Live blogging the NE subarctic Pacific Ocean – Part 1

Tomorrow morning, your trusted Terry-ites Jody and I will be heading off on a 16 day field expedition to the NE subarctic Pacific Ocean. I’ve decided to live blog the experience in order to give you, faithful Terry readers, a proper account of what climate scientists and oceanographers actually do in the real world.  Hopefully you will gain some insight into the daily super-duper exciting (i.e. banal) lives of ocean going scientists, projectile vomit and all.

In case you’re wondering where the NE subarctic Pacific is, it so happens to be in our backyard:

Up close, it looks like this:

We are participating in the Line P program, a 50+ year oceanographic time series of atmospheric and oceanographic measurements.  Our ultimate destination is Station Papa (noted above)

We’ll be working on our respective PhD projects;  Jody will be studying the bacteria communities that inhabit the suboxic waters 100’s of meters below the surface, whereas I will be investigating the metal and photosynthetic physiology of algae at the surface.  I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments section – presumably, so will Jody.

Shortly,we’ll be setting up what amount to miniature lab spaces on the ship, so I will leave you with something I wrote for Terry 2 years ago during my previous trip along Line P – it concerns consumption and how we value what we think we need and what we actually require to live (or stay sane):

Three weeks on a boat in the middle of the ocean (OK, the northeast sub-Arctic middle) is a very different lifestyle than city living has afforded me. I love cities; I love the buildings, the garbage, congestion, asthma, the people of all shapes and color, and all of the humorous, odd, and novel things these people do around me. I especially like walking through it and being a part of it all. However, perhaps more than this, I like to sit down, watch it all go by, and stuff my mouth with a big, soggy, city-lathered hoagie.

Unfortunately, you can’t do this on a boat. On the ship I will be taking, there are 4 flights of stairs and a 30 meter hallway to pace. There’s no getting off this ride, and you can’t pick up your ball and go home. You’re there for three weeks, and there’s no getting out of it.

In order adapt to this rather abrupt change of lifestyle, most of the scientists bring a few comfort items with them. What are these? Well, think of something simple and portable that makes your smile – for some, it’s a bottle or two of their favorite beverage, while for others it’s a half pound of high quality 80% cocoa chocolate.

For me, its a great cup of coffee. So, before heading out on one of these expeditions, I purchase a pound of my favorite (and expensive) coffee beans that I normally don’t buy (this gig doesn’t pay, my friends). Every morning at sea, no matter how terrible I may feel or how busy the day may turn out to be, I get to spend at least 20-30 minutes reveling in a delicious cup of java made freshly with my french press. It is glorious.

Interestingly, this reminded me of something else I’ve been contemplating here on Terry*, namely what could the developed and developing world do without (with respect to pollution and carbon emissions) and still be content with their lifestyle? We’re very much used to getting all (or close to all) that we want with little reflection spent on how we actually came to acquire these ‘things’. Might we be perfectly content in an energy or carbon limiting world if we settled for a great cup of coffee, or a few squares of chocolate, an acoustic guitar, the entire Startrek TNG collection on DVD, or a deck of cards and cribbage board?

What would you take with you?

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: