Latitude: -66 03.5875 Longitude: -66 16.3921
00:01 hrs, November 3, 2020-
As the calendar day starts on the boat, my workday is just ending. “Day shift” is relieved at midnight from that shift’s activities and we head over to the mess for what is, to us, dinner, to the night Shift, breakfast, and to those with a normal sleep schedule, is Mid Rats (Midnight Rations). Tonight is fettucine alfredo with chicken. I eat quickly and then head straight to bed. I am notorious for staying up too late and I’m trying to force myself to get more sleep to avoid the fabled burnout that comes with being overeager and under-rested. I briefly ask Chief Scientist/my PhD advisor/candy fairy/invert extraordinaire Ken Halanych what the plan is for the next day. As with most days, the answer is unclear. We’ve had to adjust our route away from the Weddell Sea because of too much ice and are instead heading toward Marguerite Bay, which I have been lovingly calling Margaritaville. Ken does let me know I should be up early to catch some intense sights in transit to our next station.
00:30 hrs, November 3, 2020-
I try and read a bit in bed, but pass out almost immediately. Goodnight!
06:30 hrs, November 3, 2020-
Awake again. I try to go back to bed, but my old age of 25 has caused me to become one of those people who only sleeps about 6 hours a night. I resign myself to getting out of bed and finding something to do instead of fighting it. I also look forward to going to True Breakfast (night shift lunch, the meal the day shift never sees). I head downstairs and am greeted with the usual chorus of “Caitlin, why are you up?” and “Caitlin, go back to bed”. After a month of this, they should know better by now! I work a bit on a manuscript, get to make myself a breakfast sandwich, and work on prepping samples for packing and shipping. Today I’m getting some of the 2 ml tube samples done, which is easy but can be a bit tedious. This requires making sure all labels are legible and wrapping each tube in a parafilm tape seal. Nusrat will be so proud of me for getting this done early.
10:00 hrs, November 3, 2020-
Everyone who isn’t up already, is woken up and we all head out to see the Le Maire Strait. Giant glaciers funnel us into a space which seems only about ¼ mile across where we’re totally surrounded by mind boggling cliffs and ice on either side. The past few days have made the Straits of Magellan looks like child’s play. Every day is more beautiful than the next it seems. Everyone hangs out on the bow until they’re too cold or wind swept to stand it anymore and we all head inside around 11:30, just in time for True Lunch (day shift breakfast, night shift dinner).
12:00 hrs, November 3, 2020-
We’re transiting so there isn’t any sampling to be done yet, but on these days we use the time to catch up on other work, organize the lab, do more packing prep, change samples out of old preservative and into new their final solutions, or work on any side projects we’ve cooked up along the way that don’t fall directly under the grant objectives. We finally arrive at our new station around 17:00 hrs, just before True Dinner (day shift lunch, night shift’s lost meal).
18:00 hrs, November 3, 2020-
After multi-beaming to find the best spot to collect from, we usually use the yo-yo cam or a GoPro to get a sneak peak at the sea floor. We can’t do that today because we’ve been breaking ice, meaning the water where we usually put the camera in is not water, it’s a few feet of ice. This means doing our trawl or epibenthic sled without quite knowing what to expect, but I think it just adds to the excitement. I joke about getting one of those trawls that’s just mud and rocks. Famous last words.
18:30hrs, November 3, 2020-
The Blake trawl comes up and it’s, you guessed it, mud and rocks. This is an unfortunate but real part of our sampling. Somedays we just don’t get the right stuff, and other days like today, a rock that is just a little too sharp rips our net at the seafloor and the sample comes up relatively small and pretty rocky. Not all is lost though! The team shifts gears from processing like a normal trawl to sifting through the mud for the meiofaunal samples the Kocot lab loves. This goes relatively quickly since the whole sample is probably only two buckets full, but we find some cool little things along the way. A couple scaphapods, a few sea spiders, your usual suspects of nephtyid worms, a stray ophiuroid. I’m a combination of disappointed but also a little relieved. It’s windy and snowing and not the fun kind of snow that’s fluffy snowflakes, and holiday music, and magical snowmen. It’s the kind of snow that feels a little bit more like tiny ice knives coming at you at 20 mph. Don’t worry, we still got in a few snowballs.
19:30 hrs, November 3, 2020-
The few, but appreciated, samples are brought in and processed for preservation. Species are cataloged and preserved. I get to blast my favorite songs of the moment from the speakers that amphipod whisperer, Kyle David, has lent us for the lab space.
20:00hrs, November 3, 2020-
I head up to my room to change into some dry socks and grab my mug to go get some tea. I think I’ll get some more work done on my manuscript and a talk I’m prepping for a virtual conference. I get into my room and I’m more tired than I thought I was when downstairs with all the adrenaline of the day. I’m not going to go to sleep yet, there’s still stuff I want to get done while we transit for the rest of our shift. I’m just going to sit down on my bed for a few minutes while I warm up…
00:30 hrs, November 4, 2020-
I wake up with a start. So much for not falling asleep! I still have to write my blog!
Ph.D. Student in the Halanych Lab