Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Showing posts with label DY033. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DY033. Show all posts

Friday, 17 July 2015

Meanwhile, science continues

By Mark Moore

Around the drama of Wednesday afternoon (see Lucie’s recent blogpost), the science on board continues apace. Over the 5 intensive days of science to date we have already completed 72 ‘Events’ each of which effectively corresponds to a deployment of one of the many pieces of equipment which you may have read about during previous log entries, including deployments of moorings and gliders, CTDs, net sampling (see picture below) alongside snow catchers, in situ pumping systems, etc, etc ....  

Picture: The ongoing event log in the main laboratory
Others: A CTD coming on deck
Net sampling
Mooring deployments
A glider being ballasted on board before being deployed

With all this activity occurring on board it is important that we keep detailed, accurate and up to date records. The first stage in making sure everyone knows where we are with planned activities is a running event log which we keep in the main lab of the ship (see picture). Here we provide a rough record of what has happened to date, allowing the person leading the next activity to confirm the event number and providing a record for checking against more detailed logs. Simultaneously the officers on watch also keep a separate ongoing record of all activities from up on the bridge. One of my jobs as principal scientist then involves keeping a check to make sure that all these logs are aligned. It pays to have multiple redundancy as although a research ship is a reasonably small space, with everyone working in different areas of the ship and at different times of the day and night effective communications can sometimes still be a challenge!

Work wise we are currently around half way through another of our CTD (Picture) sampling transects down the shelf edge aimed at understanding the processes by which iron (Fe) may be transported off the shelf. Working where the water depth shoals so steeply has its own challenges. We have to be extra careful lowering sampling equipment near to the bottom as there are regions of the shelf break where the water depth can change by 1000m in under a km, i.e. a >45% slope!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Call of Duty - Receiving a distress call

This week we were all reminded that RRS Discovery is more than just a research ship. On the open ocean, every vessel has a responsibility to play their part in the safety of the rest of the sea-going community.

Sampling activities at our first process station; Central Celtic Sea (CCS), were drawing to a close. All on board were starting to get into the swing of things. Most operations had run smoothly so far, including two pre-dawn sampling points, which at this time of year begin at 02.00 am!

At approximately 13.00 pm many scientists and technicians were on deck sampling seawater from the midday CTD; the piece of equipment which is deployed over the side of the ship to collect water from many different depths. Although sampling at CCS was not yet complete we noticed the ships engines rumble to life and the ship beginning to move. Soon after, Captain Jo appeared on deck with some somewhat startling news, at least for those of us who are not seasoned seamen.

RRS Discovery had received a distress call. The hull of an upturned vessel had been sighted from an aircraft, and we were in close vicinity and were required to respond immediately. The steam west to the site of the incident took approximately 3 hours, and it was all eyes on deck to keep a look out for anything unusual. Needless to say the atmosphere was tense, but the crew were incredibly calm and professional.

Cargo Ship and spotter plane look on as the boat from Discovery investigates
upturned hull.

When recovered Goose Barnacles indicate that the rusty old open boat has
clearly been at sea for a considerable time!

At around 16.00 we spotted a tiny brownish speck bobbing in the swell; the hull of a very small upturned boat. A light aircraft from the Irish coast guard was surveying from above, and a large container ship had reached the scene first, but neither had the means to move in for a closer look. 

With a readily deployable rib, RRS Discovery is better prepared than most vessels for the situation. Three brave crew members rose to the challenge of boarding the rib; 2nd Officer Vanessa, 3rd Engineer Angus and Petty Officer Willie. Watched anxiously by the rest of us they motored out to make an inspection, where to everyone’s great relief they found that the boat had clearly been adrift for quite some time, and was not a recent capsize. It was reddish-orange with rust, spattered with white bird poo, and hundreds of barnacles clung to its submerged surfaces. Some skilful manoeuvring by both the crew on the rib and on board the Discovery brought the old wreck alongside, and it was carefully winched aboard, in order that it would not cause an alarm to be raised in the future. The biologists among us ogled the stalked goose barnacles; beautiful yet slightly repulsive as their fleshy parts struggled and groped in vain for cool seawater. Meanwhile, the trace metal group shuddered at the amount of rust on the deck, and gave it a wide berth. 

The boat has been carefully stowed atop Alex and Chris’s container lab. They look forward to the stench of rot that will inevitably ensue if the sun decides to make an appearance.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

SSB Cruise DY033: Leaving Southampton

This is first blog entry from Cruise DY033, which is the latest in the series of Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry (SSB) cruises. My name is Mark Moore and I am the principal scientist on this final pelagic focused cruise of the SSB programme.

We are all excited to see what has been happening since the last pelagic cruise in spring and will be looking forward to finding out how the characteristics of the water column have developed following the spring phytoplankton bloom, alongside performing a whole series of measurements and experiments aimed at developing a better understanding of what is going on in the post bloom summer period.

I was really impressed with how smoothly mobilisation for the cruise went.

The RRS Discovery leaving port in Southampton

Thanks to the hard work of all the scientists and crew, all the equipment was loaded, boxes unpacked and instruments set up in just 2 days, partly reflecting the fact that many of the people on board are now very well rehearsed having been on a series of these cruises. Indeed, I personally feel a bit like the newcomer, this being my first cruise within the SSB programme. So I am looking forward to finally being able to ‘get wet’ and be involved in the at sea work. The cruise is also a bit of a personal journey for me as we will be working in the Celtic Sea where I performed much of my PhD work (quite a few years ago now…).

Having left Southampton on Saturday evening (see picture), we have now transited down through the English Channel and are on route to our first working area around our array of moorings, many of which have been in place for more than 18 months collecting unique data which will form a central part of the programme. Although we already have a few underway systems running and recording data, the major science operations will commence early tomorrow with us adding some additional shorter duration moorings to the array alongside the deployment of some gliders.