The First Few Days at Sea


One of the tug boats that pulled the Healy away from the dock

On Sunday we set sail from Dutch Harbor. It was pretty neat to watch two relatively tiny boats pull the large Healy away from the dock. Once we left the harbor, the wind began to pick u p, giving everyone their first taste of the cold that’s to come. One of the favored phrases of people aboard the ship is “winter is coming,” which is from the tv show Game of Thrones.
The first few days on the ship have been focused on getting my analytical system in tip-top shape for seawater analysis. Unfortunately the system had many problems, the first of which were gas leaks. Shortly after we found one leak, we’d find another. After tightening joints and re-plumbing most of the system, we still hadn’t fixed our problem of low standard recovery. Eventually we replaced the packing material in the gas chromatography column, which helped half of the system. In the end, we could only fix half of it, because we have no idea what else could be wrong. This will slow my analysis down a little bit, but won’t be a deal breaker.

Team Mercury's lab space

Team Mercury’s lab space

Luckily we had relatively calm seas the first three days at sea. The first day I wore a scopolamine patch, which is a medicated patch for motion sickness. Towards the end of the day I felt a bit odd, so I removed it before bed, and felt fine in the morning. Tuesday had the biggest waves yet. I thought I had developed my sea legs, but as the boat begins to rock more, I wasn’t so sure. While walking around, I feel like I’d had a few drinks (I hadn’t, this is a dry ship) because I ran into things, stumbled, and had an uneven walking cadence instead of my usually fast paced stride. I think I’m more used to it now, but we’ll find out when we get to the Bering Strait.

Over the first three days, we had two practice casts, which is when we deploy the sampling equipment. The sampling bottles need to be rinsed to reduce contamination problems. Practice was helpful, because it helped the Coast Guard learn how the GEOTRACES gear operates. The casts also give the sampling techs practice handling the sample bottles and learning the proper trace metal clean protocol. Unfortunately, during one of the practice casts, the rosette (the contraption that holds all of the sample bottles to the winch/line) hit the side of the ship. The force broke part of the rosette’s base, which is not good. Luckily, it was craned up to another deck, and welded back together. ​

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