JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Cruise diary

Day 17: Monday 18 June 2007
Position: Nazare Canyon
Weather: Calm and sunny

Helen writes:

"The ship has been a hive of activity all day today. From 9.30am onwards there were people saying that the journalists were on their way; in the end they didn’t arrive until after 11am.

In the meantime, I wrote some information about coloured light to accompany my experiment which has gone down on the ROV this evening. We also had to print out some A0 posters (really big!) to display on the ship for the journalists today and in preparation for the visits on Thursday. There were lots of problems with the printer, and everything blue kept coming out yellow! It took ages to sort, and we only eventually solved the problem by changing computers, no idea what was causing it!

So, at 11am the mediafest began. A small boat arrived from the Portuguese ship Don Carlos I. with 4 or 5 journalists and cameramen on board, our mob boat went out to collect some more, and another couple of trips later everyone was on board, a team from the BBC including David Shukman, a couple of Portuguese camera crews and several Portuguese journalists.

Everyone met in the main lab where Doug outlined the finds of the trip and what we’d been up to. The journalists were then split up into small groups and given a tour of the ship. Some carried out interviews with scientists, and a few were interested to hear from Virginia and I about classroom@sea.

Apparently we should all be on the BBC news tomorrow at 6pm, so keep your eyes open for it!

Sarah was interviewed by the BBC, and showed them Archie the Sea Urchin. They also interviewed Doug and Paul. We’re all really interested to see what footage appears in the end! I asked if they’d seen the Classroom@Sea site, and they said they had, and that although it probably won’t get a mention on the live broadcast, they’ll put a link to it on the web article! So it was all very exciting. Virginia was interviewed by a few of the Portuguese journalists; they were really interested to hear what she had to say about her work on the ship.

By about half past two, the journalists were all back on the Portuguese ship, but it’s taken a while for us to return to normal here. I suppose it feels like the end of term, and we’re only just getting ready now to send the ROV down. Many people took the opportunity to enjoy the Portuguese sunshine, and chill out for a couple of hours.

I sorted my coloured light experiment and attached it to the ROV with Pete’s help. I look forward to seeing how it goes!

Arrival of journalists by small boat

Nick manoeuvers the mob boat as Jim waits to receive a TV camera on a rope from over the side of the ship.

The aft deck was buzzing with people

Sarah introduced the BBC to Archie the urchin

Helen putting her experiment onto the ROV (the coloured squares by my her leg!)

Helen's colour cards set up on top of the ROV's sample box

Virginia writes:

"This morning James Cook was nearer the Portuguese Coast and we could see Nazaré village. While we were waiting for the visit of the BBC and Portuguese media and journalists we received a call to take a group photo. In fact now we feel like members of the same family. I would like to keep this family for the rest of my days. Most of scientists and crew met at the fo’csle to take the photo and to remember this cruise in the future.

The journalists arriving was previewed for 11 am but delayed and we had yet time to a brief lunch. They began to arrive at about midday. Two small boats transported the journalists from D. Carlos, a Portuguese research vessel, to James Cook. Doug received the journalists and introduced Teresa and myself as well as other scientists on board of James Cook. Journalists had a reception in the main lab. Doug talks about the Hermes Project and the main aims of the second leg of James Cook cruise, at the Portuguese Canyons. Small groups of journalists accompanied by one or two scientists visited the ship. Journalists had interviewed several scientists. I also spoke with several of them. I explained the aims of my and Helen’s work during the cruise and I showed them the web address of the Project “Classroom at sea”.

The journalists were very impressed with the excellent conditions for science and life on board of James Cook. João Vitorino, a Portuguese researcher specialising on physical oceanography, also came on board. It was a pleasure for me to meet Vitorino, a friend for along time. His work on physical oceanography at the Iberian Margin, between other researchers’ work in this area, are the basis for my work on paleoceanography. So I know very well Joao’s work. I read his scientific papers many times and I am always waiting for new papers of Vitorino. People like me that study oceanic sediments to reconstruct the past history of earth and sea need to understand the present phenomena that are happening on earth and sea. I am not a specialist in physical oceanography, but I need to know what kind of processes affect the ocean. I also need to study many other subjects related, for instance, with chemical oceanography, marine biology and geology, earth climate. I am particularly interested in understand the influence of climate changes in oceanographic processes, chemical weathering of rocks and sediments’ transport from the mainland to sea. So usually when I study sediment cores I use multiproxy data: textural (grain size and shape of sedimentary particles), mineralogical, geochemical and also microfaunal (foraminifera) data. I also would like to introduce in my studies new data and analyse for example molecular biomarkers and microelemental composition of foraminifer’s tests.

But as foraminifera are very important for me, in my approaches, I also spoke with the journalists about this research area which is represented in this cruise by the Andy’s work. Cooperation with Andy, in this cruise, has been very important for me. I could learn several new techniques used for biologists to study forams and to know several species of the deep sea that don’t fossilise. They are very delicate and suffer disintegration after death.

The group photo

Doug presenting the Hermes Project to journalists in the Main Lab

Journalists in the Main Lab listening to Doug

Andy, Virginia, Doug and Vitorino


Journalists leave James Cook at about 2.30 pm.


I tried to explain to the Portuguese journalists that a teacher can be also a researcher. It is not easy but can be very interesting. Teachers learn to communicate with children and they can also have an important role in science divulgation making the bridge between scientists and kids or the public in general. I am very happy to have been the fantastic opportunity to stay here in this cruise of James Cook and work in science divulgation.

As we were near of Nazaré I could phone to my parents and friends and recommended attention for the news in TV and newspapers. They will speak about the James Cook cruise on the Iberia Margin to study Portuguese submarine canyons.

I liked very much to receive on board Vitorino and the journalists.

Now is running the Isis Dive Plan: Dive 55 that includes ROV watches, Swath, a video transect, suction sampler, push cores for Andy and Kostas, and sampler voucher specimens as required – megafauna.


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