April 24, 2006

Ode to Swimming

A near catastrophe occurred aboard today. My MP3 player's battery had dwindled down. When I plugged the USB charger into the computer, the MP3 did not begin charging. I was about to lose access to tunes. This happened once before while flying back from Milwaukee. I was left to listen to the drone of the jet engines. My music player is able to drown out the constant noise of the ship. I crank up the rock and roll when I am feeling a little homesick, when I am a little low, when I am working out, when I am bored, when I am writing, and when I am in a good mood. You can now see how important this little piece of technology is to my psyche. Leo Bercial from Spain helped me problem-solve this nearly fatal incident. We downloaded an upgrade to fix my problem, but when I plugged the MP3 player into his computer, the program declared "insufficient battery power". I removed the battery, rubbed it warm, crossed my fingers, and luckily there was just enough juice to download the fix. Emergency averted! The majority of the rest of my day was spent resting from all the MP3 excitement and eating. We have been traveling to station 5 today, which is located at 14o North latitude. We will be almost in line with South America by 7:30 tomorrow morning. I did take some time today to make plans for my one-day excursion in Puerto Rico. Since it is only one day, I plan to make it a full one. I will save a little money by staying on the ship the first night. The following day I have made plans to go scuba diving off the east coast of Puerto Rico near Fajardo. That afternoon I plan to hike into the El Yunque cloud forest, and take a plunge in a pristine waterfall pool. In the evening I will go to the bioluminescent bay to see the glowing dinoflagellates, followed by a nice seafood dinner. Then it is off to bed at the Fajardo Inn to rest for the following day of flying. Then I will be back at school, as if I had never left. Right students? I was also inspired to write a poem while admiring the swimmer-friendly-looking water.

Ode to Swimming

Smack! crack! a brash sound,
as if the vessel had run a ground.

The echo reverberated through the hull;
to the left my bed would roll,
as the waves in droves did pound!

The ocean played a floating drum.
Awake I was, but feeling numb.

What was all this clamor?
Could it be Thor's mythic hammer?
It is time to rise, you lazy bum.

Through the portal I did stare
at the sun's warm, crystal glare.

Out the hatchet door in haste,
not a minute longer waste,
to breathe the fresh sea air.

Churning bubbles, foamy white,
the waters weight the turbines fight.

To the aft deck I gladly ventured.
The sapphire allure attention captured.
I resist the aqueous invite.

The swirling blue is a swimming pool.
Leap not you tempted fool.

Not too chilly, 80 degrees.
Lunge in, plunge in, you cannot freeze,
but violate a Cardinal rule.

In the refreshing drink I wish to play.
Stroke, dive, float all day.

If I dive from the Ron H. Brown,
worry not, I will not drown.
Please, Oh! Captain this I pray.

Water, water, east to west,
not allowed we are to test.

What relief to soak and steep,
in its dappled briny deep.
We all could use the rest.

For just brief pleasure, lets amend
the decree that just might bend.

They won't stop the ship to let me swim ,
Curse them! Curse them!
The end.

The only individuals allowed to swim are those involved with the blue water tethered diving. One of the divers is Larry Madin from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Larry is one of the founders of blue water tethered diving. He was interested in studying the gelatinous zooplankton that are often mangled in plankton nets. Larry began trying to collect these organisms while diving. He had tremendous success with this new technique. Most divers dive with a bottom in view. Blue water tethered diving refers to diving in waters too deep to see the bottom. This diving technique requires a line to be dropped, which is attached to the boat. Then, up to three divers swim out horizontally, while attached to the centerline with a tether and counterweight. A fourth person acts as the safety diver and stands watch over the tether point on the rope. Being tethered to the Zodiac is important, especially at night in the open ocean. If the boat and the diver were to drift apart, then the diver could potentially be lost to the sea. The divers carry a mesh bag of jars. The plastic jars are used to capture small transparent jellyfish such as siphonophores, ctenophores, and true jellyfish. Larry began this type of diving in the 1970's and was one of the first to collect many of these animals in pristine condition. His diving has been aired on a NOVA program as well as on the Discovery Channel. I have included a few photos of the blue water diving in the pictures below.

Daily question: What is the name of the only tropical rainforest managed by the U.S. Forest Service?


Figure 1. Returning from a dive in the Zodiac.

Figure 2. Ctenophore in a plastic jar.

Figure 3. Lowering Zodiac for night dive.

Figure 4. Larry Madin from WHOI examining catch.

Figure 5. Enjoying the fresh sea air.