask this question they have one specific thing in mind. Yes, I do get seasick. Yes, you can be a marine biologist and spend the first 2-3 days of every cruise staring at the horizon, munching Saltines, and trying not to vomit into the plankton net. Yes, I do get over it, and there’s a 95% chance you would too! :)

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