Los mares de mi vida (The seas of my life)

By Yarisbel Garcia Quintana

I have been close to the ocean since I can remember. I grew up surrounded by it, in an island rooted in between the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico: Cuba. The summer trips to the beach were all that I waited for during the classes period. I still remember the first time I saw it, and wondered where all that blue ended.

Years passed and even when I graduated from Meteorology, I found myself working by the sea. And when I say by the sea, I mean door, 5 steps, sand, and water. From time to time hurricanes strike the island. The Centre of Environmental Services of Matanzas, where I worked, is in charge of monitoring the erosion of the beaches in Matanzas (Province of Cuba) suffer as a consequence of storms and sea level rise. Due to erosion, projects for the artificial regeneration of the beach are regularly needed. A better planning of these projects includes an in-depth study of the near shore ocean currents involved in the transport of the sediments that feed the dune system. This studies lead me to my Master degree research: studying ocean currents of the Gulf of Valence, Spain. 

Thanks to my Master’s research I got the opportunity to explored some of the seas surrounding the Spanish peninsula, where my main role was to be in charge of the ADCP measuring and data post-processing. I had the chance to be on board of vessels like Garcia del Cid (Figure 1), Odon de Buen (Figure 2), and Sarmiento de Gamboa (Figure 3). Every time the cruise was confined to the coast of Valence, within the Mediterranean Sea. I found the Mediterranean to be very predictable, changing mostly with the seasons and not much within the day.  The Cantabrian Sea, north of the peninsula, was different story. Still like ice in the morning, but changing rapidly after noon following the change in the wind pattern, making almost impossible the recovery of sediment samples from the ocean floor, due to bad sea conditions. On board of the CIMA Oceanografico (Figure 4) I participated in a cruise around the Canary Island, to determine the ocean currents affecting the dune system of Maspalomas. I will never forget that experience. I will always remember when, following my colleagues, I jumped into the water for a swim, without knowing that a prominent feature of the Canary Current, is the presence of upwelling, resulting in a colder swimming than I expected.  

Now, as a PhD student at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton and far from the sea, I use a coupled ocean-sea ice numerical model to keep in touch with the ocean. I have been using four different numerical experiments to investigate the sensitivity on the Labrador Sea Water formation rate, and the AMOC strength, to (i) model resolution, (ii) Greenland melt increase, (iii) a decrease in the high frequency atmospheric phenomena, and (iv) an increase in the precipitation.  But this does not mean that I get to be in front of the computer all the time. In 2015, I participated in a Floating University organized by the ArcTrain program, on board of the Polarstern (Figure 5). Leaving from Svalbard, and into the Nordic Seas and a glimpse of the Arctic Ocean, it was the perfect experience that introduced me to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Oceans. No, this time I did not jump.

Next experience will be on board of the Research Vessel Maria S. Merian, from Southampton, UK, to St. John’s, Canada. I cannot be exited enough for this new adventure. I am looking forward to it, and not just because they have an amazing chef on board, but because I will have again the honour to be at sea, learn from it, and from lots of brilliant people which during 28 days, I will have the chance to call colleagues.


Figure 1: Research/Survey Vessel Garcia del Cid. (photo credit: me)

Figure 2: Terns (charran in Spanish) on board of the Research Vessel Odon de Buen. (photo credit: me)

Figure 3: Sun set from the Research Vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa. (photo credit: me)

Figure 4: Research Vessel CIMA Oceanografico, somewhere near the Canary Island. (photo credit: me)

Figure 5: Tea on the Polartern while in Fram Strait. Red blob on the left is my self, red blob on the right PhD student Laura Gillard. (photo credit: Mathilde Jutras)



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