A Changing River: Measuring Nutrient fluxes to the South China Sea

Seas the Day

SOI/Monica Naranjo Gonzalez
Jun. 11 2016
Nha Trang as R/V Falkor departs
Nha Trang as R/V Falkor departsSOI/Monica Naranjo Gonzalez

The first time you set sail is a memory that stays with you. Looking out over the rails, I watched the breathtaking view of Nha Trang become smaller and smaller as we headed out to sea. The city and mountains looked as if they were painted against the sky, islands stood motionless as we sailed past, and little colorful boats bounced against the waves. The breeze felt cool against my skin, and I inhaled deep to fill my lungs with the salt-tinged air. Jellyfish speckled the ocean glowing against the water’s brilliant blue. I could not help but sing “Yoho, Yoho a pirate’s life for me,” in the back of my mind. This was my first time at sea.

Life Aboard

Ship life differs immensely from terrestrial living, as land is normally still and not constantly rocking back and forth. The ocean, however, is prisoner to the winds, so living on a boat is living in constant motion. Keeping my balance while walking was a little difficult at first due to the continuous movement. Even while sitting down, I am rocking back and forth with the waves. We have to tie down or secure everything as the constant motion of the ship encourages objects to move around and find their way to new locations. This includes hooking open doors to the walls to stop their persistent swinging.

Captain Phillip Gunther snaps a couple of pictures as fishermen come close to say hello
Captain Phillip Gunther snaps a couple of pictures as fishermen come close to say helloSOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

The only in-person contact we have had with the outside world was an encounter with a small fishing vessel. Otherwise, we exist in isolation.

The diversity amongst the people aboard the ship is amazing. Everyone is from everywhere, and listening to the various accents is enchanting. Here, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, nationality does not matter and friendship knows no boundaries.

The R/V Falkor offers free laundry services, so my roommates and I took up this offer. We found out after retrieving our clothes that they even fold your underwear. I do not even fold my underwear when I am at home!

Big and Small

Riannon smiles while she learns a little bit about driving a research vessel
Riannon smiles while she learns a little bit about driving a research vesselSOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

For the entire 360 -degree view, land cannot be seen. This is the first time in my entire life that I have been somewhere and have not been able to see land. The view consists of only the ocean, and sometimes other ships that make their way across the horizon. I spotted a huge ship that deceivingly looked close by, but to my surprise, it was a whopping 18km away from the R/V Falkor. Observing the ship made me realize the vastness of the ocean – One cannot tell by eye how deep the ocean is, how far it stretches, or what lurks in the depths beneath the waves. We are drifting above a mysterious world abundant with life that we cannot see and cannot fully experience being born without gills. We are floating on a white dot in a desert of blue.

Being outside on the open ocean at night is surreal. The water is a void; it is so black that it seems as if it sucks in the night itself. The only lights are the minimal ship lights on the masts, other boats twinkling in the distance, and the stars that span the night sky. All of these lights are so far away, miles and miles and miles away, and other than these lights, nothing else can be seen. I feel so small, not just from the infinity of outer space, but from the size of our planet’s very own oceans. The night sky is absolutely beautiful as the Milky Way paints the sky with glittering dust. The only sounds are the waves crashing against the ship and the occasional out of place splash that makes my hair stand on end. I could not help but think the kraken was here to capture and carry us down to Davy Jones’ locker.

Every night has come filled with stars and lighting
Every night has come filled with stars and lightingSOI/Leighton Rolley

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