US GO-SHIP is part of the international GO-SHIP network of sustained hydrographic sections, supporting physical oceanography, the carbon cycle, and marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems. The US program is sponsored by US CLIVAR and OCB. Funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.


Women in Oceanography Oct 4, 2013

Join Lisa Beal and her crew aboard the R/V Knorr as they study the Agulhas Current.

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Deploying Argo Floats Oct 4, 2013

Watch how the ARGO floats are deployed!

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Flip Marine Research Vessel Oct 4, 2013

Watch how the FLIP changes position!

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Chief Scientist (I8S 2009) Oct 4, 2013

Chief Scientist: | Dr. James H. Swift
Title: | Principal Investigator
Cruise: | I8S 2009
Hometown: | Ohio
Bio: | Read all about Dr. Swift on his Scripps Institution of Oceanography profile page (Jim’s profile at SIO)
Entry date: | 5-2-09

Dr. Jim Swift on I5

Dr. Swift’s reports from I5, running from Durban, South Africa to Perth, Australia along 32° S.

I5 Reports

Previous Notes from the Field

Scripps physical oceanographer Jim Swift writes in from 64° South. On Feb. 12, 2007, Scripps oceanographer and La Jolla Symphony second bassoonist Jim Swift wrote this letter offering a glimpse into the spectacular and commonplace occurrences that make up the life of a Scripps researcher at sea. Swift is the chief scientist aboard R/V Roger Revelle’s current expedition to the Antarctic.

Jim Swift on Explorations

Career Highlights

Jim Swift headed the first oceanographic cruise to the Arctic in 2003.

Scripps News

Scripps scientists participate in historic first surface vessel voyage across Canada Basin.

Science Blog

Dr. Swift’s Music

Jim also finds the time to play the bassoon with the La Jolla Symphony in his very sparse free time. Read about the group at Sign-On San Diego

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Technician (I6S 2008) Oct 4, 2013

Technician: | Jon C. Meyer
Title: | Programmer/Analyst, Shipboard Technical Support, Computing Resources
Cruise: | I6S 2008
Hometown: | San Diego, CA
Bio: | Jon C. Meyer has been working with computers his entire professional career. In 2006, he took that career to sea, joining Shipboard Technical Support at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has seen all 7 continents and 6 oceans courtesy of SIO.

Q: What do you do on the ship?

Jon: I’m responsible for operating our sonars and meteorological systems, which collect information about the weather, surface salinity, currents, shape and density of the ocean floor. The latter requires me to daily drop a probe into the water to keep the instrument calibrated. On top of that, I ensure visiting scientists have access the cruise data in a reliable, easy way while we’re underway, and that they are able to take the data home with them. Finally, I make sure that our ship’s network is functional, secure and Internet communications to shore work as best as possible with the little bandwidth we have.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

Jon: The hardest part of my job is trying to balance the many and varied needs of the science party and crew coming aboard the vessel during each port call. A ship is rarely a consistent environment, and I am responsible for a lot of information that people care about. Trying to meet everyone’s needs in a timely fashion while staying sane can be a challenge.

Q: What is the least understood part of your job?

Jon: The least understood part of my job would probably be how much effort is actually involved in getting everything setup and maintained. Don’t get me wrong: some cruises can happen easily, but sometimes they do not. Since I tend to be the only one who specializes in what I do on the ship, it can be difficult for all others on board to tell the difference between light and difficult work, and for them to be sensitive to that.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?

Jon: Well, work generally lasts about 10 hours each day (there’s lots to do on a research ship!). We don’t take weekends, so that’s every day. Factor in meals and sleep, and by the time I get some free time… it’s not much. Maybe 3 hours, if I’m lucky. I usually try and get in some exercise (believe it or not you can do yoga on a moving vessel), read a book, watch a movie or play my guitar.

Q: What is the longest cruise you have been on?

Jon: My longest time continuously at sea was 43 days, on the US Hydro I6S cruise.

Q: What was your favorite part?

Jon: There’s lots of favorites. A lot of technicians from my department were on the cruise, so it had a nice ‘family’ feel, with a lot of people I enjoy working with back in San Diego. Sailing with people you know and like can make all the difference in the world, and getting to know my colleagues well is typically an experience I am grateful for. We also went just off shore of Antarctica, and I got to see a sliver of the Riiser-Larsen Peninsula, and many penguins and icebergs along the way. It was a truly unique and beautiful experience.

Q: What bit of advice would you give someone going on their first cruise?

Jon: My advice would be to enjoy the specialness that is being at sea! It is a unique environment, that is both beautiful and dangerous. We should respect it as much as we admire it. There are things you will see at sea that not many people get a chance to see. There’s so much we don’t know about the ocean, too, so any chance we have to increase our knowledge in that area is beneficial. Finally, if you’re prone to motion sickness, do get a prescription filled for as many days as you’ll be gone. The ocean is anything but still, but that’s part of what makes it so special.

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Graduate Student (I8S 2007) Oct 4, 2013

Graduate Student: | Joseph Becker
University: | UCSD/SIO
Cruise: | I8S 2007
Entry date: | 5-18-09

As you can see we saw a lot of interesting sites in Antarctica, but we also got to spend time before the cruise in New Zealand and after the cruise in Australia. I went on the 2007 I8S cruise as a graduate student researcher. We worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off, 7 days a week, for 6 weeks, but it was a lot of fun. We spent most of time controlling the water sampler that we used to collect samples from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. This takes a great deal of time because the ocean is typically 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) deep, and to get accurate measurements we lowered and raised the instruments carefully. Overall it takes about 4 hours to drop the instrument, and then about 4 more to raise it back to the ship, and then about 4 more hours to drive the ship to the next location. When we moved the ship, the science part could relax for a few hours…

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Graduate Student (I8S 2007) Oct 3, 2013

Graduate Student: David Ullman
University: U of Wisconsin
Cruise: I8S 2007
Entry date: 5-18-09

I had a wonderful experience on the I8S Repeat Hydrography Cruise. Departing from Dunedin, NZ, we steamed through the roaring 40s and furious 50s to our first station as close to Antarctica as ice would permit. From here, we traversed northward through the southern Indian Ocean, collecting water samples along the way.

My duties included preparation, deployment, monitoring, and recovery of the primary sampling rosette. I also assisted in sampling from the bottles and allocating water rights and amounts to each of the researchers as the “Sample Cop”. I served these duties on a 12-hour watch, and when I wasn’t working, I was happily enjoying the sights (icebergs, birds, whales, sunsets) and stuffing myself with the 4-star food prepared by our chefs.

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Exercise at Sea Oct 3, 2013

Exercise is an important balance to the long work days required on a multi- week cruise. Cruise members have enjoyed doing yoga and ping pong to relax before or after a work day. On the R/V Revelle there are a number of rooms for individuals to exercise.

Below are images to two of the exercise rooms:

Ping Pong

Forrest Gump isn’t the only ping pong champion. We have some of our own home grown ping ping champs right here at Scripps Institution of Oceanography! Ping pong is a great way to get exercise and work out some stress from the day. It is also a good excuse to catch up with friends on the ship. Justin Fields, a computer tech on the I5S (2008) Revelle cruise describes his appreciation for ping pong, “After a 12 hours shift, a couple games of ping pong with my buddies helps to take the ease off the work day.” All and all one game of the sport can help rejuvenate crew members energy level, in preparation for a new day.

Insider information: Ping-pong championships have been known to occur at sea.


To relax one’s body and mind, many cruise members will do yoga. Yoga helps counter the busy work day through various calming stretches and poses.


Watch a short video showing exercise at sea on the Virtual Cruise page. Watch Video

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Maintaining Relationships While at Sea Oct 3, 2013

On a six-week business trip this winter, Cassandra Lopez posted updates to her friends on Facebook, and conversed with her family on Gmail chat. What made these interactions unique was that Cassandra was on-location in the Southern Ocean, writing oceanography articles from one of the world’s most remote places. She was aboard the R/V Roger Revelle, a vessel of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in La Jolla, CA, which, like most large ships of its generation, comes with advanced communication systems, as well as crew members devoted to technical support. The HiSeasNet satellite system on the R/V Roger Revelle enables it to better serve as a laboratory for scientific research by providing constant internet access. It also has the byproduct of helping seagoing researchers and crew members maintain relationships back home.

On top of a fairly consistent email service, several crew members maintain blogs to tell friends and family about their shipboard experiences. Joe Ferris, a Second Mate, recently posted on travel plans, piracy evasion, foul weather navigation, and working out. Resident Technician Dave Langner takes advantage of the Realtime camera system, which uploads images from the ship to a San Diego database every ten minutes, to keep in touch with his mother. “Sometimes I’ll email her just before I go on deck,” he says, “and she can see me working from her computer screen.”

Veterans of ship life say that communication has improved dramatically in the past two decades. Acoustics specialist Jules Hummon recalls that when she first started going to sea in 1988, images were faxed via satellite-linked modems, and it took half an hour to transmit a page-long image of sea surface temperatures. On her first trip, she was billed by the kilobyte for two personal faxes: a letter from her mother, and a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from her husband. They cost her over $100 to receive. These days, she can download reasonably-sized images through email using the HiSeasNet satellite connection at no additional cost.

Still, the ability to stay connected to land is a mixed blessing for oceanographers, who appreciate the relative simplicity of life at sea. In a survey taken of scientists and crew members on the R/V Revelle’s CLIVAR I8S expedition in March, most respondents echoed the sentiment of Chief Scientist Jim Swift, who listed “getting away from the distractions of professional life” as one of ship time’s primary appeals. Chris Measures, a trace metals scientist and oceanography professor, finds that better communication has increased his responsibilities at sea. Besides being constantly on-call for the six weeks of CLIVAR I8S, he was in charge of coordinating a grant proposal with researchers in America, India, and Italy, which he submitted by shipboard email.

The improved capacity for communication has also brought the interruptions of personal life. Seagoers fret about termite infestations and errors in bills and pet sicknesses that they can do nothing about, barring their physical presence. Furthermore, the inconsistency of satellite connections makes it difficult to start relationships with those onshore, as the expectations of communication are hard to fulfill. On a four-week trip off the coast of Indonesia, resident technician Dave Langner thought that a budding relationship was falling apart. “It seemed like she was ignoring some important emails I had sent,” he said. “It turns out she just hadn’t received them.” Second Mate Joe Ferris, who spends five to seven months at sea every year, doesn’t bother: “I only date when I’m not working,” he says.

The oceanographer tends to fall on the adventurous end of the personality spectrum, but the demands of the oceangoing lifestyle remain at odds with the standard urge to settle down. After more than a decade of traveling out of a ship’s berth to exotic locales, Joe Ferris is thinking seriously about buying property and moving his things out of storage. Few give it up completely, but many cut down in their ship time as they move into the patterns of a more stable life: buying homes, finding partners, having children. Lynne Talley, a professor and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, spent much of the ≈90’s at sea, but she now devotes her time to teaching and writing on campus to stay closer to her family. Frequent emailing may not fully substitute for being at home, but it is remarkable that shipboard communications have evolved such that new oceanographers can compare sea time to business trips made by their friends in marketing and consulting. “Many careers require travel,” says Cliff Buck, a graduate student at the University of Florida. “I don’t really see this lifestyle as being all that unusal.”

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Blue Collar Oceanography Oct 3, 2013

The people collecting the data behind climate change are not “climate change scientists,” but technicians and engineers who are attracted to their jobs more for the lifestyle than for the glory of doing climate research.

This winter, Eric Quiroz spent six weeks aboard the research vessel R/V Roger Revelle collecting the data on which climate models are built. To put it bluntly, Quiroz fed vials of seawater into a nutrient analysis machine during twelve-hour shifts. “I wake up, run samples, and go to sleep,” he said.

Quiroz was contracted by the Oceanic Data Facility (ODF, a subsidiary of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography) to analyze the nutrient content of water samples on “I8S,” a cruise track in the south Indian Ocean resurveyed every ten years. Other technicians were hired by ODF to measure temperature, oxygen, carbon, and salt content. These parameters form a basic quintet of water properties that are tracked by the Climate Variability Repeat Hydrography program (CLIVAR), a long-term project that produces a public database of physical water properties. Using CLIVAR data, modelers and climate scientists have published seminal papers on climate projections, ocean acidification, and polar ice melt.

CLIVAR and ODF were conceived by some of the nation’s top oceanographers, but the bulk of the data is collected by a team of chemists, engineers, and technicians who find “climate research” to be a glorified description of their work. “[I] just run the machine and keep it running,” says Quiroz.

For a team that sails frequently with leading climate scientists, most of their knowledge about climate change comes from the popular press. Since taking the job last September, carbon technician Susan Alford has learned a lot about taking accurate measurements, but derives most of the context for work from college coursework and public interest articles. Chad Klinesteker, a salts analyzer for I8S, had a similar experience: “I’ve learned a lot about the equipment that we use just from working with the techs,” he said, “but not so much the science.”

Scientists are more than willing to discuss their work but it just doesn’t come up that often in conversation, and it’s irrelevant to doing the job well. According to Quiroz, collecting high-quality climate data requires an “attention to detail and the ability to troubleshoot systems,” more than a degree or an environmental conscience. A good technician has extraordinary patience and follows protocols well. A better technician adapts his or her technical skills to fit any task. Quiroz is a chemist with a degree in marine science, but in fifteen years of ship work he has picked up experience in winch operations and crane work. His predecessor was a watchmaker.

Because the demand for at-sea technicians fluctuates, ODF keeps only a small permanent staff at its base in San Diego. Many technicians are outsourced as needed: Jane Eert, an oxygen analyst on I8S, holds a regular job as a computer programmer. Klinesteker, a salts sampler, runs deck operations for the Coast Guard. These technicians consider working for ODF as a tangent to their permanent careers, but they keep returning for the “camaraderie” and the “slower pace of life.” They say it’s refreshing to focus on a singular task and on the people around you, away from phones, televisions, and other distractions of life on land.

Jim Swift, Chief Scientist for I8S, likens CLIVAR to “blue-collar oceanography.” “We’re at the assembly line level,” he says. “We’re putting together a dataset for other people to use.” And at the end of a day’s work, nobody wants to talk about climate change as they catch sunset from hammocks strung on deck, _ miles from the nearest shore and even further from a newspaper.

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