Crazy Cat Lady

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    • Crazy Cat Lady schrieb:

      Marie Hundsdörfer or the crazy cat lady
      Photo by Luisa Sarmiento

      I am sitting in a beach chair on the monkey deck and watching the sun going down. I see the pink and orange coloured clouds, the red sun, the continuous moving waves and feel the ceasing winds, the calmness of a sunset.

      What a wonderful end of the day.  I completely forget how long this day was.  Or was it even that long? Let’s see…

      1:15 in the morning, the phone rings. I jump, this is for me. I fall out of my bed, yup top bunk. I stretch myself towards the phone in the darkness.

      Me: “Yes?”

      Lab: “We got told to call you when the next calibration cast is about to happen”. 

      Me: “Yes, coming”.     

      I hang up the phone. At least I try, it takes me four trials before I manage to hit the right button. By now, I completely disturbed my roommate, I hear her stirring in the bottom bunk. Oupsie, sorry.

      In the lab, I start microcats for the calibration cast one after the other. This is done by connecting them to the computer with cables. Then, the usual microcat “chitchat” starts:

      Me:  “Hey microcat, wake up. What’s up? What is your name?”

      Cat: “Waking up…Connecting…Oh hey what’s up? My name is #06”.

      Me: “Ok #06, please set your settings to sample number 0 and your sample interval to 10 seconds.”

      Cat: “Ok, I will do that”.

      Me: “Now start measuring and tell me your settings again”.

      On and on with 6 microcats in a row. Over the cruise it will be more than 25. I feel a little bit groggy due to the expected unexpected wake-up calls. Almost 6 hours of sleep became roughly 4 hours. My own mistake but going to bed at 19:00 in the evening feels so wrong. 

      I am alone in this lab, communicating with microcats. What is a microcat? It is a small instruments used for measuring temperature, salinity and sometimes depth in the water. We deploy these instruments on moorings where they spend 1,2,3 years in water and measure once every hour. Before and after we leave them in the ocean on their own we have to calibrate them. This is done by mounting them on a CTD and stop 5-6 times for several minutes on the CTD cast.

      But Cat, who gave them the name cat? I almost feel like a crazy cat lady with more than 25 being around, all wanting to be taken care of. All of them hardheaded ! Right in the beginning of the cruise we collected and deployed many many microcats, and so day and night all we do is wait until one of them finally finished uploading their data, so that we can connect the next one and store the former in a shelf. It became a very time consuming task. Are the cats alright? First thing in the morning check the cats, last thing before bedtime connect another cat to the computer. They take so long to upload, sometimes 15 hours. Me and my supervisor take turns in sleeping hours and communicate a lot with notes. Notes stick on every microcat, on the computers on the desks, telling their status, their wellbeing. 

      I double check all executions several times, I talk to myself and tick the checklist in my head and on the paper. The task is fairly easy, but with lack of sleep and being still in the learning process you can easily make mistakes. I don’t want to do this just because of fatigue and inattention. I yawn loudly. Coffee would be great now and some leftover food from dinner last night or a bread roll.

      I mount the cats on the CTD rosette and start the cast together with the CTD watch crew. I even double secured the cats with another leash on the rosette, just to make sure the cats are alright. After letting the CTD into the water it is all about watching the screen of the CTD deck unit and hope nothing beeps or accidently hits the ground. The hours pass by, the 4200m to go down and up and 6 stops à 6 minutes in between take more than 3 hours.   

      Hours after getting up, I have my first coffee and stroll over the deck. The CTD is still in water. I watch a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. First it is a small orange band over the horizon, then it becomes brighter and spreads over the entire sky, finally the sun comes up, bright and warm. It is an immediate boost for my mood. 

      The CTD comes back on deck and I start dismounting the cats, cleaning them, uploading their data and of course keep track of them with notes, lists, and tables. 

      At 7:15, which already feels like lunch time for me, I can finally eat breakfast. And I see some more people and not only the little group of nightworkers. 

      After breakfast we deploy another mooring. Again we start the microcat chitchat to start 5 microcats for their 1.5 year stay deep down in the ocean. We were almost getting nervous when the first ones were deployed a couple of days before. Have we done everything correct? Will they measure continuously and give us precious data? If we made mistakes we will only know years later. Saying goodbye to some of the cats we were taking care of so intensively the last days. 

      The rest of the day is recovering and deploying moorings. The physical work is fun, screwing bolts and chains together, connecting buoys, giving out cable from the spool. Until now I feel great and not tired at all. Lunch follows and now it feels like 6 in the evening but it is only 11:30. I go to bed for 3 hours and wake up for another mooring recover. More cats coming in, more cats to take care of, clean them, label them, talk to and upload their data. I even dreamt that I lost one over board the other day. I really feel like a crazy cat lady. But no, I am not that attached to them like I would if they were real cats of course. 

      I am sitting in a beach chair on the monkey deck and watching the sun going down. I see the pink and orange coloured clouds, the red sun, the continuous moving waves and feel the ceasing winds, the calmness of a sunset. What a wonderful end of the day.

      Written by Marie Hundsdörfer, GEOMAR 2019