Sunny Skies and Following Seas

by Nathan Laxague

Ahoy there, ye rapscallions, hornswogglers, and ne’er-do-wells. My name is Nathan Laxague. I’m a postdoctoral researcher working under Dr. Brian Haus, the SPLASH (Submesoscale Processes and Lagrangian Analysis on the SHelf) chief scientist on the R/V F.G. Walton Smith. At this moment, however, I’m merely your faithful scribe.

The R/V F.G. Walton Smith is approximately midway through its Gulf of Mexico transit, ~200 nautical miles west of Tampa and ~200 nautical miles south of Gulfport. It’s been a very smooth journey thus far (knock on bioplastic!). All of our shipboard acquisition systems are operational. These include sensors observing wind velocity, directional wave characteristics, current profile information, and a number of water physical properties. My personal task (besides annoying the rest of the science party with tiresome pedantry and writing about it for you) is to assist in monitoring our set of shipboard systems- especially the short wave-sensing camera suite.

We’re carrying a full payload of ~300 biodegradable ocean surface drifters that will be deployed south of Grand Isle, Louisiana. One of the governing objectives of the SPLASH campaign is to enhance understanding of submesoscale (between 1-25 km here in the Gulf of Mexico) eddies and their effect on material (oil, debris, etc.) transport on the continental shelf. We’ll soon be coordinating with a land-based team for more intensive near-shore operations, so stay tuned.

Preparations are being made in the drylab/meeting room/server room:
L-R: Chief Scientist Brian Haus (UM), Peter Sutherland (IFREMER, France), and Neil Williams (UM)- each with their LCD screen.

Drifters are being assembled and outfitted with water temperature and salinity probes:

Lords of the Drifters, Cédric Guigand and Guillaume Novelli, both of UM

Disassembled drifters and our “Acrobat” moving vessel profiler

The students (plus our Dutch guest of honor, Anouk) are discussing the vagaries of upper-ocean turbulent kinetic energy dissipation… or the consistency of the Malbec reduction that accompanied our lamb dinner the night before. One of those two.

L-R: Anouk van Pol (INGU), Mingming Shao (UM),Mohammad Barzegar (TAMU-Corpus Christi), and Sanchit Mehta (UM). The Sideshow Bob-looking device provides drag for the attached Vertical Microstructure Profiler, allowing it to rise nice and easy like as it measures turbulent motions in the water column.


Nathan signing off- until the next time they let me write one of these posts.