January 31, 2003
A typical day aboard
the Oregon II – from a scientist’s point of view
We’re on twelve-hour shifts from 3am to 3pm or 3pm to 3am. If you’re on the evening shift you’ve got a really busy night. From 3pm to 8pm we monitor sea surface temperature and salinity to help us track the position of the gyre. Part of our work involves measuring the primary productivity in the gyre. We do this by measuring the chlorophyll concentration in the seawater with an instrument called a fluorometer. We do three MOCNESS tows from about 8pm until we get off at 3am. Each tow takes about 2 and a half hours altogether. That includes getting it in the water, towing it (for about an hour), bringing it up, cleaning all eleven nets, sieving the contents of each net and labeling all the jars. The jars are then filled with either formalin or ethyl alcohol to preserve the samples. By the time we get done with all that it’s time to start the next tow. We wear foul weather gear but we still get pretty wet and definitely smelly.
If you’re on the day shift you do one MOCNESS tow around noon and sometimes finish up the last MOCNESS tow from the night watch. Day shift is also responsible for the monitoring and measuring mentioned above. Even though the ship’s instruments give us constant temperature and salinity readings, we still do a CTD cast once in awhile. A CTD is an instrument that is lowered over the side of the ship that reads the temperature, salinity and depth of the water.
There are two scientists per room. The rooms are like college dorm rooms with bunk beds, a sink in the room and a bathroom with a shower and toilet that we share with the room next door. The scientists in each room are on different shifts so we each get the room to ourselves while our roommate is on duty. If the seas are rough when we’re trying to sleep we slide around in our bed a little. Most of the time it’s not too bad.
It’s not all work
and no play. The ship has shelves full of books, hundreds of movies,
computers for email and even a workout room. We email our friends and
family often. When you’re at sea for 18 days at a time you really
start to miss everyone back home. Mealtimes are always highly anticipated
and the cooks really take care of us. Only 12 people can eat at a time
are 28 of us on board (including the crew) so we have to keep an eye
out for an empty seat! Besides regular meals there is also ice cream,
cookies, cereal, fruit, crackers and everything you can imagine to make
a great sandwich. Basically you could eat 24 hours a day if you wanted
to. Doesn’t this sound like a great job?
Jon received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and his PH.D. in Oceanography at NY State University at Stoneybrook. He had always been interested in the ocean and after he got his B.S. he decided to volunteer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as a technician. This experience led him to pursue his Ph.D. in Oceanography.
His duties include supervising the Fisheries, Oceanography and Ecology Team at the Beaufort lab. The team of about 15 is made up federal and contract employees, students and post docs. He also leads research projects and spends a lot of time at the computer writing scientific papers and analyzing and compiling data. He feels that it’s very important that scientists have good communication skills.
He really likes the fact
that his job combines research, writing and intellectual activities
as well as physical labor and field work. What he doesn’t like
is the beaurocracy. What kind of sea creature would he be? Jon says
he would be a lantern fish because it would be neat to experience an
environment that’s so different from the one we know.
Dept. of Geology & Environmental Geosciences
College of Charleston
Charleston, SC 29424