Today is our last day, and everyone senses that this temporary detention is nearly over. Everyone is eagerly awaiting arrival into Pascagoula around 3 this afternoon. Words like “pizza” and “beer” are spoken with special reverence. After all, most of the crew and science team have been at sea for almost three weeks.
Throughout the day I maintain hours-long point counts when we are on station, and also run strip transects when the Foster moves to a new station. But this search for any marine birds is futile. For the first time ever, I fail to see a single bird during an entire day at sea. And I have to wonder, has this petroleum wasteland driven them away?
After a fitful night’s sleep, I awake to find absolutely everyone energized and bustling. Normally, the ship’s crew works on a 4-hours-on, 8-hours-off cycle, whereas the science team works 12 and then rests 12. Today, however, everyone was up, and it was easy to see why. High on the flying bridge, I could see the Deepwater Horizon surrounded by its myriad support platforms and tenders. It looked like a distant skyline from a small city. At breakfast, one member of the science team was near tears describing first looks at the massive amounts of oil. Another describes with wide eyes a large “oil pancake” that she found during the night watch.
This morning I awoke to find that we were in the midst of a protracted station, this time just a bit north of the middle of Eddy Franklin. Station work involves deploying an array of different instruments, some of which can take an hour to send down to the depths and then retrieve. So after a light breakfast, I caught up on paperwork, and started an analysis in which I plotted marine bird distributions on a map of sea surface altimetry. A thunderstorm passed over us, building up the seas for a good roll, and drenching the deck crew manning the gear outside.