CD 157: Investigating the submarine canyons offshore Portugal


Daily diary

Saturday 5th June 2004

Weather; still cloudy and warm , occasional break in cloud, wind is a gentle breeze –shorts and tee shirt but not lotion or sunglasses

Ian writes...

Main achievement

The Kasten corer

We’ve had four goes at getting some sediment from one particular site in the mouth of the canyon. Phil and Doug reckon that we ought to be sampling sand which is very hard to penetrate. As I write another attempt is being made using a Kasten corer. This sample is one of a series going across the mouth of the canyon, we are expecting to find more sand in the mid channel and more fine mud at either side – just like in a river.


Icebergs off Portugal! We didn’t actually see one today but we saw evidence of them having passed this way. In one tube of sediment that we brought back to the surface this morning we found a stone about the size of a 2p piece, [see photo below]. This was very odd as it was deep in the core at a layer that may have formed 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. This part of the earth has never been on land. Russell asked me how I thought it had arrived in this ancient sediment. My first response was that it was the remains of a meteor, we then chewed over the idea of it being carried by a fish. Russell indicated that there is evidence of the last ice age reaching the Canary Islands. As the icebergs melt they deposit bits of rock that were eroded when this piece of ice moved as a glacier scouring out the land.

I have to mention that we have all just rushed out of the lab. to view a school of Fin whales swim past. Fantastic.

Hard at work on deck

Evidence of ice ages past...

Are you licensed to play with that?



Yesterday evening whilst sitting on deck I came to the conclusion that the world is a slightly convex disc made entirely of water. Now I know that is not true but, using the evidence before my eyes it is the only conclusion I can make. There is nothing to see but water, which ends at a slightly curved and featureless horizon. This is obviously the edge of the world!

How could you persuade me to form a different view of the world? I will guarantee a personal mention for the best answers.

Elena and I are able to get more involved in the support work gathering and processing the samples. Elena has become an expert at core splitting and I have involved myself in helping the technicians deploy and retrieve the samples. I’ve really enjoyed this work - it is so unlike teaching, more like motor mechanics. [I wonder how the old MG is getting on?] Although we all end up doing one thing, it is clear to me that we all have interests and skills that would make several sort of possible lifestyles worthwhile and interesting.

Elena writes...

Today has been a beautiful day; it’s warm with a light breeze and the sea is very calm. The work load was lighter than yesterday so it’s been slightly more relaxing - only slightly because there is always something happening onboard!

The calm sea means it’s much easier to observe marine wildlife. We’ve been very lucky and seen a school of about 40 common dolphins, a minke whale, about three fin whales, a house martin and a painted lady butterfly.  During the night coring we also saw shoals of sandeels being chased by squid.  Word of the sightings travels fast around the ship and in a couple of minutes all the team were filming, taking photos or just observing the sea creatures. But the observers became the observed! I was able to take some good pictures of them.

The evening light was also lovely, the sun through the clouds created a spectacular atmosphere.

The arrival of whales close to the boat (below) created great excitement on the ship - here are photos of everyone enjoying the show!

Ian makes sure he catches the action on film

The objects of everyone's admiration - a Fin whale

And a spectacular sunset to finish the day off.

On top of the geological work carried out on board, there is also some secondary biological sampling taking place. Dan is the only representative of the deep sea biology group and has managed to collect some samples of deep sea sediments that will be analysed for evidence of life. We are also hoping to use the SHRIMP (a device used to film the deep sea floor). At the moment there is a problem with the optical fibre cable but tomorrow we will get closer to land to receive a part that will enable the technical team to sort out the problem. We will have phone network coverage so I’m sure we’ll all be phoning home like mad.

I’m not sure why but today has been the best day I’ve had so far! I really enjoy the night shift; the people I work with (Ruth, Tiago, Viet, Doug, Steve, Rhys and Duncan) are great; we work hard but have a good laugh. It’s nearly four o’clock in the morning but I’m wide awake enjoying every second!

Back to calendar

Home -



Latest news

For teachers
Contact us

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