Days of science

December 17, 2015

Day 8 – Amazon 2015

Apologies for the silence but the sun and heat does funny thing to ones brain – it turns it almost to mush.

After we celebrated Lisa’s birthday with a delicious pad thai and vegan coconut and tapioca cake last night, it was my team’s turn to do the 8 pm to midnight watch. It was the first night that we could not see the stars as the rain clouds started arriving and the ocean swelled.  With two members of our watch team down (one ill and the other resting from her day of hard work on cooking watch) Erika and I took turns to helm 40 min at a time. It was simply amazing to helm Seadragon last night- for the first time I could feel her alive dancing in the ocean wanting full wind in her sail. It was a glorious feeling! I can see why people fall in love with the ocean and make it their life.

During Ana’s watch this morning from 8 am to midday we did more science. We took samples of water to identify the marine microbiome. The idea is to study the microbial community (all the tiny organisms in the sea) since they are indicators of a healthy ocean.  Barbara, one of our resident scientists, explained the importance of microorganisms including that we too are walking microrganisms, that they represent more than half our body weight and that they influence our behaviour, what we eat etc. Perfect Ana thought “I now have another excuse not to take responsibility for what I eat, say or do”!

After lunch we set about deploying the manta trawl. Due to the large swell this proved to be quite a challenge. Today we are sampling the waters some 200nm from the 160 mile wide mouth of the Amazon river. It would seem that no one has sampled the waters here so we are not sure what to expect.  We are currently sampling in an area between the north and south Atlantic gyras (far from known areas of plastic accumulation)

Today’s matatrawl found two potential micro plastics and two fibers. When we looked at the two pieces of micro plastic under the microscope there seemed to be evidence of larvae and eggs in them – as if they had been colonised.

It is too early to draw any conclusions from our work.  The samples, not least the ones measuring the presence of nanoplastic, need to be analysed back at the universities for whom we are doing this research. This will take a couple of months.

We continued the work on other experiments carefully sterilising equipment, measuring quantities and labelling jars.

As she was cleaning out the trawl Rachel brushed her pinky finger on the stinging nematocyst from a tiny jellyfish. Since it is venomous there was slight commotion until Imogen, the first captain and medic, pronounced that soaking the pinky in white vinegar would do the trick. And it did! After an hour Rachel was looking down the microscope as if nothing happened.

It was another day of science.

 

The crew

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