CD 157: Investigating the submarine canyons off Portugal


It's getting close!!

With the cruise now less than a month away, how are Ian and Elena feeling? Are they nervous, excited, terrified? Read on to find out...

Ian writes...

"How do you feel when a much anticipated holiday which, up to now has seemed distant, is fast approaching? Excited? Anxious? I  am experiencing a mixture of many emotions. Images of violent storms, overturned life rafts and giant squids hauling the ship down to the abyssal depths flash up in my mind. A blink of an eye replaces them with me sunbathing on the poop deck, Martini in hand proposing world shattering scientific insights to astonish the Prof. and other experts on board. Time for a reality check!

At the school where I work all my colleagues are very supportive. They refer to my ‘holiday’ with curiosity and a touch of envy. This response confirms how lucky I am to be involved with this project. My main worries are ensuring that  I will have covered all the angles for my classes work, that the GCSEs and the Y10 exams go smoothly. I know that they will, but you’ve got to worry about something – its human nature.

Between now and the departure on the 27th May, when we fly out to Tenerife to meet the ship, some pupils and I will design some experiments to take out to sea. This will be interesting; Elena, Vikki and I have come up with a few ideas like a survey into the conditions affecting sea sickness, a whale watch survey and changes that occur with depth. Have a look at the web site later to see what we did.

This will be the longest time I’ve spent away from my wife and children. I know that they are as keen as I am that I should go. Are they trying to tell me something? Will I return to a  ‘SOLD’ sign stuck outside the house? I know that I will miss them and will look forward to being with them again. Its odd how your thoughts about the future change how you feel at the present.

Well, we’ve done the sea survival course, I’ve had my teeth checked [true!] and scraped through the physical exam. All I have to do now is find the fashion wear – hard hat, boiler suit and safety boots. Do you wear your swimming costume beneath or on top of the boiler suit?"

Elena writes...

"We’re counting down the days… only three weeks left till we leave for offshore Portugal!!   Preparations must be hectic on board the RRS Charles Darwin but Ian and I are busy meanwhile preparing our own particular responsibilities.  We’ve been involved all year, helping to set up the website, practicing getting wet on our sea survival course, helping out at the ocean and earth science open day and art competition, visiting SOC with students, going to meetings;  we’ve even done radio and newspaper interviews!! 

We’re busy now preparing all the classes for the period we’ll be away, but we’re not leaving the students too much homework; they’ll need plenty of free time to log onto our website and find out exactly what’s going on down there in the deep sea canyons and keep up to date with our “Daily Dairy”.

Ian and I have been fitted for boiler suits, hard hats and steel toecapped boots – boiler suits? I was expecting something more like bikini and sunglasses!!

Outside interest on the project is perking up and people frequently ask me what exactly happens on a research cruise.  The other day Vikki, Ian and I discussed this question and decided that it's a bit like flying a helicopter over the Colorado Canyon and trying to get sample materials of the canyon itself using a rope and bucket, with the minor inconvenience of not actually being able to see anything due to thick fog!  If you keep an eye on our website we’ll hopefully be able to answer this and any other questions about the work and life of scientists at sea.

I had never imagined I would one day be on an underwater canyon research cruise, even if only for 3 short weeks, but watch out deep sea monsters - here we come!"

Home -



Latest news

For teachers
Contact us

© Challenger Division for Seafloor Processes
April 2004
Contact the web editor