It’s 5AM, and the engine grumbles to a start. I’m nudged awake as the ship bumps against the wharf. The calls of birds are replaced by the squeaking of the hull against a tire. When I gain consciousness, I realize that it is pitch black, and it’s time to get moving as the Captain, Simon, and crew are preparing the R/V Kaharoa, our research vessel and temporary home, for another day at sea. I’m comfortably nestled in my bunk, so I’m not looking forward to wrestling myself out of my top-bunk perch and getting to work. I heard rainfall during the night, so I suspect the sunshine of yesterday has been replaced by windy, wet conditions. As the first scientist into the mess area, I fill the French press with ground coffee and hot water and say hello to the stirring crew. Carol the cook greets with me with a warm smile and “G’day” and asks what I’d like for breakfast. Her standard breakfast includes eggs (any style), toast, hash browns, baked beans and bacon. Knowing that Carol will be serving lots of other great food during the day, I opt for a couple eggs and toast. Everyone soon fills the mess to “have a feed” before the first core is on deck. I check in with Simon on the bridge to make sure the latitude and longitude positions for the first few stations are acceptable as we steam toward our first site.
The crew and scientists are a seasoned bunch. Upon reaching the station, everyone has their foulweather gear on and is ready for sampling. Despite light rain, deck operations move efficiently. As this is our second cruise on the Kaharoa, the coring procedure is well choreographed. Steve (Chief Mate), Dan (2nd Mate), Pete (AB) and Alan (NIWA scientist) guide the multicore on and off the ship. When cores are landed on deck, Alan orchestrates their disassembling and sub-sampling with the help of Rip (Univ. of Washington), Reide (East Carolina Univ.) and me (J.P., also of ECU). Our typical duties are: core x-raying (Alan), core slicing and bagging (Rip and Reide) and sieving for macrofauna (me...note in picture that I do get dirty). All the while, students Joey Kiker (ECU) and Julia Moriarity (Virginia Inst. of Marine Science) work endless hours in the lab, conducting erosion analyses of cores; they are excellent workers. Once we get into a routine, the coring moves pretty quick, and before we know it, it’s time for another meal or snack. Thanks to Carol, we are very well fed. In New Zealand, they have “smoco” at 10AM and 3PM. “Smoco” is short for smoke and coffee break, and on the ship, Carol serves up tasty snacks, like cake or cookies. Her éclairs are fabulous (see last cruise), but I think my new favorite treat is the freshly made donuts with whipped cream and raspberry jam. Now, I know all this mention of food sounds pretty decadent, but when you’re working hard on the deck of moving ship, discussion of and anticipation for food can really help keep people going. The other thing which aids in enjoyment of the day is the endless teasing and joking that goes on, and it seems on this ship, everyone is involved in the fun. The reality is that is it can be tough working on the ocean. Sleep, food and some fun make it manageable.
Although the day started like a routine one, our scheduled plan had to be shifted because of unforeseen events (which seems to be typical) As most of the world knows, Christchurch, New Zealand experienced a major (7.1 magnitude) earthquake a few days ago (the day we left, September 4th at 4:30 AM). Obviously, this was/is big news across the country. Although we were not directly impacted, everyone aboard knows people who were there. The person most affected was Simon, our Captain, who lives in Christchurch when not at sea. Indeed, we were really happy to have Simon as our Captain because he’s not only a very competent seaman but also a great guy. Unfortunately, on the morning of the 8th, Christchurch experienced another strong earthquake, and as a result, Simon had to get home to deal with problems caused by the recent events. As a result, we returned to port about mid-day on the 8th. A replacement captain, Evan, met the ship that evening. He has lots of experience. He has captained the Kaharoa previously and now typically works on the larger Tangiroa. Evan is friendly and relaxed and will certainly prove to be a very good captain for us as well. Of course, we wish Simon and all in Christchurch well.