Beadling Story Time - Episode 1

by Becki Beadling

BEEEP! BEEEP! BEEEP! BEEP! I reach across the bed, searching for the source of the blaring noise that is piercing my ears. The sound shuts off, and the screen staring back at me tells me its 11:30 pm. I lay back in my bunk, feeling the ocean rock me back and forth as I try to muster up the energy to put my feet on the rungs of the ladder next to me.

Finally I descend to the floor and turn on the television screen to get an idea of how my next twelve hours will begin. As the screen comes into focus a live video of people crowded around a carousel of grey bottles in a room below me comes into view. I watch as they bustle around the room, filling Erlenmeyer flasks, bottles, and tubes with seawater that has been collected over the past three hours.

I rush to get ready and run out the door, grabbing my jacket and backpack on the way out. I push open the green door in front of me, feeling the weight of gravity pushing against me as the ship lifts its bow into the waves. I slip into my navy blue steel-toed waterproof boots and head towards the Baltic Room, where I take my place around the carousel with a glass bottle in hand, ready to join the sampling team.

In my left hand is a rubber tube that I will attach to the nozzle of bottle 28 when it becomes available for sampling; in my right is a glass bottle with a stopper at the top, ready to be filled with water from 1000 meters into the ocean beneath us. Water rushes into the top of my bottle as I pinch up and down the length of the tubing to dispel any air bubbles which may have formed. Once the bottle is part way filled, I swirl around the water inside and pour it over the the tube and the cap that lies in my hand. I repeat. I finally fill the bottle completely and scurry over to a container of mercuric chloride, 0.12 mL enters the solution, killing any and all microscopic organisms living inside. The solution in my hand will soon be put through instruments and analyzed for the amount of hydrogen ions that it can take up, providing a measure of alkalinity – the ocean's buffering capability.

Rebecca Beadling putting 0.12 mL Mercuric Chloride into a sample to be measured for alkalinity.

I place the bottle in the plastic tray and reach for the next. "ALKALINITY BOTTLE 29 ON 29!".  "ALK 29!"  is echoed back to me by Isa Rosso, today's sample cop. Her eyes weave through a maze of numbers and checkmarks on the spreadsheet attached to the clipboard in front of her. She places a check next to bottle 29, and prepares for the next barrage of numbers to come:

"OXYGEN 1174 on 32!"
   "1174 on 32!" Check.
"DIC 131 on 31!"
   "131 on 31" Check.
"pH A on 30!"
   "A on 30!" Check.
"Nutrients up to 15!"
   "Got it!" Check.

The parade around the carousel continues until all 36 bottles have been sampled. The room empties and the television screen in the next room tells us we have 2 and a half hours until our next station …………


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