CD 157: Investigating the submarine canyons offshore Portugal


Daily diary

Thursday 3rd June 2004

Weather: Warm, sunny, gentle breeze, slight swell, lovely. Sun tan weather!

Ian writes...

Main achievement

Piston coring

Today was a good day for the scientists. We finished our multibeam survey - this will provide data so that a detailed bathymetric map of more of the ocean floor can be produced. We also took two different mega cores and a piston core. So what is the difference? Have a look elsewhere on the website for the two different sampling techniques. If you like, send us an e-mail and we’ll explain.


Despite it being a busy day I managed to find some time to relax. I really enjoyed sitting on deck at 0430hrs reading a chapter of my book and sipping a cup of tea. The sun was down, it was dark but warm and, despite the background noise from the ship, free from interference. Later in the day I spent a few moments sunbathing – it was both warming and relaxing – the sun being a welcome visitor.

Phil considers whether or not to pass the pigeon on to the ship's cook...

We caught a pigeon! Whilst chatting on deck with Phil, the Principal Scientist, a racing pigeon approached the ship and landed on the chief engineer’s shoulder! For a moment he looked more stunned than the pigeon and after a chorus of ‘Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum!’ the bird took itself off towards the galley. More on this story in Elena’s report.


I broke a plastic tube used in the mega corer. These cost about one hundred pounds and are designed to travel to enormous depths. It took weeks of organisation to get it here, we used it once and I smashed it. I felt like a Y7 pupil breaking a test tube. Everyone was very understanding but I bet they were thinking ‘How did this idiot get on board?’ I have no doubt that someone, somehow will not let me forget.

Mega corer is hauled aboard

Russell demostrates the right way to handle a mega core...

...whilst Ian demonstrates how to break one!

This brings me to the mud wars. Experienced practitioners have up to 25 different ways of getting mud onto someone else without them knowing; bits down the back of boots, the old ‘smell this mud’ trick, the safety helmet trap etc. As a war correspondent, a position bestowed on me by virtue of my camera, my neutrality has been respected – so far.

This mud that we bring up from the sea floor is really expensive stuff. There is probably a market for this as a specialist face pack or for trendy pottery. We have a few kilogrammes of the material carefully stored and we have cleaned off about the same, this is now on its long journey back to the sea bed [click here to read more about what the sediment tells us]. Who’d be part of the rock cycle?

Elena writes...

Today has been a busy and exciting day in terms of coring; we’ve had two megacores and two piston cores; one of them is coming back up at the moment and is at a depth of 4038 metres as I write. The megacore takes six 60cm long cores and the piston core takes a single core that can be up to 12 metres long (check the photos). The coring process includes several different stages and involves the whole range of specialists on board. The crew and technicians are in charge of getting the corer to the deep sea surface, taking the sample and then bringing it back up to the surface, this is done by using a winch and a crane. Once on board it’s time for the scientists to get to work; they cut the core into sections and then split them open, one of the half sections is stored as an archive, the other is the working half; it’s carefully described and once back in SOC will be analysed for grain size, mineralogy and palaeontology.

Earlier today I had the chance to open what turned out to be an amazing section of a core, Phil (chief scientist) said he’d never seen a deep sea core like this before; in a length of a metre it had over 100 turbidites (I expect my readers to understand the marine geology terminology by now!!). In terms of explaining the events in the canyon this is absolutely AMAZING (Although no one really is able to interpret what it means quite yet!). We have some video footage fo the ore - click here to view it!

Deploying the mega corer

Dan hard at work on deck

Doug, Phil, Russell and Tiago examine the "amazing" core!

 The other big event of the day was the arrival of the pigeon. I’m surprised no one has given it a name yet! Apparently it flew from nowhere and landed on Martin’s (the chief engineer) shoulder, and that was it! it’s the ship's new pet. Russell cleaned him off (he had oil on its feet), gave him food and water. I’ll update you on his progress in tomorrow’s diary- that can be something for you to look forward to!

 I better leave you now, my precious cores await me…

Think Sara's going a little stir crazy?

Russell gives Pete the Pigeon a foot bath

Ruth hugging one of the ship's most precious commodities - lab towel!

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October 2003
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