Southern Ocean GasEx Blog

Dispatches from the Southern Ocean Gas Exchange Experiment

Down The Rabbit Hatch

Posted by sogasex on March 26, 2008

By Christopher Buonassissi, University of Connecticut

I am a graduate student from the University of Connecticut and this is my first long research cruise. While I have been to sea before, this voyage has been particularly interesting. As Chris alluded, the days of the week cease to have much meaning. While I may not be particularly concerned whether it is Friday or Monday, the constant activity does have its advantages. It has provided a great opportunity to interact with scientists from a variety of different fields. These are the people I began graduate school wanting to be like and discussing data and its implications with so many experts has been fascinating. It is remarkable to meet someone and then realize they were the author of a paper that explained a concept or inspired you in your own work. I realized that one of the books that I have used extensively as a resource in my graduate work had been written by one of the scientists onboard. To actually be working with and learning from him and many others has been an immensely enriching experience. Another aspect of being a graduate student is my inexperience deploying instruments from large ships. Some of the science team has accumulated years of sea time; I arrived with around two weeks and none of it in the conditions we have experienced on this cruise. So while hand lowering the buoy (see description below) certainly seems simple, in 15 foot waves it can get rather dicey. Being able to receive advice from people who have deployed instruments in similar situations is invaluable.

One of my responsibilities on this cruise is to deploy the Hyperspectral Tethered Spectral Radiometer Buoy (HTSRB) or the buoy for short. This buoy is a collection of instruments that measure the amount of light at many wavelengths. There is one sensor that detects the amount of light hitting the surface of the ocean and three that are underwater to measure the amount of light coming up towards the surface. We can measure how the light field changes in the upper few meters of the water column and also determine the light that a satellite overhead detects. These data will allow us to determine how bubble injection by waves affects light in the ocean and how it impacts the signal that satellites detect. This is particularly important in high wind areas such as our current study area. The buoy has also proven popular with the local wildlife. We have frequent visits from the penguins and birds in our neck of the ocean. The animals seem to be checking out this strange object bobbing about in their seas and contemplating how best to eat it. While their contemplations make for a great photo op, some of the albatross are a bit too eager in their inspections (photos below). My initial fears were allayed as the birds only cause minor damage by picking out a few bits of foam from the buoy’s floatation collar. Such are the perils of science on the high seas.

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Birds on the stalk

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An albatross swoops in for a peck (for a sense of how large these birds are the yellow float is roughly a foot across)

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The results of a ferocious albatross assault

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