Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Packing and Patching
27 June 2008, Finney @ 7:51 pm

[This post written 6/27/08; position: lat -55’35”, long -53’53”; temp 2C; wind chill -7C]

We have had a pretty sweet day’s travel. There’s not much wind, and the water has been a lot calmer than yesterday. I just went up to the bridge, and the pilot told me we are going about 10 knots, so that’s a little faster. We are still going north and west, but mostly west, toward South America. I’ve been thinking about how weird it will be when I get home, to be able to say, “South America? Oh yeah, I’ve been there.” I know it’s a big place, and just because I’ve been to Punta Arenas and Santiago doesn’t mean I’ve seen the whole thing. I’m just saying. Also, when school starts up again at the end of summer, dude, Ash and Rainy and I are going to have the most awesome “What I did during Summer Vacation” reports ever.

But that is kind of off the track. Though I didn’t expect to have much to write about today (in fact, I was looking through everybody’s pictures again to find some more excellent ones to post), it turns out something pretty interesting is going on down in the labs. Of course, the scientists are now packing up the supplies and equipment they unpacked and arranged nicely in the ship’s labs a month ago. That is a lot of work all by itself. Some of the stuff will be stored in Punta Arenas to wait for the next voyage next March. But some — including the samples of seawater and sea creatures — will be shipped back to the U.S. Lots of paperwork has to be filled out for customs officials in both Chile and America. It is keeping the researchers pretty busy.

But there’s more. When I went downstairs to see what was happening today, I saw that the floor of the long hallway down there was covered with a black net! At first, I wondered what the heck! Then I realized it was the MOCNESS nets. But why would those nets be on the floor outside the lab? I soon found out. Each time they are used, they get holes in them. Sometimes the holes are made when the net snags on something underwater. Sometimes they are made when the nets are pulled in full of the stuff they have gathered. I have seen so many pictures of fishermen repairing their nets, but I never really thought about why they have to repair them before. Today I sure did, as I watched Stian sewing up the holes with a big, heavy-duty sewing machine, and Stephanie patching them up by hand with a big needle and an awl. In the top picture, you can see Marko looking for holes, and in the bottom picture, you can see Stephanie and Stian at work.

When they are done, the MOCNESS and its nets will be packed away and stored till the scientists need them again. One thing I have learned on this trip is that some of the work scientists do is simple but hard. You don’t have to be a genius to sort krill or patch nets or get water samples. But you do have to pay a lot of attention, be careful, and do a really good job. Otherwise, your discoveries will not be convincing to other people. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable — to live on a ship in Antarctica for a month, for example, working 18 hours a day in the cold and dark. You have to really love what you’re doing.