CD 157: Investigating the submarine canyons offshore Portugal


Daily diary

Wednesday 2nd June 2004

Weather: cloudy, air temperature 15oC warming to 17oC, wind speed 5m/s to 15m/s


Ian writes...

Main achievement

Following the disappointing core sampling this morning we are halfway through a survey cruise using the multi-beam bathymetry. This is exploring the outer end of the Sebutal canyon and is a planned part of the trip. The seas have been rougher so this is a suitable operation as it is too difficult to send corers to the bottom if the waves are too high and the ship is heeling over too much.



We have just provided a landing platform for a rather lost Collared Dove. This poor creature is 100km from land so it has used a lot of energy to get here. We can only hope that it has enough energy left – and a good sense of direction, to make it to land. Dan named it Colin!

We’ve also been buzzed by two other flying objects, the first a yellow butterfly – again lost on a migration. The second, a helicopter from the Portuguese navy who came to see if we were a boat load of illegal immigrants. [We actually have one on board - you can see his picture is included (right). Ssssh - don’t tell the Portuguese navy!].

Right: Dan makes a new friend...



Last night I had problems getting to sleep. As the ship rolled the panels of the walls creaked in time with the tilt of the ship, this gave the effect similar to Dolby Surround Sound. This, together with the air-conditioning, a loose screw which rolled around in a sealed panel and the occasional loud clang from the night watch made the experience a bit like trying to sleep through the Blair Witch Project.

After breakfast I went aft and met Bob who was using the quiet time to tidy the rear of the lab and the deck. Bob offered to get his mates out of bed to have their photo taken too. I thought that that was a very nice consideration, but seeing the size of the bosun I didn’t think that it was a good idea.

A nice surprise later in the day was to find that the steward, Geoff, had changed my bed linen and towels. Had I have known he was going to do this I’d have tidied my room! However, he did comment that Elena’s room was even more untidy than mine.

The main lab: organised chaos

This brings to my attention the state of the main lab (left). It looks curiously confusing: wires, papers, maps, books, computers, dirty tea cups, aluminium boxes, helmets, boots, overalls, bags, pens, bins, buttons arrange themselves around and on the tables and chairs. We work together in a harmonious fashion with this shared ownership of the state of the room. We all tidy up bits, not necessarily our own, but no one gives orders or moans about other people's ‘mess’. It is appreciated that there is a common purpose. I wonder if this tolerance will endure until the end of the trip? Am I the messiest person on board?

Elena and I went to see how the galley (ship's kitchen) worked today. We spoke with John, Ally and Darren just as they came back on duty. The ship was ‘going up and down a bit’ at the time and we were trying to do an interview and take some video. Jumping beans are on the menu tonight. We gave up on the video!

Elena writes...

My biggest achievement so far today was to flood the ladies bathroom!! The drain in the shower is not working that well and where the sea is quite rough the water was slopping out all over the floor.

Today we’re on route to our next sampling station so there isn’t much work to do. During our shift we must monitor the 3.5 and 10KHz echo sounding equipment (seismic equipment used to look at subseafloor sediment layers). I don’t know how I manage but every time I’m on this duty I manage to lose the image of the sea bed. We also check and record information from the multibeam scan every half an hour. This involves travelling from the upper deck (where the central working area is) to the navigation bridge deck via three sections of ladders. It’s probably the biggest amount of exercise I get during the day. RRS Charles Darwin is only around 70metres long and packed with stacks of equipment there isn’t that much space to move around. There is however, a very intense table tennis tournament taking place; earlier this afternoon the game was China vs. Korea standard (I’m a little worried about this since last time I played table tennis was on holiday about ten years ago and even then my mum used to beat me regularly!)

10kHz echo sounder data

3.5kHz data on screen in the lab

I don’t know if you’ve realised but I’m starting to use maritime vocabulary (deck and ladder would have been floor and stairs a few days ago). Jez has given me a list of words I must use:

Cabin is bedroom
Bunk is bed
Heads are toilets
Decks are floors
Mess is the dinning room
Alleyways are corridors
Porthole is window
Dhobe is washing

I’ll try my best! Check out our indespensible guide to maritime vocab!

Darren: keeping the troops fed and watered

John, Darren and Ali (catering manager, chef and 2nd chef) showed Ian and I around the galley area today; it’s at the very front of the ship and includes a kitchen area, cold store, freezers and dry store. The quality of food on board is excellent – (foodies look out for pictures of our meals in the photo gallery). They have dry and frozen food to supply the ship for a whole month and in the cold store they have fresh veg and fruit that will last for up to three weeks. Read all about the food on board.

I had no idea that Jeff (the steward) was going to clean the cabins today. At home I’m normally very tidy but here it’s harder to keep organised. Jeff wasn’t impressed and made sure he informed the whole crew about the state of the teacher’s cabin!!


Home -



Latest news

For teachers
Contact us

© Challenger Division for Seafloor Processes
October 2003
Contact the web editor