By Ellen Park
Life at sea is organized chaos.
Each day is incredibly valuable because sea time is so expensive.
As a result, prior to stepping foot on the boat, we had a detailed schedule outlining what operations, like mooring recovery/deployment or a CTD cast, would be completed on each day and their duration in a set order. But this order wasn’t really “set.” It was more realistically the ideal order of operations, assuming no major setbacks. Ultimately, forecasted weather and instrument malfunctions required us to be flexible, forcing us to prioritize certain operations over others due to factors like local conditions, limits on deck space, or transit time to stations.
To keep track of all these moving pieces, everyday a plan of the day (POD) was outlined by the chief scientist, Sheri White, for the upcoming workday. Conversations both amongst the science party and between the science party and the ship’s crew were essential for ensuring that all operations were conducted safely and smoothly and that both scientific agendas for OSNAP and OOI were met.
While the POD often changes multiple times (five times within one day once because of weather!), there are some aspects of life at sea that are constant.
Typically, most days start bright and early at 6am to prep the deck for a mooring deployment/recovery operation or preparation of the rosette for a CTD cast. After breakfast, mooring deployment/recovery or CTD casts begin. Mooring operations last anywhere from 2-6+ hours, depending on the height of the mooring and number of instruments attached. CTD casts on this cruise typically were 2-3 hours and went to 2,000-3,000 meters depth. Depending on the duration of the morning operation, we would break for lunch and afterwards continue or start a new operation. Occasionally, we conduct a few late night CTD casts after dinner, but for the most part all operations are complete by 18:00.
To help stay sane and entertained, people participate in a variety of evening activities after operations are completed. Some people workout in the onboard gym. Others read, play card games, or watch TV/movies in the lounge.
With the end of the cruise approaching, it is exciting to celebrate the accomplishment of achieving all the OSNAP and OOI objectives, despite the weather-related setbacks we encountered. This could not have been possible without the hard work from everyone on the ship’s crew and members of the science party. As we begin our transit to Reykjavik in the upcoming days, I know that I am looking forward to returning to land, but, at the same time, I will be a bit sad to leave the R/V Armstrong.