Preparing for 17 Days at Sea and the Unexpected
It’s two days until the Nancy Foster departs port for the open sea, but I have been nervous for weeks now. I spent most of this weekend running around to malls and stores I rarely visit, looking for foul weather gear, notebooks, sunglasses, Dramamine and a laundry list of other things I think I might need to make this voyage a safe and productive one. The last time I left home for this long was over 10 years ago when I went to Africa to go diving in Lake Tanganyika. That two weeks away from home was a long time. Even there at the lake, it was possible to obtain things from South Africa given a few days notice.
I know that the Nancy Foster carries food for a full complement of crew for 18 days, makes its own freshwater, and has enough fuel to power the engines and still have some left over to charge camera and computer batteries. But somehow being on a boat, out of sight of land, seems farther away from home than any other end of the earth.
Photo of the Nancy Foster from NOAA’s Website: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/nf/
Hello, my name is Eric and I’ll be your blogger for the first leg of the voyage. My background is in biology, and a wide ranging one it is, from neuroscience to aquarium science. Most of my experiences at sea have been on small fishing and sail boats. I learned to dive in order to see first-hand the beauty and complexity of tropical coral reefs. I kept many corals in aquaria while running my tropical fish store, and really came to appreciate their calm beauty and patient growth habits. After arriving in North Carolina two years ago, I was eager to try my hand at keeping the native Ivory Tree Coral, Oculina varicosa. I learned quickly that unlike tropical corals, most Oculina do not contain symbiotic zooxanthellae, the algae that provides the coral with food for growth via photosynthesis. Oculina occurs on the continental shelf in depths up to 100 meters. I have seen some at the aquarium at Fort Fisher, where they devote considerable resources to its captive maintenance.
This voyage will sample even deeper habitats, down where the Lophelia pertusa lives, at 800 meters and below. I still cannot believe that I will get to see firsthand the video feed from the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and see the coral, fish and other samples as they come up from the deep. This deep habitat contains hundreds of species of fish and corals, almost all of them new to me, and perhaps some will be seen for the first time by anyone. My luggage includes a stack of reference books, but with any luck this voyage will literally be writing the book about the life to be found in the Atlantic Deepwater Canyons.
But in order to see what lives down in those dark depths, I first have to get on that boat. It is the most exciting thing that I have looked forward to doing in a while. I hope there is enough food on board, but just in case there isn’t I plan on bringing a fishing pole.