Jill (left) and Abby (right) bag up one of Abby's sediment cores. It is a fun, muddy task.
Today, the crew found dolphins right off the bat! The first site was due 75 miles east of Codorie as the crow flies, within the grandiose bird foot of the Mississippi River. As the Pelican navigated up the river, the first pod of dolphins announced their presence with a few air spouts and playful frolicking in the waves. The carefree porpoises were again spotted on our way out back out to open ocean, this time catching a free ride in the bow's wake of a massive barge.
Back in open ocean, our co-chief scientists Dr. Nancy Rabalais and Dr. Cassie Glaspie work with the boat captains to navigate us along transects. These transects are how we track down the infamous hypoxic layer of water along the bottom of the ocean, and ultimately create a map of this years' hypoxia zone. Lab managers Jill and Gina lead the day and night shifts, respectively - day shift is 3 AM to 3 PM, and night shift is 3 PM to 3 AM! The hours might be long, but the crew has acclimated well and the air is humming with scientific progress. At all hours, the boat is moving to new sites, the crew is collecting samples using fancy oceanographic equipment, and the water samples are being analyazed and frozen for later use in the Wet Lab.
Come lunch time on Monday's day shift, Abby reported "shockingly good" food. So say we all; Lawrence is an amazing cook! The delicious offerings provided much-needed fuel as the science team learned the ropes on the CTD (collects conductivity, temperature, and depth data), and YSI instruments (collects dissolved oxygen and many other fun data). Both instruments were cast out to sea, where the boat crew lowered them down and then back up with giant mechanical winches. None of this science would be possible without the fantastic tech and boat crews!
We were all treated to fantastic weather to kick off the trip, with calm seas and nary a raindrop the first day. Back downstairs in the mess, Indiana Jones movies played back to back all evening, a welcome accompaniment to our seafaring adventure. Near the end of the day shift, the two Ben's on board came to an agreement - yours truly would be deemed Young Benjamin, and the elder Ben would be Sir Benjamin Earle, taking after his stately middle name! Sir Benjamin Earle is a technician, and flew in from Hawaii the day before setting sail on a last-minute call. We thank him for his services on the vessel!
To close out the evening, the Glaspie lab found their zen on the top deck as a few storm fronts rolled in on the horizon. This exquisite view is something everyone has been looking forward to, and the first sunset was icing on the cake.
Overnight, the trusty R/V Pelican was navigated toward Barataria Bay, where Nancy and co knocked out an array of sites. At the A transect, the Glaspie lab woke up to complete a sampling of the softbottom benthic community for Abby's LSU Discover undergraduate research project. This is a competitive and well-deserved award, go Abby! Mud was slung every which way, as tends to happen with a box core sampler, and the lab secured some great samples which were preserved in formaldehyde.