What goes into turning the Ron Brown into a floating laboratory?

Author: Viviane Menezes

We are departing from Durban, South Africa to our amazing journey in the Indian Ocean. The crew and the scientific party have worked hard in the last couple of days to make the NOAA R/V Ron Brown into a floating laboratory.

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Yes, we’re going on a cruise, but not the kind of cruise that most people imagine, including our family and friends. We don’t have fancy swimming pools, big restaurants, playground for kids or thousands of people. But, we have labs, many labs!

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I would say that we’re a small group of explorers with a couple of labs that allow us to measure a lot of ocean properties. When you go to a doctor, he/she asks you a bunch of different medical exams to known about your health. We do the same to understand the ocean. But, we’re a kind delivery-doctor; we go to the sea to make the exams!

In this research expedition, we have labs to measure salinity, alkalinity, acidity, nutrients and many other chemical properties. We also have labs dedicated to biology. For example, we are going to get information about the phytoplankton, the tiny plants that drift at the sea surface and fabricate most of the air we breathe.  We have gadgets to measure physical properties such as ocean currents and temperature from the warmer sea surface to the colder and darker deep ocean.  As you may have realized we have a lot of stuff to make ahead and R/V Ron Brown will drive us on our journey.

Different from labs that you have in schools and universities, our labs are on the moving ship, so when we’re putting them together, we have to tie and strap every piece of equipment. We get so used to tie and strap that when we arrive at home, we want to do the same.

Of course putting together several labs in the ship far away from home can be challenging. In fact, “home” here is relative; we are from everywhere, a truly international community of explorers. Drama always happens, something essential is missing, some baggage has been lost, on and on. But, thanks to very kind people that we have met along the way, we have everything we need.

After working hard in the last couple of days, stripping and tying everything, our labs are secure and we are ready to go. We are just beginning our journey.

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