After a one-day delay due to bad weather, we finally headed out of Corvallis on Thursday afternoon. With the sun shining, we loaded the gear into Miguel’s truck and headed for the coast.
On the way to Newport, where the R/V Oceanus is docked, we stopped to take water samples from the Alsea River and estuary, which feed into the ocean. Miguel and his team are looking at how small rivers, like the Alsea, contribute nutrients to the coastal ocean that feed phytoplankton blooms during the winter.
The team took samples both from the river itself and the estuary where the river meets the ocean. Heavy rains during the winter cause landslides on the steep banks surrounding the river, sending sediment and nutrients into the water. The heavy rain also causes high river flows that transport the sediment to the estuary and then into the ocean. Miguel and his team will process the water samples in the lab to see what types of nutrients are in the river, compared to what they are seeing in the ocean.
After taking the water samples, we headed to Newport and the R/V Oceanus. When the ship came into view, it really hit me that I’ll be aboard.
The rest of the day was spent unloading the scientific equipment and making sure it was secure. I checked out my bunk, and unpacked my clothes and gear. As an Oceanus newbie, I also had to participate in safety training – the highlight of which was putting on the “gumby” or survival suit. We also got a tour of the ship, including the bridge and the engine room, where we learned that the boat’s engine is the same one used in trains. I also found out that there are more than a dozen non-scientific crew members that support the Oceanus, and learned where the very important ice cream freezer was located.
Today, we will head out to sea, where the real work will begin.
Nanci Bompey is public information manager for the American Geophysical Union. She is spending a week aboard the R/V Oceanus with scientists from Oregon State University who are studying the role that small rivers play in the productivity of the coastal ocean during the winter. Click here to read Nanci’s previous blog from this trip.