It has now been a few days since I returned home from the science expedition aboard NOAA ship Nancy Foster. Here in Washington, DC, the heat is even more oppressive than it was down there on the Gulf coast. Our weekend weather is supposed to top 100 degrees. Re-entering terrestrial life itself takes a surprising bit of adjusting, especially diving so abruptly into the frantic pace that drives all modern life.
Posts Tagged: loop current
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?
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.
We call it the “Far Field.” It is the reason scientists here on the Nancy Foster chose this remote, seemingly empty portion of the Gulf of Mexico to study. The Far Field is why we are such a long way from Florida, practically north of Mexico now, and working in water that is two miles deep. The Far Field is so-named because it is “downstream” from the actual spill site. Yet the Far Field is absolutely vital to understand if we wish to know where both the fresh and the weathered oil will end up going.