As the day neared a harrowing email from the Professor, “the R/V Hogarth would not be able to accommodate our cruise dates” followed by “we will be departing on the R/V Weatherbird”. 115 feet, nearly 200 tons, and 1200 horsepower at her disposal; needless to say we lucked out. The adventure started at 2:30 in the morning to make sure my ride to Key West was awake. Fast forward 3 hours, and we pulled off in Big Pine Key to find some Key Deer before meeting up for breakfast with the rest of our class. Once we boarded the boat, our Captain and Crew introduced themselves, we had a safety brief and left Stock Island, headed Southwest towards the Dry Tortugas overnight.
One power nap later, and we all met on the back deck to deploy our first Tucker Trawl as a team. Dr. Bracken-Grissom and Dr. DeLeo decided target depth and met with the Captain to determine the final cable payout to put our trawl where it needed to be. After sending it down we prepped the lab, and had a couple hours to wait… Oh boy!! Was the wait worth it!! Even though Dr. DD and Dr. BG didn’t find exactly what they wanted, as a class we couldn’t be happier. Numerous deep sea crustaceans came up, along with countless other critters, each looking wilder than the last. For the next 2 hours we would explore the mysteries of the deep, which as a team we had collected. Needless to say we were proud of our discoveries. We ran multiple trawls that night, and processed all of our samples for further study.
Finally at the end of the night, everyone was told to go catch a few hours of shut eye, but Stormie and I stuck around in the lab, to watch Dr. DD, Dr. BG and Dr. S process their own samples, identify weirdos, and come up with the game plan for the next set of trawls. Stormie and I did nothing more than sit and listen, absorbing every moment, and tidbit of knowledge we could. Seeing my teachers in their zone was amazing. Despite being on the edge of delirium from lack of sleep, my teachers started recalling and reciting primary literature left and right, in order to make a game plan for our next trawl. The amount of knowledge recalled on the fly was amazing, inspiring, and demonstrated a passion for their subject that would make Neptune proud.
As the trip continued we began to work as a cohesive unit enem though at this point everyone was sorely missing their beauty sleep. Night 3 we finally had a 7 hour break to take a nap! Monica and myself went up front to watch the sun go down, which was amazing. That night instead of going below deck, Vanessa, Karen, Anchita and I all grabbed our blankets and pillows, and stayed on the uppermost deck under the stars. The plate steel deck was so incredibly uncomfortable, but the sound of the ocean, unimpeded view of the stars, and company made up for it. To be honest I don't think any of us slept that night, totally worth it.
After 5 days of intense trawling, little sleep, and much bonding the Weatherbird pulled back into the marina. Sad to leave we all took a couple more pictures and unloaded the boat. Now it was time to return to reality, head home and finish our projects. This experience was amazing and once in a lifetime. If anyone reading the desire and opportunity to go on research cruise drop everything and sign up!