Call me Ishmael: Professional Insomnia

All professionals accept that there will be occasions when work gets in the way of sleep and that odd hours me be required to get the job done. Generally this interruption in sleep is temporary and isolated to project deadlines or mission critical tasks, but for scientists aboard research vessels this may be a de facto state.

Now I must preface this discussion with the fact that every cruise is different, and the majority of such cruises have set, regular schedules–such as 12 on/12 off—which permit a normal sleep schedule. What I’ll be describing here is my own schedule during the CCE process cruise, a cruise which does NOT have a regular schedule as a side-effect of its design.

At the end of each 3-4 day set of experiments, called a cycle in CCE parlance, we have to recover and process the sediment trap and then redeploy it in just under 24 hours (see photos of a recovery over on the cruise blog). The sediment traps we’re using are based on those used in the Hawaii Ocean Timeseries (HOTs) and contain either 24-32 tubes per deployment. Each one of these 2 L tubes requires manual filtration and microscopic separation of the living zoolankton (i.e. the swimmers) before further processing and long-term storage.

Once processed, each tube needs to be setup for the next deployment and deployed at midnight the following day. When combined with my other duties and experiments (nitrate profile, Thorium filtration, and my own Yttrium experiments), it leaves me with just 1 hour of sleep over the course of two days. My roommate is starting to doubt if I ever sleep… I might agree with him if the days didn’t blur together so much.

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