The alarm clock rolls from one end of the cabin to the other, which is what wakes Wade Lamar at 5:58AM before the alarm actually sounds. Six weeks have gone by without the alarm going off because the motion of the ocean is enough for Wade. Six weeks in the North Atlantic may be a long time to spend at sea—but this is exactly what floats Wade's boat.
The whole ordeal began three months ago. Wade works for a nonprofit dedicated to protecting marine resources. They began receiving calls from distraught fishermen in the North Atlantic, whose cod catches had dropped by fifty percent over the last two years. Something smells awfully fishy here, and the job fell to Wade to figure out exactly what it is (besides the fish).
Wade began some research and found a pattern which connected the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that formed off the coast of Africa and made landfall in the Americas, with temperature fluctuations in the North Atlantic fisheries. It was enough to write a proposal.
For the next few months, Wade waded his way through research journals and scientific papers, collecting enough evidence to secure funding for the project. He presented his proposal to the board of directors, a salty group of academics who are the yay or nay vote on these decisions. They decided to give him the green light (yay!)—the only catch being that he'd have to find his own ship.
Now, three months later, Wade is here on the Big Codder—a fishing ship strung with trolling nets and rumbling with the sound of its colossal ice machine that keeps the cod frozen until they return to port and unload their bounty for processing into fish sticks.
Today is the final day of fishing, and that makes it Wade's final day to collect research for his hypothesis. Wade allows a particularly boisterous wave to roll him out of bed; he gets dressed and swings by the galley for a quick bite to eat.
"Top o' the morning to you, Wade!" cries the cook. "Hope you slept through the storm we had last night. It scrambled my eggs—less work for me this morning."
"I slept fine. Just excited to take my final readings and get back to dry land before we all get scurvy from your cooking." It's brave to insult the guy making your food, but Wade likes to live on the edge. Besides, after six weeks he doesn't think it could get any worse.
Wade continues toward the top deck, stopping in the locker room to don his full-body rain suit and rubber gloves. He straps on his rescue beacon—for rescuers to find him should he be swept overboard—and gathers his gear. Today Wade plans to take temperatures and salinity samples at six sites as they motor back toward shore.
He also grabs the harness that will keep him attached to the rail and prevent that whole going overboard thing.
Wade emerges above deck at 6:30AM to a different world. Huge waves crash over the ship, the wind is howling, and driving rain pelts Wade as he scrambles to the rail. He momentarily contemplates returning to the warm galley for another cup of coffee, but knows that the ship will be covering a lot of sea today, and he wants to take advantage of the range of samples he can collect.
Wade clips himself to the rail and prepares the sampling equipment. A small winch bolted to the deck holds a thousand feet of narrow-gauge cable. Wade attaches a sample beaker—with a remote-controlled lid—to the end of the cable and sends it plunging into the abyss. The idea is to collect temperature and salinity levels from very deep water, which should be more stable.
"Key phrase is 'should be,'" Wade thinks to himself.
The day passes quickly, with Wade carefully noting each reading in his waterproof notebook and storing the samples for further analysis once he returns to the lab back on land.
The storm clears about 11:00AM and makes data collection a whole lot easier. Wade will input the final readings tonight into his oceanic mapping software to create a picture of temperatures and salinity levels in an attempt to understand the dropping cod numbers.
At 4:30PM, as the sun begins its slow descent behind the horizon, the last day of fishing and data gathering has come to an end. Wade packs up the equipment and descends below deck to finish packing the non-scientific clothes that he's scattered around his bunk. It may be messy, but it's helped him feel closer to home these past six weeks.
Besides, on this grimy fishing rig, he doesn't think anyone will notice.
Once the boat is docked at 6:00PM, Wade says goodbye to the captain and his crew. The trip back to the lab is a long one, but Wade has plenty to do and he wants to get started as soon as possible. He thinks ahead to his next steps of interpreting the data and publishing his findings.
If his hypothesis is correct, he may even write an article for one of the many oceanographic scientific journals. Why learn something if you can't teach it to others?
The minute he gets back to the lab and sits down on the couch in his office, he dozes off for the rest of the night. It turns out the lack of constant rocking is great for putting him to sleep.