The temptation on any research cruise is to focus on what is happening on the deck. It’s only natural, because that’s where “the action” is. Nothing says oceanography like a disk full of photos of gear going over the side, and hopefully, coming back full of samples.
Today was a great example of that. We collected sediment cores from two locations near the U166 Shipwreck using the MC900 multicorer, and water samples from the Anona and Viosca Knoll wrecks using the CTD.
But how we got to those sites, specifically how we decided when, where and why to be on one location vs. another is all a numbers game. The sites are up to 150 miles apart. It takes time to move the boat, and our science from one place to another. We have specific windows of time when we can work tasks, so that adds another element of the numbers game. That numbers game starts in the weeks before the cruise, through many conversations with the science party, and continues while underway, because weather can change anything. Case in point, 4 hours after leaving the dock, we had our first of many schedule revisions.
And then there are the samples. All samples must be accounted for, logged correctly, and be consistent across multiple labs. That takes time and planning, and labeling of hundreds of sample vials in the months before the cruise, and diligence during our sampling activity.
Finally, the fatigue factor, which is difficult to calculate, but is a known constant. We do all we can with our planning on the numbers to make that factor as small as possible.
By my estimate, we are in the black with the numbers game, thanks to planning, practice, and teamwork.