Sunday, January 5, 2014


Today we have faced two mysteries and solved one of them.

Where are the plankton?
The first relates to our plan to sample plankton.  Frost is going to be missing a week of school for our upcoming trip.  Public Schools do not like children to go missing even for tropical island vacations (or perhaps, especially so).  They send you information about how even planned absences by middle-class kids are correlated with lower high-school graduation rates and worse test scores.  Plus, it stresses the teachers.  So, in order to qualify as an excused absence rather than being truant (the really bad kind of absent) they require you to fill out a form to show how you will make the trip EDUCATIONAL.

To answer this question I made up a project to compare zooplankton in a few samples of Puget Sound and Grand Cayman water.  I gave Frost a notebook and explained it to him.

Being a more experience truant than I and also more teenage, he said "Mum, you realize we don't have to  do this.  I can just say "I am going to educate myself by looking at tropical fish or something."

Ignoring objections, today Frost and I sat down to make some fractional mesh sieves to strain water for plankton of  various sizes.  We had been given the nitex mesh by a friend who is a marine biologist.  I followed instructions online and Josh sawed our PVC pipe into the correct lengths.  Frost glued the nitex on with silicone adhesive and they looked great.

The 100 micron sieve.  It has a line on it because our first outline was wrong. 
We drove down to Golden Gardens and I gave Frost some water shoes and told him to wade into the water and full a bucket.

"You never said I had to go in the water.  Its freezing.  You go to be kidding" was his reaction.  To be honest everyone else on the beach was wearing ski jackets and mufflers and clustering around smoky fires.  A few people were running around the beach wearing bicycle helmets with balaclavas under them.  Frost rolled up his pants and waded in the sea.  Wren cried about the wind and the water and the blinding sunshine and the fact that it was taking away his screen time but we persisted.
Frost wading in winter
We strained a few buckets through the fractional sieves and there was a lot of 'fine stuff' in the sieves.  So we took the water and the stuff home.  However, when we looked at our sample under 100X 200X and 400X - there was no plankton just fragments of leaves: tiny, tiny leaves.

200x seaweed fragment from Golden Gardens
We found a few odd things - a leg about 100 microns long that looked like a spider-leg - some small drifting rice-grain yellow things but nothing that looked like plankton.  So, we wonder if we have to strain more water to get enough plankton to see.  We wonder if the plankton is deeper down or further out.   Frost is learning that science is not about finding things out as much as finding more mysteries.

What was the crunching in the night?
Last night, at 3.45am, we were woken by Beezle barking a lot.  He stood up in bed and barked "warning, warning".  I fumbled for the light switch and failed to find it.  Josh tumbled out of bed to fight (or at least face) the source of the noise.

He padded around the house for a bit and then came back to bed saying it was nothing.  But I couldn't sleep again.  I got up and checked all the doors, checked Frost, checked the computers.  Everything was quiet.  Eventually, I slept again but all day we were puzzling about the noise - a repetitive crunching sound that made Josh think of a cat scratching something near his ear and me, of someone dragging their fingers back and forth on an old corrugated washing-board.

The mystery was solved at bedtime when I went to run a bath and found a large bag of Tostitos in it.  Frost said he had been eating them in the bath while hiding from Wren and a friend on a playdate.  Now, our cat 'Kitty Haiku' likes to drink water from the bath.  We have deduced that, in the dark of night, she jumped into the bath and landed ON THE BAG OF TOSTITOS (a jumbo Costco bag).  She was freaked out and tried to jump out, thrashing around on the giant bag of Tostitos.  Beezle started barking and she fled.

This explains the noise and calms me, somewhat.

I am not inserting a reenactment although it would be entertaining.  Josh is eating the thrashed-upon Tostitos as I type.

1 comment:

nautilus said...

I love having your blogs back. I made some crunchies as per your recipe. amazing that it takes 250grms of butter. Anyway i cut the biscuits rather large. they are quite soft as i cooked them for only 25 minutes. Smaller would be better. Each one is like a bowl of muesli. Mervyn likes them a lot. Love MUM