Sampling the dark hours

Bongo net deployed for a nighttime plankton haul. Photo: Dierking

Time at sea is limited and thus precious and there is so much to be done on a scientific cruise. To get the best possible snapshot of life in the Baltic Sea during our 12-day journey, we therefore try to sample as many locations as we can along the way to increase the resolution of our findings. That also means working while everyone else is asleep.

Here on board, for us scientists work is organised in 4-hour shifts with 8 hours of break in between. One of those is the infamous night shift from 12 to 4 am and as you can imagine, it is not really the most popular one. The idea of being on deck during the dark and often cold hours, filtering litres and litres of water for fish larvae and other tiny organisms, might not seem desirable at first. But there is something almost magical about this time of the day (or night?). The lab, the ship, the sea, everything seems more peaceful than during the busy hours of daylight, where scientists and crew members alike scurry over the deck. At night, it is just you, your shift team and the sea and while you wait for the vessel to reach the next sampling station, there is often enough time to be spent on locating the funniest ship names on the radar screen, looking at the wandering lights of faraway light houses or developing rubberboot dance choreographies and sing-alongs to your favorite Spotify playlist. What better time than now, when there is no one around to watch and judge you?

And when you’ve finally made it through the night without falling asleep on your microscope, you get rewarded with a beautiful sunrise to be enjoyed on the uppermost ship deck (which by the way is called “monkey island”), preferably with a cup of tea in the left and your phone camera in the right hand. That’s at the latest when you realize that working the night shift is not so bad after all…

Samuel Morsbach (scientific crew AL592)

Strange encounters under the sorting scope during the night shift. Photo: Dierking

2 thoughts on “Sampling the dark hours

  1. Super das ihr uns an eurem Forschungsalltag teilnehmen lasst. Aber auf Deutsch wäre auch gut.

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