Date: Sunday 14 January 2007
Position: 51o41.4’ N, 57o49.3’ W Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands
"It has been four days since we sailed from Uruguay and we have been making steady progress down towards the Antarctic. We left Montevideo at approximately 7 pm local time on 10 January and sailed out into the South Atlantic. The weather was initially kind to us but on Saturday the seas picked up. A number of us spent Saturday afternoon avoiding any kind of work and just sat watching the waves. The future forecast is also not too promising as we will have to try and dodge another depression or two as we pass the tip of South America and move into Drake’s Passage.
During the past few days life on board ship has been a quiet routine for most of the time. Life for many seems to revolve around mealtimes when we all gather to see what the chef has prepared. It is also an opportunity for everyone to get together and talk about the plans for this cruise and those future cruises which have yet to be organized. Often we also find out more details about the weather or how the ship operates. The RRS James Clark Ross (JCR) has two crews and they serve on a rotation of four months. The current crew under Captain Chapman joined the ship with us in Montevideo and they will stay on board until sometime in May, long after the Isis ROV and us scientists have finished our work. In May the crew will be rotated off and have four months leave at home, during which time JCR will be in the northern hemisphere supporting important research in the seas around the Arctic. One exception to this four month rotation is the ship’s doctor, Nick. Nick tells me that he joined the ship four months ago, after undergoing additional training in fields such as dentistry at the BAS Medical Unit in Plymouth. He will stay on board for nine months to start with. He has a short break and then will have six weeks working in the Arctic before his commission with BAS ends and he moves back into mainstream medicine once again.
After mealtimes we all disperse back to our cabins or other hideaways. Peter Mason and his Isis team of technicians and pilots have numerous small tasks to complete which keep them occupied during the day. Isis needs to be connected up to its combined winch cable and optical fibre. As well as connecting Isis to the ship it provides the electrical supply from the surface and delivers data to and from the ROV. All the ROV systems need to be powered up and tested before its first dive.
For the rest of us there is a combination of music, reading, wildlife spotting and work to keep us occupied. Most of us have brought our own music along and the ship also maintains a book and MP3 library which we can make use of when ours run out. On our route down we have seen a variety of marine life including common dolphins, numerous seabirds including albatrosses and storm petrels, and a single unidentified whale heading north. On our way into the Falklands today we saw our first penguins, both in the sea beside the ship and on the beaches surrounding Port Stanley. Ultimately of course, when we tire of these distractions we can always return to our laptops and papers.
The RRS JCR is also working during this transit south. She has been fitted out with instruments to measure and record the concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide in the surface water as part of a study to investigate how the changes in the earth’s climate are affecting the chemistry of the world’s oceans.
As I mentioned in my last diary entry the reason we have come into Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands is to pick up a box corer. This device can be lowered to the sea bed to recover a fixed volume of sediment which is then brought back to the surface. These samples are useful to the geologists as they can be used to measure a number of geotechnical and geochemical parameters and we biologists can sieve the sediments and determine what species are living under the surface and in what numbers. Now we have all of the instruments and equipment on board we can head down to Rothera to begin our science. Depending on the weather this will take another four days giving us an estimated arrival in Rothera of 18 January. Weather permitting I’ll send an update along the way..."