The whales are hiding from me. Even when the fog lifts, there is only empty ocean as far as the eye can see. You can see why sailors used to think the open ocean was barren. That is, until you get nets in and actually have a look.
Sampling began at 11pm last night, with a CTD followed by bongo nets. The CTD takes loads of measurements of the water as it is lowered and winched back in, including temperature, salinity, and an approximation of how much phytoplankton there is. There are also loads of bottles attached which we program to close at the depth we want, to collect water samples. The bongo nets are two nets joined together, with a mesh with 0.2mm gaps. Anything bigger than that gets collected and brought up for me. These two were the first of a chockablock sampling schedule, but only going to 200m depth. The later nets go much deeper, to 1000m, and the sediment cores go right to the bottom, about 3000m. I’m focusing on these shallow ones because I want the animals feeding in the sunlit zone. This means I’m on night shifts, but it doesn’t really matter, as the sun never goes down.
Above: The bongo nets being lowered
Turns out, the waters here are SO productive. There were loads and loads of copepods, just frustratingly not many of the species I’m interested in! The ones in the buckets (see someone’s dead sample below) are a much larger species that only lay eggs in the deep water – not so useful for my egg laying experiments!
So I spent all night in the cold store picking out tiny copepods from the net samples. I halved my experiment because of the lack of the species I wanted, but still got some useful samples. I also accidentally supplemented my diet with copepods; my concentration face unintentionally includes me sticking my tongue out, and the jumpy ones don’t hesitate. Following this oily nighttime snack, I had a breakfast of garlic breaded mushrooms and roast potatoes – meal timings don’t really fit with my shifts. Nevertheless, I’m loving the feeding situation. The chef is great, and the crew say that it’s okay that I’m an awkward vegan ‘because we like you’. They even made me falafel and coriander hummus the other day. So tasty.
Part 6 – welcome to my cold tin home