Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 36 & 37

Noon Position (Day 37): 36° 3'19.80"N 179°36'5.40"E(Nudibranch- awesome photo by Jeff Ernst!!!)

Yesteday, Day 36, was the day of black water-we did a black water tank cleaning and had the opportunity for the first “black water dive” of the trip (aka: night dive, thankfully not some sort of foul operation involving the boat’s waste water). The starboard cabin crew (Drew , Christiana, and myself) have the wonderful opportunity of living right above the black water tank. Most of the time the cabin/tank relationship isn’t an issue. When it’s starts to get full however, our cabin takes on a VERY pungent seweresque fragrance. Over the course of the trip it’s started to be more persistent, so we decided to battle the stench front of our cabin with a mouthwateringly scented Cherry tank cleaner (yes, it’s inert-no harm to the ocean). Lack of tank stank equals a happy crew.

We set out 4 trawls throughout yesterday, still finding plastic in all of them, although in varying densities. We are starting to bring up some different and interesting critters in our trawls. A couple days ago one trawl was filled with Nudibranchs -adorable little guys.
Still logging disturbing amounts of debris throughout the day, although under sail it becomes much harder for us to maneuver to retrieve them. We found a replicate debris item yesterday, a white industrial plastic bag (similar to a trash compactor bag) with blue Japanese characters. The first one we logged was on the 14th and was lightly fouled with fish eggs and bryozoans. The bag from yesterday was also fouled with a few barnacles and some bryozoans. This got us to thinking about the source-a container spill or a waste lost from the same vessel perhaps.

The day progressed into the semblance of a delicious Thanksgiving in July feast-mashed yams with glazed walnuts, grilled chicken, and cranberry sauce with some other random dishes thrown in. We had been waiting for perfect night dive conditions, which decided to come around as we were heavy bellied after our meal. But we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Joel, Drew, Christiana and myself dove on tanks while Jeff free dove with the Sea Dawg-an awesome underwater scooter. Captain stayed on board, monitoring the divers. Being 40 or so feet underwater, surrounded by bioluminescent creatures, 3,100 miles out from Long Beach, with a couple miles between us and the bottom was surreal. At one point Joel, Christiana, and I huddled together, shut off our lights, and let ourselves get a full dose of the bioluminescence. It was like floating in a bed of stars-very serene and surreal. By waving our hands through the water or kicking our fins, we could light up a swath of critters-enough to clearly see each other in the pitch black water (with some help of Drew’s camera lights). We surfaced to a vibrant night sky with a perfect view of the Milky Way. We are a lucky bunch to have the opportunity to be out here. Although the subject of research is a little grim, there are many positive angles to our situation like diving in a place where no other humans have likely ever set foot (or boat?) We are able to stargaze, free of urban light pollution. Jupiter drifts low across the night sky and we’ve come to notice that it has its own “moonbeam” on the ocean’s surface--pretty cool!.
(taken during the night dive by ScubaDrew Videoworks)

We woke a tired yet content crew from the night excursions. The trawl was put out some today and Drew and Joel worked on educational footage for their grant with Kahuku School. Given that we have been working diligently to collect data, it time to focus on a timely return. The priority is being shifted toward making it home. We are crossing our fingers that we will pick up some stronger winds as we head north a bit and then end up in the easterlies which will deliver us to Hawai’i.

From the Pacific, Nicole


Drewf said...

Nicole that night dive sounded incredible. That's so awesome that you had the opportunity to experience that. I'm stoked to hear that everyone is having a good time, coupled alongside all the research that's being done, and I'm having fun reading about it too.

*MeLiSsA* said...

NICOLE!!!! You are offically a speeding fish after that amazing night swim experience! That sounded so cool!!