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Oceanographer

Typical Day

The alarm clock rolls from one end of the cabin to the other, which is what wakes Wade Lamar 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 is 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 the Institute for the Study of International Seas—ISIS for short—a non-profit dedicated to protecting marine resources. Three months ago, ISIS began receiving calls from distraught fishermen in the North Atlantic, whose cod catches had dropped by 50% over the last two years. Something was fishy. The fishermen were asking ISIS to look into it. The task fell to Wade. His specialty—his PhD in fact—was about how changes in the ocean's temperature can affect sea life. His dissertation focused on coral bleaching, but he felt just as comfortable with cod. Wade began some research and found a pattern which connected the number of tropical storms and hurricanes which 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 following month, Wade was neck-deep in journals and scientific papers, collecting enough evidence for his proposal so that ISIS would fund a scientific research trip to the North Atlantic. He presented his proposal to the ISIS board of directors, a salty group of academics who gave the green light for the trip. The only catch was that they wouldn't fund a ship, so Wade would have to hitch a ride—a scientific stowaway.

Which is how, six weeks ago, Wade ended up here on the Big Cod—a fishing ship strung with trolling nets and rumbling with the sound of its colossus ice machine for keeping the cod frozen until they reached port to unload and turn their bounty into fish sticks.

Today is the final day of fishing, and Wade's final day to collect research to see if his hypothesis is true. Wade allows a particularly boisterous wave to roll him out of bed; he gets dressed, and then 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."

Wade continues toward the top deck, but first stops 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.

Wade emerges above deck 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 wants to take advantage of the range of samples he can collect.

Wade clips himself to the rail and begins to prepare 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.

"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 at ISIS. 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.

Once the crew is safely back on land, Wade packs up his gear and says goodbye to the captain and his mates. The trip back to ISIS is a long one, but Wade has plenty to do. 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—Briny Depths being his favorite—or present at the yearly Oceanic Research Convention in Ocean City, Maryland.

However it turns out, Wade has earned his salt as an Oceanographer.

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