Watchman, watchman, do you copy?

It is 8 am in Peru, the sun is shining up in the sky and the boats are out on the water sampling. I relieve Toralf, who has been awake since 5am, from his position as watchman for the next 4 hours. Little by little the members of the KOSMOS-CUSCO team are trickling in and manning their posts, dreaming about the arrival of their samples. Each day a myriad of samples is processed in the lab or stored for subsequent analyses back at home. To mention just a few of our daily routine measurements: inorganic nutrients, chlorophyll a, oxygen, particulate and dissolved organic matter, biogenic silica, trace gases, phyto- and zooplankton abundance and composition … and many more.

The lab just before coming to life early in the morning. Photo by Javier Berdún.

Suddenly, I receive a radio message: ‘Watchman, watchman from C5’. From the speeding boat they inform me that they are on their way back to the pier. Then, like a vigilant meerkat raising the alarm, I alert the herd via WhatsApp. With a spring in their step everyone joins in and lends a helping hand to gather the precious seawater samples. Some need just a few liters, others considerably more. With great determination everyone works filling their bottles, filtering, preparing chemical reactions, spiking with stable isotopes, looking through their microscopes, beginning incubations, etc. Despite the long days, the room is full of smiles and the air full of excitement. 

When the sampling frenzy dies down it is an enriching experience talking with others to learn a little about the work they do and why. This may be one of the things I like the most about this type of multidisciplinary and international experiment. It is wonderful to share this experience and witness the passion with so many science enthusiasts from around the world. It is also a great opportunity to learn new languages or maybe just a few words.At the end of the day, I feel exhausted but happy that the day went well. I realize that while being a watchman may not always be the most exciting job in the world, it is actually a valuable learning experience. To stay on your toes and respond quickly and efficiently in the face of any situation, to clearly communicate important messages, and to remain patient are all important skills for science and for life in general.

Jabibi, the Watchman. Photo by Silvia Georgieva.

I bid you farewell from my watchman post and am looking forward to the next call from Wassermann saying that the samples are in route with all of our crew safe and sound.

Bye bye, tschüss, adiós, ciao, nähdään!

Javier Berdún