18 Nov 2011
After waking up this “morning” (well, morning for me, but late afternoon for everyone else) at 1630 and after the completion of the daily science meeting, I went on deck to get some much-needed sun when I came upon an unexpected sight…
There were flocks of egrets flying along the horizon, and several of them were lounging on various structures on our ship. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed emotion coming from wild birds, but I could definitely see the exhaustion in the eyes of these egrets. They were spent! They just stood there, hunched over, with not a care in the world. I could have approached them, and they would not have budged. Although, they are apparently VERY afraid of weather balloons. We launch them every 3 hours from the deck of the ship, and there is an exodus of birds from our deck each time… before they return again once the deck is clear. Somehow, the birds have decided to fly hundreds of miles away form any major land, possibly in pursuit of fish, only to realize that they have no place to land – literally.
Speaking of fish…
After sunset each night, because of the light at the stern of the ship that illuminates one of our oceanographic instruments, small fish come up near the surface to eat the algae and other debris from the hull of the ship. A short time later, larger fish and squid show up to eat the smaller fish. Then, the tuna come around to eat the larger fish and squid. Meanwhile, the bright blue/green mahi mahi come swimming by to get their fair share. Some of the poor fish getting eaten are actually flying fish, so as the tuna chase after them, they extend their wings, fly out of the water, flap around for a few seconds, only to land in more dangerous territory below the ocean surface. And tonight, SHARKS decided to join the fray. So pretty soon, there was an all-out, no-holds-barred, merciless feeding frenzy behind the stern of the ship!! Several of the scientists gathered on deck, and we watched in awe as the tuna and mahi mahi charged at the smaller fish, splashing, and jumping all over the place. Out of pity, we started cheering for the flying fish. The water out here has been very clear, so we could see the massacre happening from above.
“He’s coming! HE’s coming!! GO! GO! GO!!!!!” we would all yell at a flying fish as a tuna started charging at it.
Who needs ESPN out here? Just cheering and yelling at the ocean was enough excitement for one night.