Day 10 — The Right Whale
post by Jóhannes Jóhannesson
We, the students and scientists currently on board the R/V Marcus G. Langseth, are always on the lookout for new and exciting things, and even though most of us have our education in the field of geology or geophysics, we don't back down from any scientific challenge from other fields, even the field of biology. Our head Marine Tech, Bern, received an e-mail a couple of days ago and in that e-mail, the Right Whale Research Program at the New England Aquarium is asking sea-voyagers to report to them any sighting of the North Atlantic right whale (L. Eubalaena glacialis, I. Sléttbakur). The North Atlantic right whale is, as some of you might know, on the verge of becoming extinct. It is believed that there are less than 500 right whales left and even though the hunting of right whales was stopped early in the 20th century, the population has not been able to recover, and humans and human activity still pose a grave danger to the remaining population.
After Bern had showed us this e-mail we were of course eager to help. We try to spend some time each day, armed with binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens the size of a small pony, up on the bridge deck on the lookout for some whales. It is a lot of fun to do, especially on a nice day with calm seas and the sun reflecting off of it. We, however, have not had our fair share of sunny days out here yet, but we are optimist that that will change sometime during the rest of this project. Being on the lookout for whales also gives us an opportunity to get some fresh air and to spend some time outside, since it is easy to spend the whole day inside here on the ship.
So far we have not spotted any right whale, or any whale for that matter, but we have gotten some excellent photos of the seagulls that are following the ship. The horizon we have to scan is vast, and the rough seas and high winds have not helped us in our goal, and sadly the likelihood of spotting a right whale is quite low. We have our fingers crossed though, and hopefully we will be, as Maria so eloquently put it the other day, "in the right place, at the right time, to spot the right whale."
A part of the horizon we have to scan in order to spot some whales, and a
couple of seabirds that have been flying around the ship for the last days.
If you want to read more about the Right Whale Project, the link below will take you to the New England Aquarium's site, where the Right Whale research project is being conducted.
For further reading about the right whale:
Jóhannes is a student at the University of Iceland, currently studying geology and history, but has also studied archaeology and German. He lives in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, used to play basketball and is currently working on developing a crooked spine and multiple head injuries due to the low ceiling and doorways onboard.
Day 8 — My First Experience of Life on the High Seas
post by Ashley Paradiso
When I stepped aboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth I wasn't really sure what I had signed up for. I was overtaken by so many different emotions from pure excitement to fear. There were many different thoughts flying around my head; what if I'm the only female? What if I get seasick? What different things are we going to deploy into the water? So many questions that I didn't have answers to.
Once I got on board I met Bernard, the head Marine Tech. He helped me to my room and showed me around the ship. I met a bunch of people from different people from all over the world which was a really cool experience. So far I'm really enjoying everything, from deploying Maggie the magnetometer, collecting data from the multibeam, to launching XBTs (Expendable Bathythermograph) from the streamer deck. It is definitely a different life than what I am accustomed to but once you get used to it, it's pretty awesome. Who wouldn't want to be a part of discovering new scientific information that could help further knowledge about the Reykjanes Ridge? Well that's all I have for now. Check back soon for more updates & further information about life aboard the R/V Langseth.
Ashley Paradiso is an intern with the MATE program. She is currently enrolled in her 3rd year at Kingsborough, majoring in oceanography and maritime technology. She lives in Long Island, has a fluffy white dog (affectionately known onboard as Dogfish), and loves to fish.
Days 5-6 — Stormy Weather
Well, we made it to our study area and had a couple days of decent weather, which we exploited to their fullest, surveying our first few lines and getting some nice looking data. Everyone was pretty much over their seasickness, too... but then a storm came in and the winds and waves picked up. For the past day and a half, we've been tossing and turning with waves over 5 meters high! It's been an interesting rollercoaster ride on board. We all look a little funny stumbling around as the ship tilts us this way and that. Simple every day tasks like showering and getting dressed suddenly get a lot more difficult -- there are handles in the bathroom for a reason!
It got so bad this evening that we had to pull the magnetometer (affectionately known as "Maggie") out of the water and stop surveying while we waited out the worst of the weather. Fortunately, the down time didn't last long. Just after 4:00 this morning we were able to get Maggie back in the water and start our next survey line. We have a couple contingency days in the cruise schedule for things just like this, but hopefully we don't have too many rounds of bad weather.
Speaking of the magnetometer, in upcoming posts, some of the students on board will introduce you to the equipment we're using and data we're collecting. Stay tuned!
Days 1-2 — Underway
We said goodbye to Reykjavík early the morning of Aug 13, and are now underway, headed down to our study area. A port official rode with us briefly while they finished up all the paperwork for our departure. An escort boat picked him up from the ship, and we continued on our way! We had nice, though overcast, views of Reykjavík and the surrounding areas as we left, but quickly lost sight of Iceland. We won't see land again for a month.
We started mapping and collecting data as soon as we left port. There's no sense wasting expensive ship time, so we'll collect data all the way down to our field area and back up again. Our ship tracks will be added to bigger data compilations and used to help fill in the gaps in existing maps of the seafloor. It's also a great opportunity to make sure everything is working properly, and troubleshoot any problems before we reach our actual study area.
Since we're already at work collecting data, our watches started as soon as we left port. The ship operates 24-7! The watchstanders, mostly students, are working two 4 hr shifts a day, with 8 hrs off in between (for example, the group that works noon-4pm also works midnight-4am), which does interesting things to your sleep schedule. We also have a few watch leaders who are on longer 8 hr shifts. I have the midnight-8am watch, so I'm currently trying to convince my body it wants to sleep during the day. In an upcoming post, we'll talk more about what we actually do on these watches.
A few hours after departure, we had a ship drill so everyone knows where to go and what to do in case of an emergency (fire or abandon ship). The ship has more than enough life rafts to accommodate everyone on board, as well as special, waterproof dry suits called immersion suits, which protect you from the extremely cold water out here. You couldn't survive for very long in this water without one! Odds are we'll never have to put those to work, of course, but it's reassuring to know they're available!
Unfortunately, some of us are still adjusting to all the tossing and turning on the open ocean. While not a pleaseant experience, seasickness is a fairly common problem. It will probably be a few days before everyone gets their sealegs. The good news is your body eventually adjusts to the continuous motion, so even those suffering the most right now should be fine in another day or two... and thankfully, the main lab is on one of the lower decks near the center of the ship, which helps minimize the pitching and rolling!
Day 0 — Welcome to Reykjavík!
It's our first official day on the job. The R/V Langseth is docked in Reykjavík Harbor, looking impressive amongst the fishing and whale watching boats. After a series of long flights for the Americans among us, the science crew is (mostly) all accounted for and settling into their cabins as we speak.
First on the agenda: the all-important safety meeting, where we learn what to do (and NOT do) during our month-long stay on the ship. In addition to important things like what to do during an emergency, there are some useful tips about things us "landlubbers" might not think about... like how NOT to fall down the ladders (= stairs) when the ship is rocking on open ocean (yay, handrails!), and making sure everything is tied down before we sail. Nothing worse than having a laptop thrown on the floor by a particularly feisty wave. We also got a very brief tour of the ship, which includes a very important place: the galley (the ship's kitchen). The cooks rank as some of the most important people on board — after all, they'll be preparing all our meals for the next month or so!
The ship also had some visitors from the local Icelandic news! A television crew came aboard to interview the chief scientists about our project and take a tour of the ship. Here's a link to the newsfeed (mostly in Icelandic!), including interviews and a nice look at the ship's main lab...
Most of the Hawaii contingent arrived a couple days early, both to allow for flight and/or baggage delays, and have some time to explore Reykjavík and the surroundings a little bit. Reykjavík is a small but beautiful city, home to approximately 200,000 people. (Iceland's total population is only about 320,000!) For those of us used to tropical weather, even August in Iceland is winter weather! Daytime temperatures currently range from ~ 5-13 ºC (or ~ 40-55 ºF), and can often be cloudy and rainy, but today we've been lucky, with one of the sunniest days I've ever seen in Reykjavík.
Tonight, members of the crew and science party are taking one last opportunity for a night out on the town before we sail tomorrow!
A couple of us used our extra travel contingency days to venture out into the countryside and do some sightseeing. With its volcanoes, glaciers, and dramatic landscapes, Iceland is a fascinating place for geologists, hikers and nature-lovers of all kinds, photographers and other artists. We'll be writing a bit more about the geology of Iceland in an upcoming post, but for now, here a few photos from around town.
My name is Deborah Eason, and I'll be your main guide for our journey, with frequent contributions from other members of our science party. I'm currently a researcher at the University of Hawaii. I study the magmatic plumbing systems of volcanoes and mid-ocean ridges, and have worked on projects at places like Iceland, Hawaii, and the Galápagos Spreading Center.