Day 15 - Our last day at sea
September 20, 2011

There was still plenty of science happening on the Kilo Moana today—three CTD casts made, several incubations completed, a final plankton tow off the transom... But most people were wrapping up, packing up, cleaning up, and thinking about how to get all their gear and samples back to their labs safely, and in a timely fashion.

Day 14 - Smooth recovery and a slow steam home
September 19, 2011

We started to head back to port today, but we weren’t exactly racing for the barn. Every 15 kilometers, we stopped the ship and took a CTD cast to collect seawater. The idea is that we will collect samples of seawater from other parts of the eddy in which our instruments have been drifting for the last 10 days...

Day 13 - A challenging recovery
September 18, 2011

We all knew that the big excitement was scheduled for around two o’clock this afternoon, when the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) was to be brought back on board the ship. This is by far the most complicated robotic system that we are using on this cruise. According to some researchers, it is the most complicated underwater robotic microbiology system in use anywhere.

Day 12 - Night of the Living Sediment Traps
September 17, 2011

Last night was a big Friday night on the Kilo Moana, but not in the way you might think. The team from the University of Hawaii (UH) pulled off what I’m calling “The Night of the Living Sediment Traps.” The marathon started at around 3:00 this morning.

Day 11 - Teamwork
September 16, 2011

One thing that strikes me is how, over the course of the cruise, we’ve become more efficient and are better able to work together as a team.

Day 10 - Keeping an eye on the ESP
September 15, 2011

I chatted with Gene Massion this morning about how the changed sea conditions are affecting the drifting Environmental Sample Processor (ESP). He showed me graphs plotting the movement of both the ESP and its surface float. These graphs show that the ESP is definitely moving more in response to the short, choppy waves that we’re seeing today.

Day 9 - A whole lot of incubation going on
September 14, 2011

A major use of the seawater we bring up from the depths is incubation experiments, during which researchers allow the microbes in the seawater to grow for various amounts of time, and under various controlled conditions. In today’s blog I’ll describe a few of the incubation experiments that are being conducted on board the Kilo Moana.

Day 8 - Sampling the mid-Pacific waters
September 13, 2011

Yesterday we conducted five CTD casts in one day—a record for this cruise. I asked Tara Clemente, who has been on a lot of cruises, why the researchers, some of whom are already putting in 20-hour days, would want yet more samples to process...

Day 7 - Laser beams and plankton nets
September 12, 2011

It was fascinating to discover that there is still room in modern research for both the influx flow cytometer and the hand-pulled plankton tow. Personally, I find equal inspiration in a machine that can sort individual bacteria, one at a time, and a bucket full of wriggling creatures and pale brown slime...

Day 6 - Food chains in the open ocean
September 11, 2011

Today we took a little break from babysitting the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), and headed back to the spot where we launched the ESP, in hopes that microbes would be more abundant there. We motored down to the spot, took a CTD cast, and collected water samples this morning.

Day 5 - Charting a course
September 10, 2011

A science meeting was held today to discuss the challenges the team has had with the CTD casts. The reasons for the byzantine path that the Kilo Moana has been traveling over the last three days is all about following the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP).

Day 4 - Collecting seawater samples
September 9, 2011

At dawn this morning, the ocean surface had a bit more texture than we’ve seen over the last few days, and the seas were a bit lumpy, but not uncomfortable. The sun worked its way slowly up into the pale sky, dodging piles of gray clouds that lay like discarded pillows around the horizon. I know all this because I was up for the 6 a.m.CTD cast....

Day 3 - Chasing the Environmental Sample Processor
September 8, 2011

Last night was a busy night for many of the science crew here on the Kilo Moana. After the deployment of the Environmental Sample Processor (as described in yesterday’s blog), there was a CTD cast, and then a drifting incubation experiment called a “gas array” was deployed around 2 a.m....

Day 2 - Deploying the Environmental Sample Processor
September 7, 2011

After setting up the ESP in the laboratory, technicians place it in the water, on a mooring, or (as in this cruise) suspended from a free-floating buoy. Although the operators can communicate with the ESP from shore, it works on its own, sucking in water samples, extracting the DNA or other genetic material from microbes in the water, then analyzing that DNA to determine what organisms are present...

Day 1 - Departure
September 6, 2011

One of the most exciting (and stressful) parts of a research cruise is the day of departure. It culminates months of preparation, during which researchers must plan their experiments, get their paperwork in order, and ship their fragile scientific equipment across countries and oceans, hoping that it arrives in one piece...

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