We are off to sea!

by Laura Lilly

The R/V Atlantis docked in San Diego Harbor

We are officially underway on our 2019 CCE-LTER Process Cruise! We left San Diego Harbor yesterday afternoon under sunny skies and smooth sailing conditions, and we are now heading north toward Monterey, California. We won’t see Point Loma again until September!

The goal of our monthlong cruise is to track water filaments that are upwelled in near-coastal waters off central California and flow out to the open ocean several hundred miles offshore. We are measuring various aspects of the biological production associated with filaments: viruses and bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton, along with the nutrients that fuel their growth. Our cruise the latest installment in the California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research (CCE-LTER) Program, which was started in 2004. The program consists of a core body of scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and collaborators from numerous other institutions, as well as visiting scientists and volunteers from around the world. Our current cruise includes participants from as far away as Canada, France, Luxembourg, and Ghana! Yesterday evening, we stopped 20 miles offshore to test our scientific sampling equipment. Some of our graduate students and volunteers are out on their first sea trip ever, so they got a glimpse of the deployments we will be doing during the cruise. Stay tuned for future features on our various types of sampling equipment and the scientists who use them.

Gear stowage in the ship’s wet lab. We will be filtering plankton samples and sediment traps in this area.

We are sailing on the Research Vessel (R/V) Atlantis, which is operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) out of Massachusetts. Scripps and WHOI are both members of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), under which ships are built for certain institutions but are shared with other institutions based on where in the ocean the ship is and where a given cruise is going. The Atlantis has a unique claim to fame: it is the mother ship of Alvin, a submersible vehicle that can carry scientists to the seafloor to explore deep-sea communities. The Atlantis and Alvin have been sampling hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean for the past year, so the ship was in the right spot for our cruise. We don’t have plans for Alvin dives on our cruise, but you never know what could come up at sea!

The Atlantis sailing out of San Diego Harbor. Photo. courtesy of Jeff Ellen

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