Voyage to the Gulf of Carpentaria
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REPORT 6 - Drawing the short straw
10 March 2005
S 15º 30'
E 137º 52'
Ted Wassenberg samples, washes, sorts, sieves, weighs, measures identifies
It's two-o'clock in the morning and my team and I prepare to take over
the laboratory and the seabed sampling operations. I drew the short straw
and we ended up on the night watch.
I wake up a little after midnight and after a cup of coffee and something
to eat (a bit of toast or yoghurt with fruit) I wake up Mark Tonks, in
preparation for the next 12 hours.
We put on our safety boots and old clothes and set off aft on the main
deck where the laboratories are placed. Meanwhile, our quantitative ecologist
Wayne Rochester ensures we are kept on track with the sampling.
John Salini has just completed his shift and he explains the sampling
operations undertaken during the past 12 hours.
Often as not, we have a sample arriving on deck collected by the various
sampling devices: net, sled and sediment grabs. Each of these samples
requires hours of washing, followed by sorting or sieving and identifying
The number and weights and the sizes of many of these animals are recorded
and many are photographed with digital cameras and the images stored on
computers. Numerous animals collected are preserved in freezers or alcohol
for further analysis and later to be deposited in the Queensland and Northern
The sled samples contain a variety of small animals that live in or on
the seabed and these are hidden in among the dead shells and rubble. We
rake through this rubble in search of the animals.
The sampling net holds numerous species that live on the sea floor or
in the water just above the seabed. The fish from the net are sorted and
identified to species. The patterns of species occurrence that we observe
from our sampling are indicative of the nature of the seabed communities.
It generally takes us about two to three hours to process the various
samples and that is also about the time it takes to move from one sampling
site to the next. So we are kept very busy for the 12-hour period.
During our time off watch, we have a chance to check emails and perhaps
watch a movie or read, but mostly we just want some quiet time and sleep.
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At the change of watch: sorting, sorting.
Wayne Rochester makes sure the sampling plan is on track.
The benthic sled surfaces.
Ted Wassenberg does some data entry.