The CORSACS project (Controls of Ross Sea Algal Community Structure) officially began as we left Lyttleton, New Zealand on the RVIB Nathniel B. Palmer for the Ross Sea on November 1.
Planning for the cruise began more than a year ago, and culminated in port with the extensive set-up of equipment and stowage of supplies. This year's VIMS team includes Sasha Tozzi, Scott Polk, Quinn Roberts (on temporary assignment from the laboratory of Dr. Debbie Bronk), Dr. Giulio Catalano from Trieste, Italy, and Principal Investigator Walker Smith.
Port call in Lyttleton was pleasant, although the weather was quite changeable. On arrival it was warm and sunny, but 24 hours later a torrential downpour occurred, along with winds gusting up to 138 km/hr (85 miles/hr). Later that day it cleared, and the winds dropped again, all of which was a constant reminder that "if you don't like the weather in New Zealand, wait ten minutes and it will change." By the time we left port, the wind and waves had calmed considerably, and so far our passage has been relatively benign.
The CORSACS project is a collaborative effort with scientists from around the US, including those from Stanford University, the College of Charleston, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Delaware. Personnel include undergraduates, graduate students, technicians, volunteers, post-doctoral associates, and principal investigators.
Most people share a cabin with one other person, although the VIMS group has two exceptions. Smith, being the most senior PI, has the only single cabin on the ship (with the exception of the Chief Scientist), and Roberts, being the least senior, is sharing a room with three other "newbies." Food is plentiful, but we all are aware that the fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables we now are enjoying will soon disappear for good, or at least until we return to New Zealand. The ship also has a number of lounges (one with an elaborate movie system), a gym, and sauna.
During our cruise, which is scheduled to end on December 16, we hope to relay various things about the CORSACS project: the science questions involved, why they are significant, and how the VIMS team is contributing to answering them. We will also describe life at sea within a research cruise, special events (Thanksgiving, ice parties, small-boat operations, helicopter flights), plant and animal life, and our various sampling procedures. We hope you can enjoy our experiences vicariously!