Out of the fog and into the blue

by Laura Lilly

The Moving Vessel Profiler towing cable fades into the fog behind the stern of the ship

You know you’re off Central California in the summer when you wake up to the ship’s fog horn going off! Overnight, we sailed into thick fog off Monterey, and this morning we could barely see 20 feet away. Amazingly, as we sailed toward land, the fog lifted and we were greeted with stunning views of the mountainous Big Sur coastline gleaming in the morning sun. We even saw a pod of whales feeding several hundred feet off the ship’s bow.

As we neared Big Sur, the fog began to lift from the ocean, giving us a first glimpse of blue water and land

Yesterday we ended our 72-hour SeaSoar transect and recovered the SeaSoar. This morning, we launched the Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP) for another all-day transect. Similar to the SeaSoar, the MVP gets towed behind the ship and completes diving profiles up and down of the upper 200 meters of the ocean. The MVP can go closer to shore, which is advantageous because we want to sample the waters right off the coast – sometimes with the bottom only 50 m deep! We are surveying this area off Big Sur in preparation for two sampling transects tonight and tomorrow night. Transects are where the ship sails in a straight line bisecting an oceanographic feature – in this case, various arms of the upwelled filament that we are tracking – and the science team conducts a series of CTD casts and zooplankton tows (to be explained more in-depth later).

We will be transiting in and out of the fog this afternoon as we zig zag inshore and offshore on our MVP transect. We are hoping for clear skies tonight as we start our first transect! In the words of Neil Young, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”.

Shortly thereafter, we sailed into clear blue skies, giving us dramatic views of the coastline. Here, Tristan and Stephanie search for sea otters in the water.

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