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The 100th manta was deployed during the last intensive station, the bongos and Ozeki have been retired and the ship has turned eastward signaling our return voyage has commenced. By no means are we sitting on deck in the sun and intermittent squalls enjoying Virgin Marys and Shirley Temples. We’re still on six-hour manta and nightly CTD duty and we’re having a Town Hall Science Meeting this evening to summarize our journey. Our night shift is buzzing albeit at lower volume. With the most recent CTD deploys we’ve been sending down painted personalize Styrofoam cups to shrink. Squashing those air bubbles at depth anywhere from 500 to 1000 meters produces neat little shot glasses, a great conversation piece or gift for family and friends. Hey, since the device is going down anyway, might as well use science and lots of pressure to create something cool and possibly useful (no Styrofoam escaped in the making of these cups, nor was any animal tested or harmed ). Mine don’t leak as far as I can tell. I will test them with legal substances once upon dry land having disembarked from our dry vessel.
Chief Scientist Miriam spoke of disembarkation procedures today during our weekly drill. This last week has arrived suddenly and people are already starting to pack up and batten down the equipment. There’s another good reason for this. We are expected to hit weather – 10 to 15-foot swells as we approach the Oregon Coast within the next few days. The waves are expected to roll the vessel from side to side so Miriam suggests fortifying our bunks on either side with pillows. Where are the bunk belts when you need them? Doug and a few others have mentioned they will reaffix seasick patches just in case. I didn’t need them coming out and will see how my constitution holds.
I’m already going through intensive manta deployment withdrawal. It’s weird having six hours between tows. During the intervals, we watch plastic during the day and log findings by night (We also fish and watch squid surface the night crew assist with search lights to illuminate prey and preyed upon we caught one !). We’ve seen loads of plastic debris today, large, small and medium. We’re compiling an interim findings report which hopefully will be ready soon following the cruise.
I’m weaning myself gently on to a daytime schedule so I can enjoy some non-comatose Vitamin D sessions. But not before I had one last evening of being transported by the cosmodome that is the night sky enveloping you as you lie on your back on the bow staring into space. There were so many stars I could not distinguish the constellations. Big Dipper, Northern Star and Casiopia were the only ones I could identify. I wished I had had a starmap to guide me through the thicket of lightfield. Then a flash blaze shooting star erupted to streak the heavens with a glowing twinkling brush. All on deck cried out in unison and wonderment.
One other observation about being in the middle of the ocean is the clouds. The horizon appears to end (yet not terribly convincingly to me, I see curvature and unseen distance). The clouds keep going. Layers, bulges and collages of them. I see clouds over clouds of earlier in my day as I look westward. I see the upcoming morning’s clouds at predawn as I catch a post-CTD pre lab peek on the fantail as the day prepares to wake. The clouds make the sunrises and sunsets expansive canvas modern
You also know it’s wind down time when we gathered yesterday on the bow for a cruise group photo. Squinting into the afternoon seaglare, we flew the joint team T-shirt colors of Scripps and Project Kaisei. We are a happy bunch on the New Horizon having nearly completed a successful foray together to the Plastic Vortex.
Detached from the realm of humans, we just as well could have been aboard the Shuttle to Outer Space on this expedition. We’ve collected our “moonrocks,” our samples, our data, much experience and are headed landward toward hard earth. Time to head Home.
The motion of the ship is now in my body. I wonder what it will feel like to maneuver on solid ground. I am beginning to see where oceanographers are coming from when some of them say they are awkward as auks on land. I am already contemplating getting a hammock for “reentry” readjustment. Or, I may prefer the hammock and simply want to keep sleeprocking. Which means I will need to deploy myself once again out to sea at some point in the not too distant future.
I am filing this blog not knowing if the seas will allow another one prior to docking in Newport. If this should be the case, wish us fair winds and safe passage on the home stretch.
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