CD179: Deep-sea biology of the Portguese canyons


Daily diary

Sunday 16 April 2006

Raquel writes:


Today was the first day of science. We set sail from Cartajena (south of Alicante, Spain) on Friday and steamed for 2 days along the south coast of Spain, through the Strait of Gibraltar towards the Gulf of Cadiz and only arrived up at Setubal Canyon this afternoon around 2:30pm.

The first thing we did was switch on the swath bathymetry and 3.5kHz sub-bottom profiler – both of which give us a depth map of the sea floor – for the shallow margin around the Setubal, Lisbon and Cascais Canyons. For those of us who are on shift at the time, this involves changing the file line over for the bathymetry data once every hour – i.e. instead of having a single very large file - and because we have the swath on for days at a time this creates an extremely large file – we split this into separate files of one hour long each. This means that if the system crashes you only lose a maximum of one hour’s worth of data, and it’s easier to work with smaller files too. We also have to keep an eye on the 3.5kHz screen and make sure that the line representing the sea bottom remains within the screen and doesn’t get lost going too high or too low, otherwise it doesn’t get recorded.

Earlier in the day there was a SAPS deployment (Stand Alone Pump System) which is used for measuring different things in the water. In this case the biologists will be analysing the fatty acid content of the water at different depths, which is useful for knowing about phytoplankton communities in the area.

All in all, it’s been an easy 24 hours. There are 10 scientists onboard and we have been split into 2 groups of five: Sarah, John, Teresa, Veerle and Dave are on the day watch (8am-8pm). If you’re thinking “Wow, they work a 12-hour day and 8am is really early and 8pm is really late”, try doing the same but during the night, that’s 8pm til 8am. Yeah, not fun. It means you have to change your body clock completely around and get used to sleeping during the day and staying awake all night. Those on the night watch are me, Abi, Dario and Xana. However, I prefer the night watch because you’re not stuck in the lab whilst it’s nice and sunny outside, and you can get some of your own work done or reading because it’s usually quieter at night anyway. Once you get used to the hours, it’s not so bad.

We also had a choc-a-thon today because it’s Easter Sunday, and we had a plethora of chocolate items in the lab, including plenty of Mini Eggs and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. I think all the sugar helped immensely in keeping the night watch awake! The cook also cooked us a delicious meal of prawn cocktail, steak and strawberries and cream! Yum…"

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April 2006
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