First morning on Second Watch

July 20, 2010
Lat/Lon: 40 ° 25.5815 N / 047 ° 15.6313 W
Air Temp: 24.5*C /76.10*F
Wind Speed: 14.48 kts
Humidity: 85.6%
Water Temp: 42.12*C / 75.416*F
Depth: 3683 m / 3.7 km /2.3 miles

Today we rose at 12:15 am.

Waking in your stateroom you have no sense of day or night, of the temperature outside - no sense for whether the sun is brightly shining or if it's covered by clouds - no sense of anything other than the cool constancy of your room. Even the sound doesn't really change - loud, pulsing and also constant.

The decision was made to switch us to 12 hours shifts midday yesterday so the 1pm to 1am first-watch started up right away and we, the second-watch, headed to bed last night earlier than normal but too late, we knew, to be genuinely functional at the start of our shift. Or the middle of our shift. Perhaps not even towards the end of our shift!

A hot shower revives you some (if you rise early enough to hop in) and you don your muddy clothes from yesterday (from several hours ago), shuffle down the hall and climb up one flight of stairs. You survey the lab. People are about but solitary in their seats; first-watch people have been sitting for several hours willing themselves to stay awake and second-watch people can merely blink in the bright lights of the lab. The boat rocks forcefully. You look to the portholes for some sense of the horizon but only inky blackness is visible, for it is the
middle of the night and we are steaming ahead.

Our first site is reached within an hour of our shift start and suddenly nearly everyone on shift is dressed in hard hats and bright orange flotation vests.

Tasks are welcome.

Lines are in hands, someone has climbed up into the crane. Sarah thought she saw a bird but then perhaps it was the white cap of a wave looming high enough to be mistaken for something in the sky. Time to launch the multicore. The log has "Tip of Grand Banks" written on the LOCATION line, so that's where we must be. I think of fishermen hundreds of years ago rowing, rowing away from larger boats, fishing the Banks, returning with their boats full of cod, some not returning at all. If the R/V Knorr is pitching in these waves, what must it have been for them?

Back in the lab we turn our computers on, we all check our emails and Facebook pages and laugh at ourselves realizing that we only logged out of them four hours earlier. I begin searching for the time of sunrise on the Internet, as it is the sunrise that everyone reminds you of when they see you're on second watch: "Oh - that's hard! But you get to see the sunrise!" It's surprisingly difficult to find as my primary point of reference is the Mid Atlantic Ridge.

Ah - Greenland! No data. Ah! Brazil! Ah - forget it. We'll see it when it rises.

Several quiet hours pass and it is time for the multicore to surface. We step out onto the deck into a sunrise obscured by haze and clouds. A bird is on the deck, hobbling away from us as we try to help it (help it to do what? we weren't sure). One foot was webbed, the other...I think it was gone. The multicore is brought up from the sea, the second-watch team pulls it apart and we set up for archiving and sampling the small cores.

By the time we are working with the mud, the sun is visible, a bright luminous
sphere, burning above the strip of haze along the horizon.

The day has begun.

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