August 28, 2006
Today was the first time it has rained since the cruise started. The sea has also become rougher, so we had to make sure that everything in the labs and in our room was securely fastened down otherwise objects will get flung everywhere. All the closets, drawers and doors on the ship have latches or hooks to keep them from flying open. I guess it was too good to be true that we had experienced nothing but calm, sunny weather up until now.
Yesterday my duty shift finished early and I was just hanging out doing nothing in particular when the following message was broadcast from the bridge "Whales - flukes and blows - port side of bow". Several of us rushed up to the bridge to see what we could see. And there they were - a group of maybe 6-10 right whales. They were not that close to the ship, but with the help of a good pair of binoculars, borrowed from the officers on the bridge, I could see the spray they created through their blowholes when they surfaced to breathe, and also their backs and flukes as they dived back down beneath the surface.
While we were watching the whales Karla pointed out an interesting phenomenon much closer to the ship. The crests of the waves created by the ship's wake were not their usual white color, but appeared yellowish green. This coloration was evidence that we were passing through a phytoplankton bloom. Jerry confirmed this when he checked the fluorometer readings. The numbers were very high, indicating high surface levels of chlorophyll and hence phytoplankton.
Up in the Gulf of Maine the distances between sampling stations were much longer than those on the first leg of the cruise. This provided us with plenty of down time between stations, so Karen and I eagerly took up the offer of a guided tour of the engine room. Our guide was Orlando Thompson, one of the engineers. It was very noisy down there so we had to wear noise blocking headphones to protect our ears. It was also very hot, but luckily the control room where Orlando spends most of his time was air conditioned. The ship was powered by two huge diesel engines, monstrous yellow contraptions whose intricacies I could not begin to fathom. A third smaller engine provided power for the fishing nets. The engine room was filled with heavy duty machinery connected by pipes and wires and monitored by an impressive assortment of dials, digital displays and switches. I tried to take in Orlando's explanation of what everything was and how it worked but the noise and the headphones really prevented me from hearing more than a few words here and there.
119.jpg Orlando Thompson, ship's engineer, in the engine control room 124.jpg Tamara and Karen down in the engine room