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Click below to go to the Cruise Logs - (photo credit: Lophelia Coral - Open-File Report 2008-1148 & OCS Study MMS 2008-015)


Pre-Cruise Log: 10/02/2008 Supplement

Preparing for a Research Cruise

Christina Kellogg, Ph.D.

Researcher Mike Gray. (photo credit: Molly McLaughlin) - click to enlarge
Researcher Mike Gray. (photo credit: Molly McLaughlin) - click to enlarge
When people hear you say that you are going on a cruise, they picture tropical island destinations, mai tais by the pool, and shuffleboard on the Ledo Deck. It can be a little hard to convince them that a research cruise isn't like that...more like no alcohol allowed and work happening around the clock in shifts!

Preparing for a research cruise is different too. The scientists have to plan their experiments far in advance of the trip so that they know what equipment and supplies are needed. These items often have to be ordered and may take awhile to arrive. Packing lists are made so that nothing gets forgotten...better to bring everything and the laboratory sink rather than to forget something! After all, there are no scientific supply stores in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. If you don't have what you need, you'll have to improvise.

Action Packers. (photo credit: Molly McLaughlin) - click to enlarge
Action Packers. (photo credit: Molly McLaughlin) - click to enlarge
Time is also spent making up chemical solutions to be used in preserving specimens or that are needed for on-board experiments. Things with a limited shelf-life (like nutrient agar plates) are made as close to departure time as possible so they will last for the length of the cruise.

Supplies like gloves, tubes, bottles, and tools are carefully packed into tough plastic crates, commonly called 'action-packers'. Bigger pieces of equipment usually have their own boxes and temperature-sensitive chemicals and nutrient agars are transported in coolers. Everything has to be ready to be packed into a vehicle or shipped to the port where it will be loaded onto the ship.

Getting ready sounds like a lot of work, and it is! Now multiply that by every scientist on the cruise and factor in coordinating everyone's arrival at the ship from different cities and countries. Then comes the real test of ship-board diplomacy-setting up everyone's work areas within the limited space of the ship's lab. That's when you really get to know the people you will be spending the next couple of weeks with at sea!

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