Cruise diary

Saturday 19th July 2003

Dave writes...

"I slept very well, you don’t notice the ship's movements as much when you are lying down.

The next day during Bram’s shift the dredge was recovered. Bringing up the dredge is quite exciting; in the words of Forrest Gump doing a dredge “is like a box of chocolates ‘cos you never know what you’re gonna get”. The dredge could bring up rocks or beasties or treasure or nothing at all. The rocks have to be cleaned and moved into the wet lab for sorting. This time it contained basaltic pillow lavas, altered glass and manganese nodules - all evidence of ancient submarine volcanic activity. I helped to sort the rocks into groups, then label them and get them bagged up for storage.

At Waypoint 3 we did another dredge. This time we retrieved a bucket of sludge which contained the shells of microscopic beasts called foraminifera which live in the sea. When they die, their shells sink to the bottom of the ocean and form a benthic ooze. We took a sample of the sludge then we returned the remainder to the deep from whence it came. At this waypoint we also attempted a CTD which measures temperature, pressure and density of the water column, and it also takes samples of the water from given depths. However there was a problem with it so it could only reach depths of 600m rather than the full depth of 1000m. This tool is useful as you get a profile of conditions in the water column.

I spent the rest of the time sitting in the sun and in bed trying to recover from the total reversal of sleeping patterns. I feel total sympathy for anyone who works a split shift because it is really hard..."

Tina writes...

"I woke up for lunch, then went back to bed. It’s easy to get into a pattern of work/eat/sleep and not notice the days passing. When I wake up I don’t know what day of the week it is or if it’s night or day. The nice thing about my shift is that I get to see sunrise and sunset. If it’s quiet we get to drink mugs of tea and coffee on deck, watching the cloud systems move around.

On my afternoon watch, we brought up the second dredge. We were very excited, but there was only a fine coral-like sand in the bucket, and no real rock specimens. I suggested we market it as face exfoliant (it’s very nice to the touch, smooth with small fragments). It’s amazing to think that this has come up from 4000m under the sea (about 12000 feet).

We also got the CTD instrument down in our shift (this has 24 cylinders to collect water and measure Conductivity, Temperature and Density). Carla is the CTD expert, and supervised it to 600m. It wasn’t able to go to its full 1000m, because the load cell (measuring strain on the support cable) wasn’t operational. The CTD measures changes in the water column, and has an electronic readout all the way back up to the surface.

When the CTD came back up on board, Carla added 100ml of concentrated hydrochloric acid to each 2 litre cylinder (these are called Niskin bottles). I lent a hand, because it’s actually very difficult to add fuming, corrosive acid to cylinders 6ft off the ground, on a moving ship in a swell, with variable gusting tropical winds! Jeff, the CTD operator, was a little nervous about the dilute acid dripping on to his electronics below the Niskins, but I reassured him that the dilution meant the acid would be around a 1% solution (HCl is 37.5% acid). Later he admitted he had tested one of the drips (this would not be a safe thing to do!) himself, to check.

The acid is very important, to soak and clean the Niskin bottles before sampling. It removes any manganese (which is what Carla wants to measure) that may already be present. HCl is very good at removing metal ions like manganese and iron, because they form very soluble chlorides.

After the excitement with the CTD, Rex told the Master to get under way (he had been waiting for us to finish) and we started steaming towards Waypoint 4. This next journey will be a long trip of more than 2 days.

At 16:00 local time (we are 4 hours ahead of GMT here) we had a fire drill. We all had to attend to the right ‘Muster Point’, complete with wet weather gear and lifejacket, get our names checked and make our way to the correct lifeboat (I am in the starboard boat).

We also get to cross the equator twice on this trip.. there is a seafarer’s tradition of an initiation ceremony (called ‘Crossing the Line’) to pay homage to Neptune (the ruler of the sea) as you cross over. We cross at night this time, but in 2 weeks we cross back again (during the day), and we are a little worried. There are at least 4 of us who have not crossed before, and we may have terrible things done to us (most common is getting your head shaved, or having custard thrown at you).

At 21:00 Andy noted in the log that he had stopped being sick, then he also noted the next watch (me) was late by 2 minutes. Andy has a birthday (August 1st) whilst on the cruise, so I am planning what to do to him then..."

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