Vardi Vice 2012


On the 15th of June 2012 we will embark on a 30 day research cruise from the Azores Islands to Iceland, searching for the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi, and the virus that infects it. We will be on board the R/V Knorr (, a "floating lab", sampling and running experiments to investigate the trophic level interactions in the oceans, and how the chemical communication between the various microbes in the water body can shape the entire environment.

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic July 12th 2012

Two days left. That’s it. We had some great plans for the last few days, trying to fit in a few more samplings before it’s all over. But the CTD had other ideas. It broke down just before our 100th cast, so we can’t sample the water like we used to. We do have on-deck experiments that need to be sampled, and we’ve pumped water from various depths and gave them a go, but it’s not the same. So yesterday was fairly quiet, and instead of starting to pack, we had a lazy afternoon, celebrating Yoav and Assaf’s birthday in ease. I guess all endings make you think of the both the past and the future, and this one is no different. I’ve been thinking a lot about our experiences in the past month and in ... read more
The huge net trap
Happy Birthday
Birthday cake

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic July 6th 2012

6thJuly 2012 As promised, here is a little description of the wildlife we’ve encountered in the past few weeks, and we’ll start from the bottom up. First and foremost, there are the algae and the virus. I know some of you might think “What? That’s wildlife??” but yes, to me it is. These organisms are just as amazing as any other, and the more we learn about them the more I’m struck by how sophisticated they are and how little we actually know about their intricate life cycle. The fact that you can’t see them with the naked eye just makes them all that bit more intriguing, and our job here that bit harder. Here is a picture of the virus I took back home at the electron microscopy unit at Weizmann. All it is, is ... read more
Portuguese Man of War

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic July 3rd 2012

3rdJuly It’s another beautiful morning here at 61oN 33oW, just off the coast of Greenland. The Arctic Circle is at 66oN, so we're not too far off. Since we set sail about 17 days ago, we’ve been warned that we're in the North Atlantic, so stormy, cold, wet weather is to be expected. In the past few days, however, we hear “this just isn’t right… It’s never this nice for so long in the North Atlantic”. In fact, we’ve been very lucky, and have had magnificent weather most days. There have been a few cold, windy and grey days, but even those weren’t too bad. We were supposed to encounter a storm on Sunday, but we travelled north and it stayed put, so we missed it. Instead, we had the most amazing day. The sky was ... read more
Sunrise near Greenland
Can you spot the pot of gold?
I won't tell you who won

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 26th 2012

Day 12 It’s just over a week and a half since we left Ponta Delgada, and we are settling nicely into a routine. We are traveling back and forth from areas of suspected high biomass, to areas we think have been infected by viruses, sampling along the way to see if we can catch the interesting stuff. If you take a look at the route the Knorr has sailed in the past few days ( you'd probably think we have a problem with the navigation system, or that someone on board has a drinking problem. But no, all it is, is us trying to find 5 micron cells inside an ocean. But we are starting to see very promising initial results, so we're modifying our sampling and analyzing regime accordingly. Between sampling and experiments, ... read more
Analyzing the data
Soccer game

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 24th 2012

Day 9 We're out in the vast open ocean, and the biology we're looking for is also out there, diluted in throughout the water column, and mixed with other organisms that may hinder our experiments. So... we filter. We filter to concentrate the algae,the viruses and many other molecules of interest. We also use filters to separate the desired fractions from those we don't want in our samples. This filtering takes the better part of the day, and brings on all sorts of creative thoughts. Look what I came up with while filtering... If Dr. Seuss was an oceanographer You can filter in the morning, You can filter in the evening, You can filter when you eat, Could probably do it with your feet! You can filter from a syringe, You can filter and impinge, You ... read more
Filter with a sock
Filter in your sleep
filter with foil

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 23rd 2012

Day 8, 23 June 2012 We haven’t hit gold yet, but we’re getting into a good working routine. We usually start the day just before sunrise, sampling the water at 05:00, and end the day close to midnight, finishing off the evening sampling and preparing for to coming morning. During the day we work loads, each on their own task, but everyone cooperating nicely. We usually have time to go out and look at the ocean, which seems different each time I look at it. The color of the water is constantly changing, mixing blues with greens, white caps with the reflection of the sun. The day before yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and boy, was it long. The sun rises at 5-ish, and at 11pm there are still some ... read more
Preparing to sample
Basic accommodation

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 21st 2012

What a privilege we had today, when we got a call from the bridge telling us there were some whales outside, and we should go take a look. We all rushed out to the deck to see the most magnificent sight ever. There were literally hundreds of Pilot whales all around the boat. Sometimes they were almost close enough to see their face. They swarmed all sides of us, in small groups of 2-6 whales. We all had our cameras with us, but I couldn’t really take any pictures, I just stood there and watched these amazing beings, free in their natural environment, doing what is natural to them. It probably won’t surprise those of you who know me that I got all teary. I think his was one of the most amazing things I ... read more
Pilot whales 2
Pilot whales 3

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic June 20th 2012

After an emotional beginning with loads of expectations to find a bloom our first stations were a disappointment. Emiliania was not there...well, only very few were there. We had to concentrate the water over 200 times to see 3 or 4 Emiliania cells under the microscope. The hypothesis is that we’ve arrived too late and the bloom had been already swipped away, probably due to viral infections. We might have been in the middle of what Vardi et al. 2009 coined as the ‘oceanic plaque’. After a lot of discussions among all participants, Kay Bidle, the chief scientist, decided to head north towards a patch of high chlorophyll and particulate inorganic carbon (PIC), which is generally an indication of high coccolithophore abundance. We are now at 46 degrees North – 28 degrees West. We have still ... read more

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 19th 2012

So what are we doing here anyway? Well, a lot of things. In general, we’re looking at small, unicellular algae, and the relationship they have with viruses. The interplay between the two specific organisms we’re looking at, the algae host Emiliania huxleyi and its specific virus, have a huge influence on the ocean and atmosphere. Algae are the basis for the entire marine food web, and they might even produce small molecules that can influence cloud cover over the ocean. So we mainly sample water (I will describe how we do this in a later post), some of the samples will be sent back to our land-based labs, but some can be analyzed on board. A unique part of what we’re doing is measuring the aerosols in the atmosphere, and we are even trying to characterize ... read more
The Knorr
Miri and Shlomit checking out the empty lab

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic June 17th 2012

17thJune 2012 Life at sea has its cost. It’s very tiring trying to stay standing all the time, great workout for your legs and glut’s. Taking a shower is a bit of a circus act, and I’ve only had one in calm seas so far, I hate to think what’ll happen when things get rough. We also have to get used to the meal times. We start breakfast at 07:30, and are finished with dinner by 17:30. In between we have a full cooked lunch, snacks at 3ish, and a free for all fridge with all sorts of goodies and an assortment of fruit all day long. The thing is, we’re working ALL the time, so by 23:00, we’re all hungry again. Oy Vey… I complained to you earlier about the sleeping arraignments, but I must ... read more

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