Posted by: adorsk | January 14, 2009

BATS

The Oceanus left Bermuda on December 14th.

This cruise was a BATS cruise. Each year top bat manufacturers (baseball, rugby, cricket, etc.) have an industry-wide competition to see who can make the toughest bat. And what better testing ground than the North Atlantic? The companies supply us with an arsenal of bats, which we put through a series of tests. There’s the hatch test (can it batten down a hatch?), the shark test (can it batten down a mako?), and the computer test (can it batten down that !#@$!@#$!@#$ computer that just froze?).

No, not really. BATS stands for Bermuda Atlantic Time Series. Since the late 80’s there have been research ships going out once or twice a month to measure water properties just Southeast of Bermuda. The resulting data set is one of the most interesting data sets in oceanography. It has been used for all sorts of studies from climate change research to plankton growth.

Usually the BATS cruises are conducted by BIOS, the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences. But their ship, the Atlantic Explorer, was in the shipyard. The Oceanus was booked to go out instead.

Everyone in the science party was from BIOS.

The chief scientist was SB, originally from Tasmania. With him were research technicians MT, LJ, BI, and a group of POGO students. POGO stands for Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans. It’s a program that provides fellowships to scientists and students from developing countries so that they can study at oceanographic institutions in the US and UK. A neat idea. The POGO students were RA from Venezuela, SK from Brazil, LL from Ghana, SK from Pakistan, ND from India, and HS from Tunisia.

BATS on Deck

The weather was fairly nasty for the first few days of the cruise. It was kind of like being a heavy-metal band that had wealthy sponsors: big rollers kept us rocking. We were able to do a few CTDs at the beginning but the rocking was so severe that the CTD wire loosened and short-circuited. I had to make a new connection. After that we had to go slowly and carefully.

RA gets splashed

RA gets splashed

RA & MT prepare to recover the CTD

RA & MT prepare to recover the CTD

RA & LL getting water samples

RA & LL getting water samples

We also deployed a few flavors of drifters. One drifter was the primary production array, a set of bottles with radioactive chemicals for measuring how much carbon sea critters consumed. The other drifters we deployed were sediment traps, basically floating bottles with filters for collecting floaties in the water. The samples from sediment traps are good for tracking how nutrients and chemicals travel through the ocean.

Chief mate EG watching the winch during a deployment

Chief mate EG watching the winch during a deployment

Preparing a sediment trap

Preparing a sediment trap

The sediment traps were easy to deploy but hard to recover. A deployment involved simply lowering the traps over the side. Recovery was much trickier, mainly because it was so hard to find the traps. We had approximate positions for them via radio signals, but we still had to visually locate them when we got closer. The top of a trap looked like a small orange lobster buoy, not an easy thing to pick out from a mile away in big seas. It took some sharp eyes and a lot of luck before we were able to get them all.

Recovering a sediment trap

Recovering a sediment trap

Taking off the bottles

Taking off the bottles

Back to Bermuda

It was a short cruise, only four days, but we were able to get everything done even in the rough weather. We headed back to Bermuda on the 18th. The blue-green harbor at St. George seemed especially placid after being out in big seas. The science party unloaded that morning and we left in the afternoon, homeward bound at last.

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