Friday, May 13, 2011

Halfway to Palmyra

Greetings from the central Pacific, where the Seamans has passed our halfway point to Palmyra, and the Southern Cross rises higher each night! The past 24 hours have been filled with clouds and a strong breeze, but the lack of blue sky hasn't dampened the boat's bright enthusiasm. To mark our first week in, we declared today 'Fluorescent Friday,' meaning that everyone showed up for their watch periods in highlighter green, pink and yellow clothing, complete with vibrant sunglasses and orange socks. I'm amazed we all had a similar inclination to stuff bright clothing into our duffles before the trip!

Examining the contents of a net trawl
Yesterday we deployed two Tucker Trawls, nets that are designed to open at specific depths in order to collect a sample of the biology at those depths, as part of our scientific mission is to track the biodiversity of the region we sail over. When we brought the Tucker Trawls back on board, we found lots of exciting deep-sea organisms! Some of the notable finds were a juvenile snipe eel, red shrimp, baby squid and a juvenile hatchetfish. The biology continued this morning with a sighting of pilot whales splashing in and out of the waves around our stern. We're still working on the mahi mahi catch - hopefully we'll land some fresh fish soon!

A Pacific blackdragon brought up from the depths
Julia marks the sun's position with a sextant
We are using the navigational techniques we learned at Hopkins, combined with authentic brass sextants, to mark the sun's position above the horizon in order to calculate our ship's latitude and longitude.  We are beginning to feel like true sailors and are finally getting our "sea legs" as we learn the sails and lines of the boat.  Time passes quickly, woven seamlessly into the pattern of the ship's watch schedule, daily afternoon classes, and snatches of sleep between moments of excitement. We can't wait to see what comes next!

-Laura Lilly
Sarah and Andrew present on deep-sea net creatures

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