10. Cruise Letter #9

Dong-Ha Min’s cruise letters from P18 CLIVAR/CO2 Repeat Hydrography expedition in the Pacific Ocean (2007/2008)

Letter #9

Sailing Day 27 (1/9/2008)

14.5 deg S, 103 deg W

It is sailing day 27. Some people count the days down, but I am still counting up. We are sailing southward along 103W parallel. We did a dogleg from 5S, 110W to 10S, 103W to cross the submarine ridge in right angle. Captain has slowed down the ship’s speed from 12 knots to 9 knots to conserve fuel as soon as we finished the diagonal steaming with wider station spacings (~43 nautical miles instead of 35 nm).

I exchanged some e-mails with the co-chief scientist who is coming on the 2nd leg (Easter Island to Antarctic section). He asked me what he may need to bring. I told him to bring his open mind and lots of patience…

It has been chilly still. Several hours of sun during the daytime is luxury which I don’t have, as I work at night… Someone said, “Hey, January in southern hemisphere is summer”, and other person replied, “Oh, yeah? Maybe somewhere…. not here”. NOAA has announced that La Nina is active in the tropical Pacific Ocean. No wonder why it’s been so cool here. At least 1.5 degrees cooler than usual (see attached figure: blue color indicates how much cooler it is from average). Atmosphere and surface ocean are both cooler in the central to eastern part of the equatorial Pacific. La Nina is a counter phenomenon of El Nino. Warmer and drier weather for the southern states and colder and wetter Pacific Northwest in the US are predicted for this Winter/Spring 2008.

During our night casts, I’ve observed lots of squids in the water chasing down juvenile flying fish. They are so fast and they apparently hunt as a pack like wolves. Some people caught squids. They made hard breathing and changed colors on deck… We encountered a whale few days ago. It was a Bryde’s whale (reads it broodes) with smooth gray skin (see picture). It circled around the ship casually before it disappeared. One hammer head shark was observed during the daytime too. It is surprising that we haven’t seen many sharks during this tropical cruise. Many people do not realize that so many sharks have been slaughtered by people at sea either for fins or for leisure, and they are in dire status for survival.

One of the electronic sensors on the instrument package failed at below 4000 m, and we had to replace it. We always carry back up and double and triple back up spares to the sea… Although the manufacturer guarantees 6000 m pressure rating, harsh nature does the job in no time sometimes. It is 400 atmosphere of pressure down there. (equivalent to ~6000 pounds per square inch; 1 atmosphere is about 15 pounds per square inch, or 15 psi)

Fruits are now low in our kitchen baskets. Strawberries, grapes, and some last counts of pears and mangos are served. I think apples are now almost gone. Milks are now from the vacuum cartons instead of regular plastic containers.** It’s typical at about this time of sailing… a month away from shore. A pleasant surprise for all is continuous supply of fresh vegetables. The ship is equipped with a special walk-in fridge with bacterial filter system. Storage in vacuum bags would also have contributed to this fresh supply. The ship’s chief steward doesn’t plan to buy more vegetables in Easter Island. He says the cabbage is about $10 a head there… everything is shipped from Chile and therefore so expensive. I feel sorry for the people on the second leg…

I’ve shifted my sleeping/eating pattern towards more sleeping hours and less meal a day. Now I skip dinner and sleep 6 hours a day. I am maintaining good health so far… and good morale too. I told the grad students, who are new in long sailing, in the beginning of the cruise, that they may will see people would become more grumpy and easily irritated as time goes by. Now they nod their heads to me. Keeping up with good spirit is very important! Seasoned crew and scientists know how to make humors and jokes even during the hard and demanding works. Sun is rising again through thick clouds (see pictures), so is my hope.

Whiskey Tango Echo Charlie out…

Dong-Ha Min

on NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown in the South Pacific Ocean

(P.S. from shore) ** Later, another batch of fruits were taken out of the ship’s fridge, and more frozen milk containers from the freezer, and they were served at fresh conditions.