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By the numbers

By Marley Parker & Michelle Cusolito

After three action-packed weeks aboard the Sarmiento de Gamboa, everyone on board is reflecting on the experience and totaling up all that we accomplished.

A view of sunset from the bow of the Sarmiento de Gamboa on our first day at sea. Photo by Marley Parker, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A quick overview of the expedition:

  • 14 days of pre-expedition quarantine
  • 8 tons of equipment transported from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Vigo, Spain
  • 19 science team members on board
  • 23 crew members 
  • 24 days on the vessel
  • 1,900 nautical miles traveled
None of our science would have been possible without the help of our hardworking crew members! Here, Bosun Oscar Orizales Breijo prepares to deploy a MINION over the side of the aft deck. Photo by Marley Parker, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Despite encountering rough seas, we completed an impressive amount of science, and achieved (in some cases, exceeded) many goals of the expedition.


A few numbers from the science operations: 

  • 782  hours of continuous underway sampling
  • 7 million liters (1.85 million gallons) of water imaged by Stingray
  • 9 MINIONs deployed
  • 3 TZEx deployments
  • 600 liters (158.5 gallons) of water imaged by Twilight Zone Explorer (TZEx)
  • 9 MOCNESS tows
  • 78,411,000 liters (20,714,059 gallons) of water sampled by the MOCNESS
  • 2,880 liters (761 gallons) of water collected by the Conductivity, Temperature, Depth (CTD) rosette
  • 3,024,000 images captured by Stingray
  • 323,000 images from one Underwater Vision Profiler (UVP)
  • 10,500 images from the PlanktoScope
  • 4,470,000 images acquired by the Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB)
Juan María Antelo Martínez, our head chef, worked hard to provide delicous food for 42 people on board throughout the expediiton. Photo by Marley Parker, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Fueling 42 people working around the clock requires a lot of food (and espresso)! The two chefs, Juan and Xoan, prepared hundreds of delicious meals for us, often cooking in extremely rough conditions.


During this expedition, we consumed: 

  • 500  loaves of bread (more than half a loaf per person per day!)
  • 3,000  cups of espresso
  • 9  kilos (20 pounds) of jamón (dry-cured ham)
  • 4 meals of traditional pinchos (small snacks)
  • 90 eggs in just one meal
  • 500 kilos (1,102 pounds) of food
Michelle Cusolito holds a pair of Styrofoam cups that hitched a ride to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) aboard the CTD rosette. The immense pressure of the deep water shrunk them. Photo by Michelle Cusolito, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Jamón, or dry-cured ham, is served Spanish style during pinchos, or snacktime! Photo by Michelle Cusolito, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Going to sea is always a special experience, but this expedition included many unique factors that made it especially memorable.


A few numbers from our wild, weird life on board:

  • 6 nationalities represented
  • 83 Styrofoam cups shrunk during CTD deployment
  • 200 hours of sustained winds over 20 knots
  • 11 Life Saver candies used for science
  • 313 Life Saver candies consumed by the science team
  • 1,744 WhatsApp messages exchanged between science team members
  • 5 bike rides completed by Joel on board
  • 4,472 photos taken by the onboard communications team (Marley and Michelle)
“When you put an instrument into the ocean, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get it back,” says Ken Buesseler. Here, he and Jessica Kozik celebrate the safe return of TZEx by giving it a kiss. Photo by Marley Parker, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

And finally, here are a few numbers we can’t quite calculate: 

The number of times our food trays slid off the tables during meals.

The number of squats we did during group workouts.

The number of mystery bruises we acquired from bumping into walls, doors, railings and equipment.

The number of times Ken said “the weather will only get better…”

Ken Buesseler positions himself on the aft deck to recover the TZEx. Photo by Marley Parker, @Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution