Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Gross Junk
14 June 2008, Finney @ 9:01 pm

[This post written 6/14/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp -5C; wind chill -25C]

First order of business, as my dad would say, is questions people have asked. We only have one new one today, from Niknik, who wonders if the creatures in the last picture (on “Penguins!”) are krill. The answer is, yes, the orange ones are krill. I don’t know the exact name of the little dark green one. I do know it is a zooplankton, but so are krill!

Today has not been my idea of a fabulous day. I mean, nothing bad has happened. Strike has not spoken, for example. In fact, we tried to make him talk (by sitting in a circle on the floor of Rainy’s cabin — which is cleaner than mine and Ash’s — with Strike in the middle and no lights on except the emergency flashlight and beseeching him in serious and ghostly voices) and he wouldn’t say anything at all. Very frustrating. But nothing exciting happened, either. We have been going around and around the same old iceberg. Outside, it is cloudy and gray and cold in a nasty, sputtery way, and the ocean is close to black. There are no penguins or whales anywhere, and it’s snowing, but not enough to be fun. There is too much wind to fly the plane, and the kite’s not ready yet.

So we have spent the afternoon down in the lab again, where the biologists are still sorting through stuff they are getting out of the MOCNESS nets. We took pictures of all the grossest stuff we saw. Here are some of the things, if you look to the left. On top is a picture of these jellyfish that look almost exactly like eyeballs. I wanted to squish one to see what it would feel like, but Rainy said it would be immoral, and Stephanie the biologist didn’t look too happy about the idea either. In the middle is a close-up of a salp just like the one Rainy stuck in Ash’s face day before yesterday. I think these are the grossest of all, because they totally remind me of a big glob of snot with something unspeakable in the middle. The bottom picture is a jelly worm with a long, complicated name I forget now. If you look close, you can see its row of vicious little green teeth. I wonder what it looks like when it eats. I suppose you can see the food going down! The worm was lying there right in Danni’s hand. Hideous to the max. Danny is Rainy’s roommate. I wonder if there will be jelly snot stuff all over the door handles in their cabin now. I have decided never to touch the handles again.

I asked Dr. Kaufmann why they spend so much time sorting the stuff from the nets. He said, “You mean, what do we hope to learn by sorting it?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s what I mean.”

“If we sort it, then we can say ‘of the total biomass, X amount is krill’ or salps, or whatever else we find. Where X is a number. Numbers are good, because they are precise. It’s always more convincing to have a number than it is just to say, ‘It looks like we have a lot of krill here.'”

Which I guess makes sense. Numbers. That’s science for you.