A few days ago we were nearshore and a storm was rolling in. The weather was so bad that the captain said we had to stay nearshore for an extra day before beginning the two-day steam out to our next study location.  It felt like we were going to waste an entire day, except to Cat Nickels of the Ohman Lab.

For the last two summers, Cat has carefully planned two student cruises in these nearshore waters for her PhD thesis, in a place called Nine Mile Bank. Nine Mile Bank (nine nautical miles offshore, if you couldn’t guess) is a feeding ground for blue whales during the summer, but she has seen blues, fins, and the occasional humpback there.  Cat’s thesis focuses on whale-krill interactions, and she is interested if the topography of the bank affects krill aggregations and whale feeding patterns. SKrillEx 1 (Student Krill Expedition) took place in the summer of 2014 and took months to plan; it had students from multiple labs working on chemistry, benthic ecology, microbiology, microbial ecology, and microplastics. SKrillEx 2 (summer 2015) also took months to plan and revisited the same site to ask similar questions.

SKrillEx 3, as we came to call this day at sea, was planned by Cat in 20 minutes. When the captain said we had to stay nearshore, Mark Ohman asked if we could go to Nine Mile Bank. Soon Cat was plotting coordinates for an MVP transect and an all-night bongo tow transect like we had done the last two summers. This pre-blue whale season third replicate may end up being extremely useful for Cat’s thesis and it was all because of stormy seas and quick thinking by Mark and Cat.

The all-girl night shift on the bongo: