Tuesday, July 29, 2008

La Paz Revisited

So my trip coverage ended rather abruptly at port. Here are some quick pics that sum up my experiences in La Paz, Mexico. My over all impressions were that Mexico has a very corrupt government unwilling to cooperate with academic pursuits, in particular customs, who wanted bribes to move equipment through faster...totally lame. The terrain is mostly desert in the southern Baja region very arid and VERY hot. The day we got into port the temperature was 120 degrees and on deck offloading cargo with the white metal was over that. This made moving around during the day extremely difficult and dangerous, but I managed to get out into the desert and find a nice cliff line the 1 day we had a little time to explore. So without further interruption here they are...
When we got to port we were surprised by the heat and by the desert which surrounded us. It was a good 30 minute cab ride into town where civilization was.

This find excited Jeff greatly until we found they were playing after we left. Anyways included this one because the background very accurately describes the level of heat we encountered .

A lone cata begging to be taken out in the La Paz beach front area.

Beach umbrellas here were kind of cool.

Because of the heat most people didn't come out until night. Here's the main strip area.

Our hotel was about as happening as the desert outside of town.

La Paz has an algae problem on the beaches. They were using a bulldozer further down to beach to scoop it up.

This dog was king of the beach front properties, sitting on his wall observing the masses below.

Jeff's favorite drink we found...until we tried it. Vampires must have a lonely existence with bad tasting food.

Sporting the "vampire face".
Land activities are something new and fresh after a month at sea.

Frigate birds look a lot like pterodactyls.

The cliff side view I found in the desert bordering La Paz.
Cacti blooming.

Looking back on La Paz from the top of the closest mtn. I could climb. 2 hours and 3 liters of water later.

Randomly the Autobots are all hiding in Mexico now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

30% Chance of Death

One thing I took for granted was how accurate the weather reports for East TN aren't. Yesterday I rode for my life in bolts of lightning, wind, rain, and hail. Welcome back to East TN. Fortunately I only had an 8 mile commute to the rescue squad, but I felt like Indiana Jones dodging trees that were falling and what not on the way. I guess I will pay better attention to "red blobs" on the radar from now on before making my mad dashes between places.

Monday, July 7, 2008

La Paz Bound

Today marked the end of Science and sampling and the beginning of getting everything packed to mail back, which seems just as hectic as the packing to get on the ship. We've got all our stuff boxed and all our tubes barely fit into our cryo shipper to mail back, so we're coasting until we have to interact with customs tomorrow morning. We took down all our big experiments that were on going yesterday and today so there wasn't enough time for a complete update and it's late now so I'll get some highlight photos out now ASAP before I collapse.

Yesterday was by far the flattest seas I have ever seen and just beautiful.
At first we thought we saw trash bags floating everywhere and then came to realization they were all turtles! Hundreds of them everywhere. This rude bird was among others using the poor guys as a perch. The turtles occasionally dump them in the water which is fun to watch.
As our ship passed them many spazzed out but some were very curious.
Ok so I spent about 30 minutes trying to get some flying fish pics and I got a few decent ones. They are ubiquitous throughout a large expanse of the world's oceans and they're quite fast. Upon reviewing them I thought I'd share my theories here on them. They seem to all have this little protuberance on their underside out back and it seems they use this to steer or for propulsion. I also think possibly use it to confuse predators. They dip this little protuberance into the water and wag it back and forth creating a splash and scattering water over the surface of the ocean as they move. I think this possibly changes refraction angles of light or creates additional disturbances that might possible distract and predator in the water? Anyways here's some pics of them in action off the bow.
The "wag" pattern.
When in groups it is even more profound.
Transit time when everything is packed, is full of down time here's some things that we developed to occupy ourselves. Anna creates a marvelous duck with magnetic beads.
Jeff practices the ancient art of ball punching with a concentrated look that could kill.
This of course in our science-less dimension of time, leads to organized "Mortal Kombatball."
FIGHT!..shortly after my flame is extinguished with a smashing head shot.
Tyler comes to my rescue only to suffer the same fate from the now feared punch ball warrior "Kristanalessa". Tyler has also been inspired to start a blog so check him out at this address.
The victor and current master of boat punch ball arena death matches.
Koombayah, and we're waiting for our final sunset at sea...sniff sniff.
The sun drops between some mountain ranges on land.
And provides fodder for a wild color feast for the eyes.
The final Science party picture.
Left to right Back row: Taylor, Me, Jeff, Kelley, Kristen, Edwardo, Dave, Dan, Tyler, Annie
Middle row: Left to right Randi, Anna, Liz
Front left to right:Kathy, Martin, Anna, LynnThanks for tuning into the next chapter of adventure and science in my life. I'll post a few updates from La Paz should we have access to Internet, otherwise I will post some things when I get stateside next week.

Adios amigo.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Finally we're in the Sea of Cortez and have a small swell. 5-7 ft swells never felt so good even broad side after incurring the full wrath of Douglas. After piecing together what was left of the scientific equipment on deck we're limping back getting what we can out of what's here. We've found some interesting features in the water column here and are giving them a closer look. We aren't allowed to have fireworks out here and if we shot off the flares I think we might have sent the wrong message so we celebrated tonight with this....

With clouds like this who needs fireworks?
We also received some 4th of July gifts we opened a little too late, that will be deployed during tonight's CTD so stand by for photos.

Back onto some cruise stuff...

Jeff and I are investigating oxidative stresses incurred by the communities in the upper euphotic zone. Jeff is handling the physical measurements of the reactive particles we're interested in which involves some complex chemistry. He also has set up some incubations in our only remaining deck incubator (built strong in TN) and we're seeing some interesting physical data out of those as well, so we'll be excited to get back in the lab and tease apart this story. I'm spending the bulk of my time taking water samples and using special stains, fixatives, and cryo preservatives to bring back the communities to the lab. This gives us a close to real time snapshot of what is going on in the community and later on we'll be able to determine "who's there" with the various stains used and also employ molecular approaches to look genotypically for community players, particularly heterotrophs of interest, which can withstand elevated oxidative stress.

For vanity sake- Me in my hood laying down some LDS staining smack on microbes. All fixatives and preservatives (most are very aromatic) we use must be in a well ventilated hood venting to the air outside, so I don't "preserve myself" and live to be a thousand.
Annie is a school teacher from SC who bit off a big chunk to chew for a first cruise. Accompanying as an outreach staffer, she has since gotten her sea legs and has been busily helping Liz Mann with her low oxygen isolations. She's also been helping me occasionally with freezing down samples to mail home. We treat frozen samples for recovery in the lab with a chemical that stabilizes membranes and reduces formation of ice crystals there which can lead to untimely microbial death. Samples are flash frozen (quickly) in liquid nitrogen to minimize freezing damage. Here Annie uses special thermal gloves and steady oceanographer's hands to freeze and handle the samples.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Counting our blessings

We stayed on station yesterday probably 12 hours longer than we should have. A storm we thought might pass became progressively worse and through the afternoon strengthened right over us as two low pressure systems combined and began to rotate . We made the decision at 3 PM to run from it's increasing fury perhaps a bit late and the following 10 hours were a hell unlike which I had ever seen before. The first sign that things were getting worse was the increasing winds which rode to a steady 40 knots at once and through our transit were gusting to 60 mph. Apparently a tropical system was developing into a cyclone right on top of us. We made a last ditch effort to secure what we could on the back deck and get under way. Once under way drops, rolls, and bashing of the ship commenced that reduced the strongest of the crew to crawling along walls and railings. We were tossed the entire time till we finally reached the relative safety of shorelines less affected of the Mexican mainland, where we currently reside. The seas were I was told over 20 feet at times and it showed. It was all I could do at one point to hang on in my bunk. Our science gear took a beating as well with an incubator the size of a VW on the back deck fantail being completely obliterated into about 20 pieces some of which were never recovered. Our incubator miraculously survived until we started securing gear into the main lab and vans from on deck as well as most of our incubation boxes best I can tell. A crate holding Dan's pumping apparatus and hose line was also obliterated on the back deck and as such the deck was decorated with much poly hose this morning. There is nothing more terrifying I decided than looking at 8-10 ft waves crashing onto and over the back deck from the artificial safety of sealed off spaces. I wisely put a patch on before our transit and remained relatively sick free for through duration of our transit, which others like my roommate and hall mate were not so lucky. I helped keep them hydrated and fed as I could through parts of the night. The Captain said were went through a force 8 storm and the scale goes to 10 so it definitely was nothing to laugh at. Here are some pictures and as I am exhausted now I will probably use our relative calm now to get some sleep as most of the rest of the crew is.

Feeder bands of what was to become more than just an average storm.Strangely yellow skies and lightning all around us warned of things to come.

The Seas getting more angry with the hour.
Land never looked so good to us.
Hose and debris all over the deck.
The morning rainbow and behind the tempest that gave us hell, which is now becoming a cyclone.
Instructions went from this...
To this after weather continued to deteriorate.
Inches of wash over soon became dangerous feet.
The pieces we recovered of the destroyed incubator.
What was left where it and its palette stood before the storm.