Joan Raybourn, August 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 25, 2005

Personal Log

Today was the last day of our two-week adventure at sea. At dawn this morning, we paused for a while before entering the north end of the Cape Cod Canal. While we have been within sight of land for a day or two, it was strange to see land on both sides of us. The canal was built in the 1930s, and using it to get back to Woods Hole saves at least half a day’s sailing time. Without it, we would have to sail all the way around the “arm” of Cape Cod. We slipped into the canal and eased our way south, back into civilization. We stood on the bow of the ship and watched fish playing in the water, seabirds hovering hopefully over them. People walked their dogs on the path beside the canal, and sailboats passed silently. All was quiet. When a siren split the air, we knew we were back.

The trip through the canal took about an hour and a half, and we were in Buzzards Bay. We made our way through the islands and back around to Woods Hole, to the pier where our trip began. We cleaned the labs and packed our gear and samples to go ashore. At the pier, a gangplank was attached to the ALBATROSS IV so that we could move “all ashore that was going ashore”. We lugged boxes and crates over it to the NOAA warehouse, the EPA truck, and the NOAA van that would take the samples back to the lab in Rhode Island. It was a strange feeling to be back on land. At the beginning of the trip, my body had to adapt to the motion of the ship, and for the first two days I staggered around until I got my sea legs. Back on land, my body had to adapt again; even though my brain knew I was on solid land, the sensation of motion persisted.

And then it was over. By 2:30, everyone who was leaving was gone, and our shipboard community was dissolved. Since my flight home is not until tomorrow, I will stay one more night aboard the ALBATROSS IV. It’s a little lonely now, with everyone gone and no work to do. But I’ve been up since midnight, when my last watch began, and an early bedtime tonight will be welcome. What an adventure this has been! I will never forget my days out on the wide blue sea, with nothing to see but sky and wind and ocean. Whenever city life hems me in, I’ll be able to go back in my mind’s eye, feeling the wind and the sunshine, and watching the endless play of the sea, all the way to forever.