Mary Cook, December 29, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 29, 2004

Question of the Day

What is sediment?

Quote of the Day

“Rust never sleeps.” Dan Wolfe

Special Edition Log: Part 2

We’ve just left the port of Valparaiso and we’re underway, headed for the inside passages and the Straits of Magellan!!! I’ve looked on the ship’s course chart and it’s going to be a great voyage!! We’ll be sailing between islands and there’ll be land on both side of the ship. I expect to see lots of wildlife-hopefully penguins and an albatross or two.

Bruce, the boatswain and Jeff, the chief computer technician have set me up in the science office with a desk, Internet, a big, comfy chair and a phone. And I’ve just found someone’s secret stash of Dr. Pepper’s under my desk. Yep, things are looking good.

I wanted to share with you about the Easter Island Museum that we went to yesterday. This will be my personal interpretation of what I saw since most of the museum’s information was in Spanish.

Easter Island is a volcanic island situated in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles off the coast of Chile. The indigenous people or Rapi Nui made huge monolithic statues called maori and placed them all around the island. These gods are thought have been put in place for protection and worship. The native people had four quarries from which they extracted the stones and carved the features. Then they slid them into place with wooden rails and ropes. There are only four of these statues outside of Easter Island and one of them stands in front this museum. The Rapi Nui had a complex and organized society led by a chief. They made pottery, arrowheads, harpoon heads, and jewelry. They were great fishermen. It appears as though they had a sophisticated system of ocean navigation with bamboo and seashell “maps” that indicated currents and islands. (I love maps. So seeing this was “way cool”!) Sometime during the 1700’s the first white man arrived. Some of the Rapi Nui were taken as slaves. Different diseases were introduced that spread rapidly throughout the island. And so this was the beginning of the end for their culture. Today, Easter Island is part of the country of Chile and the maori are being restored and preserved as a world heritage site. So, that’s my take on the fascinating museum of Easter Island loaded with its artifacts of history, mystery and intrigue.

Tonight, my plans are to stay up late and go hang out on the ship’s bridge and search the dark waters for bioluminescence. Wow, that’s a big word. Bioluminescence refers to microorganisms that emit light when disturbed. I’ve heard about bioluminescence in the ocean but I’ve never witnessed it. Silas says it’s there almost every night so, hopefully, tonight we’ll see the ocean glow!!!! In Arkansas, we have lightning bugs that flash a glowing, neon green light. When I was a kid I loved catching them and holding them gently in my fist to watch the rays of green light shine between my fingers. It was fascinating, but they smelled like, I don’t know, lightning bugs. Anyway, I’ve heard that the bioluminescence in the ocean can be red or blue or green! I can’t wait. If I don’t see any tonight, I’ll go back every night until those little rascals get disturbed enough to emit a sparkle.

Tomorrow, we begin the scientific work with the University of Concepcion. According to the plan, a drifting sediment trap will be deployed, a CTD rosette cast will be conducted, and a sediment core sample will be taken.

The sediment core sampler looks like a rocket. It’s a long narrow metal cylinder with fins on the bottom. But instead of going up into space, it’s going down into the ocean floor. Co-chief scientist, Julio says it will collect sediments that were laid down thousands of years ago. This will enable them to better understand the history of the ocean.

Before I sign off for the day, I’d like to thank Alvaro Vera of the Chilean Navy for his thoughtfulness and generosity extended toward us during our stay in ViƱa del Mar. Alvaro invited all the Stratus 5 scientific crew over to his house for a barbeque in celebration of a job well done and the good working partnership between the Chilean scientists and the American scientists. It was great food and great fun-another fine example of Chilean hospitality.

Until tomorrow,