Drawn to the Sea

When Patrick Rynne contacted me on December 11th of last year, he explained that one of Waterlust’s initiatives was to showcase ocean scientists’ fundamental research interest and juxtapose the topic with their personal passions. He said “Obviously your name jumped up immediately. We’d love to produce a piece on you that contrasts your love of freediving with your research”. I was stoked about the idea of a snapshot documentary. I thought it could be a very artistic and powerful way to communicate science to the general public. Drawn to the Sea, the Waterlust 4-minute long video was launched 6 months later, coincidently during the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) which takes place only every four years, and I could not be happier with the outcome. It’s making was a very educational and amazing journey that I’d love to share.

The short video is composed of three major parts: the narration, the footage, and the soundtrack.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 3.10.11 PM

The Narration

Being familiar with my research on fish larvae, Patrick had a story board already in mind, but he asked me of I would prefer to do the narration myself. As far as I remember, water has been my sanctuary and since I am very passionate about my work and about freediving, I found it easy and fun to write the narration below. The hardest part was to make the story short enough to be told in 3-4 minutes. It took however coaching from Patrick to speak into a microphone and many repetitions alone in my office late at night, with complete silence to get it right!

I have always been drawn to the sea. As a kid, I imagined the magic of the aquatic realm and found comfort underwater, mesmerized by the sounds of waves on the shoals and of my heart beat slowing down.

I am a biological oceanographer and a free diver. The ocean is where I push my mind and my body. I study the earliest days of a fishs life, what we call its larval stage. All fish, even those that grow to become very large, begin their lives very small. They may be tiny, but weve learned they are far from defenseless. They are strong and self sufficient having evolved to survive the pelagic life. Like the mantra ek ong kar, they and the ocean are one.

Despite this, they must still find their way through the oceans currents to a safe home like a coral reef where they can live and grow. At first we thought some would find a suitable habitat by chance, while others would be lost in the vast ocean. But today we are discovering a different story. Fish larvae are skilled swimmers and work together by using the light from the sun, and the smells and sounds in the ocean to find their way home. Even when young, they are connected to the sea in ways we dont entirely understand. When I observe them, I cannot help but think they know something about this blue world that I don’t.

Unlike a fish, I cannot extract oxygen from the water. But with long, deep inhales, I have learned to fill my lungs with air and slow the beat of my heart. Underwater, I find peace listening to my pulse slowing down and the sound of water over my body. I sink as pressure increases and I feel the water running faster over my face. I imagine that I am just like the tiny fish I study.

I explore the ocean with others like me, learning how to hold my breath and extend each visit below, just a little bit longer. But no matter how hard I train.my body will eventually force me to leave and return home to the air. Sometimes.in my dreams, I imagine I could hold my breath forever. I feel free. I wonder if I could, would I ever come back?

The Soundtrack

The music actually came after the narration. Despite personal preference for cello or violin, I had to agree that the piano soundtrack chosen by the Waterlust team was perfectly in tune with the narration. They have a lot of experience putting together amazing videos with beautiful soundtracks so it did not take long for them to find the perfect fit.

The Footage

Most of the footage was the result of a weekend session done with the Waterlust team in the Florida Springs. We had a great time freediving with them and their creative angles. Before that, I started organizing all my footage together and Patrick reviewed it and figured out what more was needed. The video needed field and lab footage of larval fish. I had some unique video of groups of damselfish larvae navigating taken by my husband Ricardo (RSMAS Alumni) and I on the Great Barrier Reef a few years ago. This study was recently published in PLoS ONE in December 2015. However, the field of larval fish behavior is relatively undocumented. So Patrick came to my lab and took some radical video of mahi-mahi larvae (generously donated by my UM Rosenstiel School colleagues, Daniel Bennetti and Martin Grosell) with a macro lens shooting at 240 frames per second!

The video also needed freediving clips from travel or from competitions. My first competition was at Deja Blue in October 2013 and my latest trip was at the Dean’s Blue Hole this April 2016, where I regularly service an acoustic pressure instrument that records sounds in a marine sinkhole. However, we still needed some footage of the meditation practice that is part of my freediving training, and of course of the fun part of the freediving with “others like me”. We asked Waterlust Ambassador, Ashley Baird, to join us on that endeavor. Ashley is from central Florida and also a competitive free diver and a great friend, so she was perfect for the role and she kindly accepted!

The best part of making the video was hanging out with the amazing Waterlust team,at Ginnie Springs around a fire camp and freediving under the moonlight. It was my first time visiting the Florida springs. I could not believe that after so many years in Miami, I had missed such natural beauty in Central Florida. The freshwater is so clear that you can see the refraction of the hammocks on the Snell’s window from the bottom of the sink holes.

I hope you enjoy the video and that it will inspire more documentaries of our scientific research at RSMAS and of our passion for the ocean.

 

Claire Paris, Professor – Department of Ocean Sciences, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Claire Paris-Limouzy leads the RSMAS Physical-Biological Interactions Lab and is a champion free-diver.

 

 

Faculty News

Lisa Beal, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean science, was appointed honorary research associate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

She was appointed in recognition of her career-long focus on the oceans around South Africa and her ongoing collaborations with South African colleagues to develop capacity for sustained measurements in the Agulhas Current as part of the Global Ocean Observing System.

Beal recently taught in the oceanography honors program at the university.

Beal

Beal with her honors class.

 

Researcher Discusses New Project on Effects of Oil Spills – (Video)

Villy Kourafalou, UM research professor of ocean sciences, discusses her three-year study, titled “Influence of River Induced Fronts on Hydrocarbon Transport” in a newly released video. Kourafalou was awarded over $2 million from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board to conduct the study on the effects of oil on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health. The project began in Jan. 2016, and the project partner institutions include: University of South Florida, Water Mapping LLC, and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

South of the border

We’re about 20 hours away from Dutch Harbor, which means it’s about time for me to sit down and write my last post from the Healy!

A little over a week ago we came out of the ice just north of 75°N, 150°W, where we sampled at the last Super Station of the cruise. Unfortunately, once we left the ice, we were hit with strong winds and high seas, which we had to endure while sending instruments over the side of the ship, continuing our science program despite the bad weather. After a few days on the rough station, we decided to head southwest, hoping to escape the bad weather while continuing on the planned cruise track towards the continental slope. Once we arrived there, we sampled a series of closely spaced stations across the slope to understand the interactions between the shelf and the Canada Basin interior. A majority of those stations were sampled during my shift, which made for an exciting night of sampling.

maps

Completed stations during the cruise, with the box around the area that’s enlarged to show the closely placed continental slope stations.

Once we finished the slope stations, we were revisited by some more foul weather, which persisted to the end of our sampling program for the cruise. While the weather wasn’t great, we were fortunate to have clear skies at night and were presented with a number of great displays of the aurora. I was not able to get any great photos of them (but I did get a decent one), Cory got some great shots from the bow.

Aurora

The aurora over the bow, taken on 4 Oct. 15 by Cory Mendenhall, USCG.

Only a few days after our great aurora displays, we had a visitor from Barrow, who flew out on one of the Coast Guard’s Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawks and is spending the duration of the cruise with us (the Jayhawk went back to Barrow).

The Jayhawk preparing to land on the Healy’s flight deck. Photo taken on 7 Oct. 15 by Cory Mendenhall, USCG.

The Jayhawk preparing to land on the Healy’s flight deck. Photo taken on 7 Oct. 15 by Cory Mendenhall, USCG.

Following those exciting events, we’ve been busy breaking down and packing up our lab spaces in preparation for Dutch Harbor. We’re now well south of the Artic Circle, and it feels a little sad that this great journey is actually coming to an end. To celebrate the end of the cruise, the science party cooked a special “morale meal” for all the Healy’s residents, which was fun getting to work in the kitchen for an hour and help out.

Fen cooking enough chicken to feed about 145 people!

Fen cooking enough chicken to feed about 145 people!

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is my last one from sea, but that doesn’t mean this is the last post for me. I have a number of photos from the cruise, along with some videos, that I’ll post about and include links to so you all can experience some of the great experiences I’ve had up north. Also, I’ll be back in Seattle the first week of November to offload the Healy, and I’ll be sure to write about that process.

As usual, stay tuned!

–Andrew Margolin
Andrew Margolin is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Miami‘s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry (MAC) in the Department of Ocean Sciences (OCE) as a National Science Foundation (NSFGraduate Research Fellow.

 

Back on the map

It’s been weeks since I’ve written a post, and I thought it’d be nice to write this one once we got internet back so I don’t have to limit the quality or quantity of photos included. Speaking of which, I just updated the photos from my last post, View from the top, to have higher resolution, so be sure to revisit those.

Map in the galley that only goes as far north as 84°N. Our first station located south of 84°N on our southward journey was on September 19th, so I guess I’m a week late with this post, although, we did just get back on the internet map at 77.5°N (our current location).

About three weeks ago on September 5th, we arrived at 90°N, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had imagined that there would be expansive sheets of sea ice, covered in thick layers of snow with a giant candy cane marking the geographic North Pole, and Santa waiting to greet us with mugs of hot cocoa. Surprisingly, when the GPS hit 90°N, we were presented with pools of open water (covered in thin ice) and Santa was nowhere to be found.

Reaching the geographic North Pole on September 5th. Photo taken at 8:09 AM, only one minute before photo featured in View from the top.

After two days of sampling and thinking about where Santa might be, we realized that he likely drifted away from the geographic pole with the snow-covered ice. Sure enough, once we finished sampling, we navigated to the largest ice floe near the pole and found Santa waiting for us there, like we had hoped. Looking back, I realize that sea ice—whether at the North Pole or further south—is constantly in motion due to the influence of the wind and surface currents (like the Transpolar Drift—see About the Arctic Ocean), explaining why we found less ice at the pole than we had expected.

Santa and me at the North Pole on September 7th, shortly after finishing my mug of hot cocoa.

Following our visit with Santa, we began our southward journey along 150°W. After reaching the 85°N Super Station over the Alpha Ridge (see About the Arctic Ocean and map below), it became very clear to us that we had previously made the right decision by taking a turn in the left direction and doing the planned cruise track backwards. Much of our southward journey consisted of backing and ramming our way through thick ice floes (what the Healy was designed for), while our northward journey was a smooth ride that bought us some extra time to sample, however, provided less ice for ice sampling stations. Since we went through so much thick ice on our way south, we occupied four ice stations to total six for the cruise, while we had intended to occupy a grand total of ten. A lot of factors contributed to our total of only six ice stations, but it is clear that our number of ice stations was limited simply by there being less ice in the Arctic than there used to be. To learn more about the 2015’s fourth lowest ice extent on record, check out Arctic News.

Ice station at the North Pole. Ana can be seen dressed all in white where she and her team collected trace-element-clean ice cores and seawater.

Ice station at the North Pole. Ana can be seen dressed all in white where she and her team collected trace-element-clean ice cores and seawater.

In addition to the thick ice we went through on our way south, we also experienced a number of bitter cold, whiteout snow days. These whiteout days coincided with the mid-point, or “hump day” of the cruise, providing little escape from the monotony of our sampling and analysis schedule. Rather than keeping a calendar and counting down these monotonous days, in the carbon van, we’ve been keeping a station map and counting down the stations. Lately, it’s been pretty exciting every time we leave a station, because not only do we get to add an “X” to the map, but we also get to take a step back and look in awe at the wonderful work we are accomplishing out here.

The Healy cuts a crack through the ice ahead, extending to (or near) the horizon during one of our whiteout days. Photo taken at 3:08 AM on September 9th.

The Healy cuts a crack through the ice ahead, extending to (or near) the horizon during one of our whiteout days. Photo taken at 3:08 AM on September 9th.

Photo of the station map we have taped up in the carbon van. We are currently at Full Station 14, which is the northernmost white triangle that has not been X’d out yet.

Photo of the station map we have taped up in the carbon van. We are currently at Full Station 14, which is the northernmost white triangle that has not been X’d out yet.

Over the last couple weeks, the seascapes have changed from white on white to having some variety as we gradually made our way through thinner and thinner ice, and into some better weather. We’ve finally made it back to open water, and more importantly (for you and this posting), we’ve finally made it back to our internet connection.

The Healy nearing open water. Towards the horizon, a dark streak can be seen, which is a sign of open water or an open lead. This feature can also be seen reflected off the overlying clouds. The carbon van door is open as I say goodbye to Ryan before heading to the conference room towards the end of my shift. Photo taken at 7:53 AM on September 25th.

The Healy nearing open water. Towards the horizon, a dark streak can be seen, which is a sign of open water or an open lead. This feature can also be seen reflected off the overlying clouds. The carbon van door is open as I say goodbye to Ryan before heading to the conference room towards the end of my shift. Photo taken at 7:53 AM on September 25th.

Thanks for following — it’s great to be back.

–Andrew Margolin
Andrew Margolin is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Miami‘s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry (MAC) in the Department of Ocean Sciences (OCE) as a National Science Foundation (NSFGraduate Research Fellow.

 

 

View from the top

A beautiful North Pole view before bed

A beautiful North Pole view before bed

On the morning of September 5th, the USCGC Healy and the U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition reached 90°N, making this the fourth visit to the North Pole for the Coast Guard, and the first visit for many of us on board.
Nearly everyone on board was awake for our arrival to the pole. Some of us went to watch the GPS hit 90°N in the computer labs, while others went to the bow to be the first to reach the highest latitude. After celebrating our arrival, we put a rosette in the water and began sampling the northernmost water masses on the planet (see About the Arctic Ocean).
 Once we finished our water column sampling on the 6th, we moved to where the ice was thick enough to get out on and sample from (photo from previous/first ice station), and also to take a brief “ice liberty” and formally celebrate our North Pole arrival by taking a proper group photo.
Group photo taken by Cory (far right) on the 7th. Fen is in front to the left of Greg (in yellow), I am two to the right of Greg, to the left of Jim (bright yellow on navy) and Ryan is in red under the “U.” Check out the Coast Guard blog (in right sidebar) or under Cory’s name on the Scientists and Crew tab, as I’m sure there will be press releases written about this, including a higher definition photo.

Group photo taken by Cory (far right) on the 7th. Fen is in front to the left of Greg (in yellow), I am two to the right of Greg, to the left of Jim (bright yellow on navy) and Ryan is in red under the “U.” Check out the Coast Guard blog (in right sidebar) or under Cory’s name on the Scientists and Crew tab, as I’m sure there will be press releases written about this, including a higher definition photo.

The German icebreak Polarstern (German GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition) approaching the Healy at the North Pole.

The German icebreak Polarstern (German GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition) approaching the Healy at the North Pole.

We were about to begin heading south, but we decided to stay a minute longer to meet up briefly with our German colleagues, along with their awesome DOC sampler (picture soon on Instagram). It has been an exciting long weekend for us! We are now on our way south, having crossed the Lomonosov Ridge and are back in the familiar Canadian Basin.

 P.S. — I’ll be posting the first Q&A under Ask a Question in the next few days, so be sure to check that page later this week!
–Andrew Margolin
Andrew Margolin is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Miami‘s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry (MAC) in the Department of Ocean Sciences (OCE) as a National Science Foundation (NSFGraduate Research Fellow.