By Rafael Laso Perez |
Tac, tac, tac. The sound of the peristaltic pumps helps to stay awake at 4:00 AM in the lab. We just got some water samples from the deep sea and need to process them as soon as possible. After sampling a couple of stations, the procedure has become an enjoyable routine for me. My colleague Eddie and I get up half an hour before our samples come and go the operations deck to wait for them. They come from a gear called “CTD”, which is actually a CTD combined with a water sampler consisting of a metal frame with several big bottles which are closed at different water depths. Then, we and other scientist will get the water samples and study them to see if there are differences between various sampling stations and depths. In our case, we filter the water with peristaltic pumps (based on the movement that our digestive system does when we eat) and we use the filtered material to study the bacterial composition afterwards on land. However, apart from the CTD many more gears are deployed in every station. They include devices to retrieve sediment samples from the bottom of the ocean, cameras to study the animals living at the seafloor, pumps to study the presence of plastic material in the Arctic waters or machines able to measure light penetration in the water.
Before all the action begins, we receive a schedule for every station to know when we have to be ready since some of the gears need more time to be deployed. In a cruise, work doesn’t follow normal schedules but the possibility of sampling. Therefore, many times the work is happening in the middle of the “night”, although of course there is light since we are in the middle of the Arctic summer. In these moments, it helps to be a bit more awake thanks to some music in the lab during the sample processing or some overnight coffee that we can get in one of the dining rooms, where you can always find someone getting ready for the next sampling or who has just finished one. Since sometimes the sampling times are really tight, I try to get some rest whenever I have some free hours. Nevertheless, I got used to the procedures quickly and now I am much synchronized in order to get the best samples. Samples that are fundamental for us to understand what is happening in the Arctic and how human activities are affecting one of the ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change.