Thursday, May 16, 2013

Erin Dillon Reflects on the First Week

It’s been a whirlwind first week aboard the Robert C. Seamans. For me, it’s been one of mental and physical adaptation. Living on a sailboat is no less of an “abroad” experience than visiting a foreign country – and it’s perhaps more challenging. In addition to adjusting to the culture and lifestyle aboard the ship and learning a new language (I’m sure “Make fast the Fish Peak Halyard” doesn’t mean much to most folks), there’s the physical and psychological strain of our erratic sleep schedule and the ongoing work to keep the ship in tip top shape. And all of this is occurring while the ship is rocking from side to side, which makes even the simplest of activities exceedingly more difficult. There’s never a dull moment! For example, our first dinner on the gimbaled tables was outright terrifying. I kept thinking the squash soup was going to slide right off the table, but we all survived and the soles remained clean. These challenges have made each day a rewarding learning experience. From learning the lines to helping deploy the hydrocasts and meter nets, our teamwork has gotten us far – in terms of distance travelled, accomplishing our research objectives, and getting to know each other even better.

Bizarre mesopelagic fish

Getting the opportunity to actually participate in some of the oceanography that I’d previously only heard about in lectures and textbooks has been incredible, particularly when it has culminated in new discoveries. Last night, the meter tow we deployed captured a bizarre and potentially undescribed fish from the mesopelagic zone. It was amazing to think that I was possibly one of the first people to ever observe this species. Just gazing out over the vastness of the ocean while off watch has brought to mind the infinite number of unknowns and a sense of how truly immense this environment is, a self-evident truth that has never really sunk in until now. Our oceanographic deployments are only scratching the surface, and there is always more to learn. This has made the science side of the trip extremely exciting, since we’re at the forefront of beginning to understand how the physical environment contributes to its biology. I’m also looking forward to reaching Palmyra, where I can begin work on my own research project. While I’ve travelled to the atoll before as a research assistant, seeing its silhouette rising over the horizon while sailing will be an entirely new experience. So far, this trip has been an onslaught of new skills to be learned and adventures to be had, and I’m loving every moment!

-Erin Dillon

No comments: