Timepoint #1 – Day 2 in Jardines de la Reina; Day 6 aboard the M/V Alucia
Welcome aboard! The M/V Alucia has just finished its second full day of research in the pristine Jardines de la Reina, a protected coral reef ecosystem off the southern coast of Cuba. Our crew of 13 Cuban and US scientists has been studying reef biodiversity, from microbes to Montastrea, and still managing to make time for a birthday fiesta and plenty of language lessons. Our expedition has been full of firsts, both for science (like in-situ superoxide measurements) and for this first year oceanographer (a Halloween at sea, for instance). Anyways, bienvenidos and let’s recap highlights of the mission so far:
Day 1 – Fort Lauderdale, USA to Havana, Cuba
Thar she blows, the Alucia! My home for the next 2.5 weeks, and the expedition’s base for the next month! Amy (our fearless leader), Ashlee (the reef whisperer), Laura (official cruise DJ), Kalina (superoxide superstar) and I spent the day unpacking and setting up, with some help from our favorite Milli-Q deliverers Andrew and Ryan.
We set sail and I got some work in from my new official office (see above right). Before the day was done, though, we’d discovered a few key features of the Alucia that deserve a mention:
Have you been watching Blue Planet 2? Well you should be! Part of it was filmed on this ship, and the crew have some awesome tales from its creation. More on that later.
The Subs! The yellow one, Nadir, is pictured above. This Alucia Coral Reef Biodiversity Cruise is the first all-SCUBA science mission aboard the vessel in 5 years (which means no subs for us), but their mere presence inspires adventure. There’s even a lego version in the mission control room!
Oh, and then one can’t forget the stairs-of-death. Literally or figuratively. Hold on to the rails or the sheer STEEPNESS of these stairs will make itself known…quickly. A heroic picture of Laura braving them is below.
Day 2 – Arrival in Havana!
As the Alucia raised the Cuban flag, we pulled into port! Approaching Havana from the sea, we exchanged waves with passengers of other boats while passing colorful buildings and iconic cars.
We patiently cleared customs and waited for the media team (a documentary crew from Fusion/Univision has joined us as well) and for the rest of our science team! My lonely office got roommates as Fredy, Lake, Victor, and I finally met. With the team complete, we set out for the Gardens of the Queen!
Day 3 – A Transit Timepoint!
Our first day of transit gave me plenty of time to set up the Bablab Mobile BattleStation, complete with our Coral Reef Incubation Boxes, or CRIBs. Much more on these guys later, but for now it’s enough to say that they’re little housing for pieces of coral and nitrogen biogeochemical experiments!
There’s a quirkier side to being a new oceanographer at sea…and that’s being in three classes. Much like our vessel headed to Las Jardines de la Reina, our classes don’t stop! Our current “lecture hall” is the mission control room, which affords us a few massive monitors for class recordings in HD. The room’s usual residents, Stu and Conrad, don’t seem to mind our lecture videos; the sarcastic comments, if anything, help us along. Laura, of course, is our stand-in TA!
The Zodiac is still on the back deck, waiting for our arrival at the Gardens of the Queen…
Day 4 – Presentations, Wildlife, and a Midterm.
Our second day of transit began with presentations by all of us to the rest of the science team and the Alucia crew about the science we’ll be doing over the next few weeks. The media took the opportunity to get some close-ups of Amy, who started us off!
A lonely frigate-bird is, apparently, in transit as well.
Day 5 – Finalmente estamos buceando!
Our expedition in Las Jardines de la Reina can finally begin! Kalina sampled superoxide in coral reefs in-situ (the first time it’s ever been done!) and I got some much needed scuba practice in. Science scuba diving is a lot of work, but the scenery couldn’t be better.
A sunset to cap off the first day in the Gardens.
More dispatches coming soon! Thanks for tagging along.