Four days into the new year we will finally reach the coast of South America today. This concludes the Atlantic transect of the RV Meteor, and from now on we will follow a southward route to study the Malvinas Current along the coastlines of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Unfortunately, this also means that we are now closer to the end than to the beginning of our voyage, and the settling in of this realization is a strange feeling after having spent over two weeks with the same couple of people on a ship isolated in the middle of the ocean.
Yesterday evening, a (luckily rather tame) storm swept over our ship. Waves washing over the working deck confined us to the metal belly of the Meteor for the larger part of the evening, without the usual joy of relaxing in the mild tropical evening sun. It sets things into perspective. The sea itself is the sovereign out here; we are only fleeting visitors who are more dependent on her mood than I would like to admit.
Luckily, the sea calmed down again before it was time to cast our plankton net for the eleventh time during the night. With squids swarming around the ship, the net was deployed as it always is, bringing back to the surface another little piece of the wonders that lurk in the dark waters beneath. The picking of plankton after so little sleep was more straining than usual. Sitting at one place for ours at once, staring through a microscope, is not the best way to keep one awake. The little things we found in the nets, besides the Foraminifera we are here for to hunt, compensate for that.
The samples were again swirling with life: copepods, cnidaria, worms, even some tiny fish have been brought aboard in our device. After all that time, I never stopped to be amazed by the strange world that hides in the waves, and sometimes I wonder if we will ever comprehend it fully.
What remains now is to prepare for the next net deployments. Because we want to see how the plankton develops with the temperature gradient we are now crossing, there will be plenty of nets to take during the next days. I, for once, will still find time to ponder the true secrets of the sea beneath, however.