As we leave the oxygen minimum zone behind us and the frenzy of hydrocasts and net tows along with it, everyone is looking ahead to Palmyra, which we should be greeting with a LAND HOY! sometime tomorrow evening. But today was also a time to look back on the southern open ocean leg of our voyage.
We’ve been on the Seamans for nine days and have been sailing for eight, and we’ve come almost a thousand miles. Most of us came aboard knowing nothing about sailing, especially sailing on a tall ship. I think most of us, when we first looked up at the mess of lines and canvas that we were soon supposed to be able to operate by ourselves, had an “oh shit, there’s no way” kind of moment.
Since then, we’ve not only learned all the sails and lines, but we’ve learned how to be efficient and (for the most part) punctual crewmembers (real deck monkeys), even when we need to be on deck and ready at 3am. We’ve also done a lot of science. Every one of us has classified hundreds of zooplankton, dragged the five hundred pound carousel out on deck and operated the winch that lowers it six hundred meters down into the ocean, found the biovolume of our net tows, and used our spectrophotometer to find the pH of our water samples. Martini and Robby caught a sailfish, a spearfish, a wahoo, and a skipjack tuna, from which we drew blood samples for Frido’s project (and the last two made excellent sashimi). Alessandra’s been busy dissecting these big catches, and we’ve captured lots of smaller but still awesome creatures, like salps, nudibranchs, and a weird, transparent fish with a black center that our professors couldn’t identify, and which may be a new species.
Today, knowing that we were past most of the science deployments, was one of the most relaxed days I’ve had so far. Some of the crew played their ukuleles and sang the Weight, Wagon Wheel and, just for kicks, Puff the Magic Dragon. Some people hung up their laundry and just chilled on deck. I stood bow watch and got some pretty nice pictures of our full stack of sails (course, topsail, and raffee), which we set for the first time today. It was definitely a good way to end this first oceanic portion of the trip.
The past week has been full of hard work, sleep deprivation, and general craziness, but it is most definitely a week that we can be proud of. Tomorrow, we’ll arrive at Palmyra a little saltier and with some very real experience under our sailorly belts. Even better, we can expect a whole new set of experiences after landfall that will be just as alien (at least for me) as the past week on the Seamans.