Cruise diary

Saturday 2nd August 2003

Dave writes...

"The beauty of not being on shift work is that we are able to go to the bar and be able to relax have a laugh and not worry too much about getting up at 4 in the morning. Last night we had cause to celebrate as it was a double birthday last night, the birthday boys are Andy and Geraint, so happy birthday to them. The chef laid on two special birthday cakes and a decent spread that I helped to devour mercilessly. It was very tasty.

The wind has dropped slightly so we are making a consistent four knots through the water. We will be significantly late at this rate. The crew have made the comment that this cruise has been very strange in that we have only had choppy weather, this is very unusual for the length of the cruise. Normally we could expect a fair amount of clear sailing, it is not uncommon to have completely flat, glass-like seas. I must have been exceptionally bad in a previous life.

In the evening we watched a film on the projector. After the film Bram, Rex and I went outside for some fresh air. The night was exceptionally clear, toward the aft of the ship it is quite dark so that light pollution was minimal, we stood and admired the stars. The milky way was unusually bright and lucid. Bram then showed us a phenomenon that I did not expect to see. Millions of photoluminescent plankton surfaced and were glinting in the ship’s wake. Each zooplankton shines for only a brief period at any given time, they emit a greeny yellow light in a similar fashion to hundreds of dull fire flies. The plankton reside at depths of 1500m until the night time when they surface (we think to feed on the phytoplankton)- I will check with Sophie. Anyway it was quite stunning..."

Tina writes...

The T-shirt: Rex’s cartoon version of the Ralldog dredge is especially lovely. The coloured sea floor is from the em12’s bathymetric data. The ship is an actual silhouette of the Charle D.

"Today we designed the cruise T-shirt! Rex, Tim and me (with creative input from Bram and everyone) produced a natty representation of life at sea on the ridge. The cruise T-shirt is a tradition on research cruises, and we are getting some printed for when we get home.

The scientific team are only on board for three weeks on this cruise, so even though we may be tired with the rough weather, and feel a little cramped in the middle of the ocean, we are all looking forward to being home soon. Darwin also has a sister ship, the Discovery (or ‘Disco’ as she is fondly known) who is currently being refitted for more cruises in the future.

It’s much more difficult for the regular crew, who put their home lives on hold for several months at a time to run the ship. Even though they have leave on land after each trip, it’s hard to be away from family for so long at a time, and so far away sometimes. Much of the ship’s complement have worked at sea all their lives, joining up at 16 and going to college to learn all about the nautical trade. As well as scientific vessels, there are careers on board passenger ships and cargo vessels, the navy and the merchant navy.

In the past, crew would only have been able to send or receive letters when they reached a port, or to have messages via radio. These days communications are better, with regular email transfers (once or twice a day) and a satellite phone which you can use with a £17 phonecard. But not everyone would be suited to the lifestyle.

Even though there are many jobs that involve travel and training away from home, not many are as remote and isolated for such an extended period of time. It’s more similar to life on board a space station or in a submarine, where you are separate from the world, and protected from hostile elements..."

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