Ocean Full of Life

posted Jul 6, 2012, 10:46 PM by Shannon Bresnahan   [ updated Jul 11, 2012, 12:46 PM by Kirk Sato ]
Ever since my adventure on R/V Melville began, dolphins jumping out of the ocean have been an everyday occurrence, and my thirst for wildlife has been growing. Every day I have been eagerly searching for other signs of marine life. Yesterday, my hopes were finally met by the iconic view of a whale fin above the surface of the seawater on the background of the beautiful California coast.

The weather has been treating us nicely. Some people have even been saying that there isn't enough rocking at night to help them go to sleep, but honestly I prefer a calm sea over people getting sea sick. Speaking of sleep, for the past few days various research projects have been active through day and night, which is the reason I have been getting up at 4:30 a.m. to help the seeps research team collect data. In addition, I have been helping other teams with their projects, which resulted in replacement of my beauty sleep with only a few hours of naps in between.

The nature of science and research is unpredictable, therefore not everything always goes according to the plan. In our case, there have been a lot of changes and adjustments to the originally proposed schedule. All the teams have been extremely flexible and understanding of the necessary changes and willing to cooperate with others working unusual hours. Everyone is really friendly and nice to each other, including the crew members, and it is starting to feel like one big family. The thing about living on a ship is that you cannot get away from anyone for more than 270 feet at any given point, so I guess people have to find ways to deal with each other, and so far everyone has been doing an outstanding job.

Photo: Blanka helps sort through the trawl net, counting
hundreds of sea urchins among other ocean-bottom dwellers.

Early yesterday morning, I had an opportunity to help out with the otter trawl operation, which turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I have had so far on the ship! The trawl net was thrown overboard twice to sample the deep ocean's seafloor for signs of life. Once the net was retrieved back to the ship, we rushed to search through the net. I was extremely excited to dig through the net for sea urchins, sea cucumbers, gastropods, sea anemones, sea stars, brittle stars, crabs, benthic fishes, and octopi. Unfortunately, after the second trawl the net broke and we have been working hard to mend the holes. I hope we will be able to use the net once again on this cruise. I am excited to be able to explore one of the least known environments on earth -- aren't you also curious what we are going to find? I am sure we will share our discoveries with you all, so don't you worry. Now I need to go catch up on some sleep since tomorrow at 4:30 a.m. I will once again be monitoring computer screens as we search for signs of the highly desired methane seeps!

--Blanka Lederer, recent graduate of UC Berkeley