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February 23nd, 2003: Leg 1, Day #5

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Erik Thrunstrom - our winch operator. He controls the wire that we use to lower the CTD to deep waters.

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Retrieving the CTD.

February 23, 2003

spice.jpg (25067 bytes)Science is like a jigsaw puzzle except that most of the time we do not have all the pieces. As a result we often are trying to use the wrong piece. How many times have you done this, over and over again. The pieces of our puzzle are starting to come into place. We can see the signature of the undercurrent very well in our profiles of oxygen and salinity. Farther north this signature was very weak, now it is beating us over the head. There are not many other signals that I have seen that are this strong. It reminds me of the undercurrent that comes from Indonesia to Ecuador along the equator. That thing screams, both in its speed and its characteristic oxygen and salinity content. It shows up very nicely in a parameter we call spiciness. Hot (warm) and salty waters are very spicy. Because the undercurrent brings warmer and saltier water north to California it shows up in our plot as a tongue of spicy water.

If you think that we get excited over very small things you are probably right but when and if we are able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together it will tell us things like how the ocean serves to control climate and in turn how climate influences life in the sea. One of our biggest problems is that the whole puzzle changes every several years and then again every several decades and most of the time we are only half way or less through putting the puzzle together.

We expected sunny and warm weather as we headed south but today has been gray and cool. We do not complain much because the winds have remained calm so cruising has been smooth. We are just over half of the way there, Baja California is sure long. One of our Mexican collaborators tells us that California may have been named after an Indian tribe that ruled the peninsula, the Calafias. An American book that we have refers to them as Califias but he assures us they are wrong.

We have made up some time by skipping a few stations but there are still some difficult decisions ahead of us. Which stations should we skip? Can we get the captain to go a bit faster? Over the 600 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.16 statute miles) that we have left there is a big difference between going 10 or 12 knots (1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour). If you canít do the math it is 10 hours and for us that is a lot of time. We could do ten CTD casts in that time or about 4 full stations and no less importantly it is the difference between getting in on time or not. The higher speed comes with a penalty in that fuel consumption goes from 70 gallons an hour to close to 100. At $2 per gallon that means $4320 more dollars if were to do 12 knots for the rest of the trip.

Today is Sunday so we will have a special meal, barbecued steaks on the fantail. Not that we need more to eat given our three square meals a day but we look forward to the little things. Speaking of little things I better go get on the stairmaster now that our station is over and I have written the daily update.



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Kelly on the stairmaster


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Kellyís zooplankton preserved in jars. The 
small shrimp-like creatures are krill.



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The nets and all of the rest of our gear on the fantail. The trawl net that Kelly is using is coming in as we all gather to watch. Even in calm weather it takes at least three crew to bring in the net (one on the winch (see above) and two on the fantail.

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