Monday, February 22, 2021

Final Post

We're wrapping up the cruise here on R/V Roger Revelle, almost back to Honolulu. Which wasn't our original end port, but French Polynesia closed its borders less than 2 weeks before we were supposed to go there and fly home. So instead we had to wrap up operations a few days early and head back to the Northern Hemisphere. We have had nearly 12 days to finish working up on our data, pack our gear, and enjoy socializing in our COVID-free bubble. I am taking advantage of the latter and, for once after a long cruise, not particularly looking forward to leaving the ship. 

This is also going to be my last cruise, I am taking a new job at UC San Diego and won't be going to sea anymore. Writing these blogs has helped me realized how much I enjoy communicating science though, and that's the career I am pursuing! It's bittersweet and there is much I will miss, as listed below. 

Tournaments. The ping pong table is now cleared off and hosting many competitive matches. The acronym machine is at work, with this one being called the "Shellback Championship: Roger's International Ping-Pong Slam" or SCRIPPS. Love it. The cribbage tournament was "Barney's Antarctic fLoating Cribbage Hurrah" or BALCH (the name of our beloved chief scientist). 

Sunsets. We had some lovely ones on this cruise. My favorite was a foggy day where the orange and pink coloration was bouncing off everything. Just look at this screenshot of the external cameras!

The people. This is what has kept me coming out to sea for as long as I have. I love meeting new people and spending time with them. I always make friends with the people on my watch, might as well since you spend 12 hours a day with them, every day! And then there are other people I almost never see, sometimes good friends from previous trips. On this trip in particular, social time has been my favorite part of every day. It's something I will never take for granted again after this pandemic year of limited interactions.

The random ways we amuse ourselves. For example, the ship's electrician Shaun made an air-powered trident capable of launching lemon slices. Everyone who wanted to go to launch one off the fantail as we crossed back in to the Northern Hemisphere. What a life!

Thanks for following along with this cruise. I hope you've enjoyed seeing the adventures we had in our COVID-free bubble in the Southern Ocean. And maybe even learned some things along the way.

Check out the Reddit AMA I helped with this week. It was fun to answer questions in real time and we got some great ones! 

And science writer / journalist Giuliana Viglione wrote many great blog posts as well, check those out!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Off to the Races!

This evening we held the Balch Invitational and "raced" our DIY cars in the main lab. Restech Matt had given the directive a few weeks ago: make a car 1) out of found materials (ie trash) 2) smaller than a coffee mug 3) without using any power tools. Those rules turned into more like guidelines and some were ignored entirely by the time the big event came around. 

Bigelow scientist Dave Drapeau squares off against
WHOI grad student Julia Middleton.

An unused table top propped on a milk crate served as a ramp. Heats of two cars each made the daring descent. Some cars drove straight and far, while others twirled and stalled. 

Everyone ended up with a ribbon, ranging from "First Place" (The Balchmobile) to "You Tried So Hard" (my foam creation that scooted about 5 inches before grinding to a halt. 

I'll post some video footage once I have the bandwidth. A good time was had by all contenders and viewers. What should our next project be?

Friday, February 12, 2021


What do SOCCOM float boxes and cribbage board have in common? 

The trophy board made for the cribbage tournament by ship's bosun Elysia.

The SOCCOM floats are shipped from the University of Washington to research vessels throughout the world. They're secured into wooden boxes designed to keep them safe during shipping and have stickers on them that show if they've been mishandled. These crates are not usually reused or shipped back to UW after a cruise. On this cruise, the ship's bosun was eyeing the crates very early on and was delighted when I said they were up for grabs.

The red indicates rough handling - in this case
being hit with a wrench in order to test the sticker.

She and her team have disassembled a few already, a process that takes a few hours since they're put together with nails and glue. They are making improvements around the ship using the scrap wood. There are still 8 float boxes left between SOCCOM and the NOAA floats we deployed on this cruise. 

Sid, the ship's OS (ordinary seaman) made a rack for the ship's grease guns and a custom cabinet to hold tools in the bosun locker. I can't wait to see what else the deck crew makes out of the float boxes!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Keeping Busy

Since deploying the last of the SOCCOM floats, we've still been busy doing CTD and other science. But we also get down time, thanks to the VPR (video plankton recorder) - more details in this blog post. Our restech Matt has come up with creative assignments to keep us busy and bonding as a team. We wrote haiku and limericks and played other rhyming games. 

Scientists congregate in the main lab to read their limericks.

This week our assignment was to build a car out of discarded materials. We'll be holding a race in the next few days. There's also a cribbage tournament underway, so card games are happening all over the ship. The preferred time and place is the library just after dinner. It's a great excuse to hang out with someone you maybe haven't spent one on one time with. We're definitely enjoying our COVID-free bubble!

Boys vs girls: scientists and crew members face off in three different cribbage games as part of the tournament.

I'll update with the results of the cribbage tournament and car races soon!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

All Floats Deployed

Scripps technician Megan Roadman deploys 'Aquaty.'

Apologies for the time between posts, but it's been very busy onboard Roger Revelle! We deployed six more SOCCOM floats since my last post and did dozens of CTD casts. There won't be any more deployments on this trip, but we still have nearly a month left onboard and I will post more about life at sea during that time. 

There's also a science writer onboard who is posting blogs about the work going on and the quirks of life at sea, especially during a pandemic. Check that out here.

We've been experiencing good weather, with relatively calm seas. All ten of the SOCCOM floats were deployed successfully and have reported profiles of the water column.

There was about a week where we didn't see the sun though, and as someone who lives in Southern California, I missed it! I could tell my mood was off. The sun reemerged a day or two ago and it was so exciting. Though it's still quite chilly out.

Scripps technician Matt Durham deploys 'Lizzy.'

We also saw a humpback whale, which came very close to the ship and hung out for awhile. Someone pointed out later that it was hump day, halfway through our time at sea. A humpback whale on hump day! There have been a collection of birds - albatross, petrels, and prions - following the ship.

As we headed to our most southern point, 60 degrees South, the bridge saw a few icebergs on the radar. But we didn't see any in person due to the fog. The ship slowed down to make sure we transited safely.

Morale onboard is good, we are enjoying a life without masks and social distancing while we can. Everyone has friends and family back home that are doing their best to stay safe and healthy. It's hard to be away, but thankfully our internet speeds have been conducive to keeping in touch. 

Thanks for following along. I'll be sure to post more often!


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Northern Floats

Since leaving Hawaii more than two weeks ago, we've made our way steadily south. Hawaii is 19 degrees North of the equator and we're now at 44 degrees South. We've deployed four of the SOCCOM floats so far. 

Chief Scientist Barney Balch and Scripps restech Charlie prepare to deploy SOCCOM float "Hawk-eye." Photo by Megan Roadman.

The other big news is that we were allowed to stop wearing masks on day 15. People onboard seem very grateful for the change, though it definitely takes some getting used to. I find myself touching my chin or reaching into my pocket at times, panicked that I'm not wearing a mask when I should be. We get to enjoy this time after spending two weeks in hotel isolation and then another two weeks social distancing once we got underway. I know I'll have to go back to it once the cruise is over, so I'm planning to enjoy the next six weeks of being relatively stress-free about the pandemic.

We're also able to serve ourselves buffet-style at meals. For the first two weeks, our cooks Richard and Ruth had been serving us. I'm sure they're happy for the change! We also had set meals windows and sat only two people to a table that could fit six. Sitting right next to and right across from people at meals feels like such a luxury!

It's only been a few days, but we're definitely missing the calm seas of the tropics. We're in the roaring 40s now and headed as far as 60 degrees South. With 6 more floats to go, we'll be busy. Check back for more updates!

Missing that blue water from the deployment at 30 degrees South.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Float Decorating Party!

 R/V Revelle left Honolulu the day after Christmas. We spent December 23-26 loading the ship and preparing everything onboard. I knew the loading days would be busy, but I hadn’t realized for how unprepared I was for them physically after two weeks in a hotel room. We should have been training! On day 10, stand for one hour and then steadily increase that each day. Even just wearing shoes felt different. 

We worked all day on Christmas, pausing to make phone calls and Zoom appearances with friends and family. The cooks, Richard and Ruth, made a great dinner. I brought a small Christmas tree and set it up in my lab. It was quickly surrounded by presents as our chief scientist / St. Nick brought chocolate bars for all of us and we did a white elephant gift exchange. Though the actual exchange was delayed a few days due to weather since we had to hold it outside due to the COVID protocols.

Christmas tree atop the SOCCOM floats, stored on the back deck.


We crossed into the Southern Hemisphere with only a few hours left in 2020. Again, because of COVID protocols, we are delaying any crossing ceremony until we are sure we’re all healthy and can do so safely. 


We’ve been at sea for 8 days and still have a few more before we start deploying SOCCOM floats. In the downtime, I got a bunch of the scientists to help out with decorating them based on their names and designs from the schools that adopted them. It was easy to find volunteers for a fun arts and crafts project on the sunny back deck in calm, tropical waters. It was only then they realized that it also came with some manual labor to unstack and restack the heavy crates.


Some of the floats are black and can only be decorated with metallic sharpies, while the yellow ones have a broader range of colors that will show up. It was fun to work within those restrictions though, and I think the floats all turned out beautifully. I was so grateful to have had help. I am not very artistic and usually only decorate a few at time before running out of ideas. This time around, all 13 floats were decorated inside of an hour.


Check back for posts about the floats as they get deployed and other exploits from aboard R/V Revelle!