17 June, 2000
17 June 2000
Not Your Typical Research Cruise
While we are in Nuuk changing out science personnel, I should take the opportunity to describe for you how this cruise differs from a “typical” scientific research cruise. First of all, when most people hear cruise they think of the “Love Boat” or cruising around warm tropical waters, sipping exotic drinks, and trying to decide whether to go for a swim, play shuffleboard, gorge at the banquet table, or dance the night away in the disco. Scientific cruises resemble that type of cruise only in the fact that they take place on a boat out at sea.
Research cruises take place on board research vessels, which are essentially floating scientific laboratories designed to collect scientific data from the ocean. These mobile research tools are very expensive to both build and operate. For example, the HEALY cost $220 million to build, and most ships cost $20,000 per day to operate. Due to these costs, it is imperative that those using research ships get the most for their money. In most research cruises, there will be several researchers collecting several types of data. Scientists write proposals to do parcticular research projects and then projects and ship schedules are combined to develop research cruises. Data is often collected along a designated track known as a transect. Such data allows researchers to shown patterns in an area and differences from site to site. Each site where data is collected along a transect (or any point where a ship collects data) is known as a station, and many different people may be collecting many types of data at any given station. Long cruises of one to two months may have as many as 100 or more stations. There really is no such thing as a “typical” research cruise, because there are so many types of data that may be collected and so many ways to do it. There could be plankton collection or water column sampling similar to what was tested on the USCGC Healy on Legs 1 and 2, or mooring similar to what we tested on Leg 3 or coring which we will test on Leg 4. There may be trawls to collect material from the bottom, or nets may be used to collect organisms swimming in the water. There is really an incredible variety of ways a research cruise could be organized.
So what makes our cruise such an atypical one? This is a test cruise. USCGC Healy is a brand new vessel, and before it is used for the more typical cruise, the Coast Guard and the scientific community want to be sure it can actually do all the things that it may be called upon to do in the future. So, instead of taking out a large group of scientists and doing lots of different data collection, this cruise is focusing on one or two pieces of equipment and types of data collection during each of the scientific testing legs. This results in frequent changes of personnel, so that researcher’s valuable time isn’t used waiting for their turn to test the equipment that is their area of expertise. That is why John Kemp and Jeff Lord of Wood’s Hole and Rich Findley of University of Miami are on their way to other jobs and a new set of researchers is in the process of boarding the ship. You will meet them in the days to come. Stay tuned for more testing.
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