Last night was my first shift on watch. I walked into the electronics lab at midnight to find the day shift crew partially covered in mud. This meant they had collected and begun to process our first core: a 4.5 meter long jumbo kasten core. As far as cores go, it was well-recovered and very nice looking. Layers were clearly defined, and colors included olive green, red, black and pale green.
As the day crew transitioned out, we began our work sampling the core. Amelia and Amy both have different projects they are working on, so their sampling strategy requires several samples taken at select intervals. It fell to Issy, Cristina and me to sample the mud using syringes, bag them and place the samples in either the -80 C freezer or the +4 C cooler. The task was pretty simple, but we had to take close to 400 samples, so we were at it for about seven hours.
This sediment will undergo various analyses, including inorganic and organic geochemical analyses to determine paleo-temperature as well as biological analysis of archaea (single-celled organisms) preserved in the mud. The fact that we will be using these cores to answer questions about climate over the past 10,000 years is really exciting, but it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It’s great to have Amy come in every so often to explain the layers or point out phytoplankton blooms that occurred thousands of years ago.
There are ups and downs to working the night shift. The hardest part is trying to train my body to function from midnight to noon. I have been finding it hard to stay awake past 8 AM. The other tricky thing is remembering what time it is because the light outside looks about the same in the evening as it does in the morning; I usually find myself heading for breakfast and find it’s time for midnight rations. One of the best parts about working nights is having a small group to work with. It feels a little like we own the ship. I also enjoy watching the sun set and then rise again just a few hours later in the same shift.
This cruise is sort of a shakedown for what to expect when we head to East Antarctica in February. Now that I have worked 12-hour night shifts, I will know what to expect and be able to make a valuable working contribution to the research we will be conducting on the R/V Palmer at the beginning of next year.