My day began with a balancing contest on the stern deck – who could stand on one foot the longest? It was an official welcoming to the world of those with sea legs. The rest of the day blended in with yesterday, when we ran our second diel experiment – nothing new there from the science end.
We pulled up our incubation/grazing experiment to look at the effect of grazers. We had dropped 96 bottles, each a different manipulated community, overboard. Turns out something got hungry and took a bite of the net bag that was holding the bottles underwater. We’d like to think shark, but that’s entirely our imaginations run wild. We spent the entirety of the day after lunch filling up large plastic carboys with water from the Sargasso – a prized medium for phytoplankton researchers. The water out here, though a classic mix of sea elements is very “clean”, meaning it has extremely low levels of organic matter, trace metals, or really any nutrients at all. It’s what makes the waters out here such a beautiful blue and is the reason we haven’t seen much life outside of the phytoplankton in our tubes the entire trip.
Consequently we also spent a good bit of time looking for other life, dip netting off the side of the boat for sargassum weed. The seaweed drifts about in small rafts about the size of a dinner plate at most, housing a whole community of shrimp, crabs, fish, and the occasional seahorse. We got to observe the shrimp, crabs, and fish today, all perfectly camouflaged to the yellow and white sargassum. The fish must have thought he was in heaven when we dumped him in a bucket with a bunch of confused shrimp, which then became his dinner. We also saw three birds today, two Bermuda terns and a smaller tern. They’re hundreds of miles from any land, hoping for scraps of our leftover galley meals as an added bonus to a life of scarcity. They were gliding on the wind when we saw them, occasionally calling out to one another. It was a nice reminder to take pleasure in the little things.
~Bluegrass Blue Crab