Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The internet's back on! Time for a blog...

And so, after 4 days of travelling, we finally made it to our sampling stations in the Porcupine Abyssal Plain first thing on Sunday morning ready and excited to start working! ...At least the morning shift were up and ready to go - my afternoon (1500-0300) shift was a little slower to get out of bed, most of us just managing to get ourselves up in time to eat lunch! Still, I can't complain; doing the backshift is DEFINITELY the better option compared to having to get out of bed at 3am every day (I don't do mornings). 

It is quite interesting seeing how different people deal with the shifts though. Most people on board I think would prefer to work the 1500-0300 shift if they had the choice, but some definitely deal it better than others. For me, if I had to get up for 3am I would still wake up feeling like crap no matter when I went to bed, whereas working the backshift until 0300 is absolutely no problem and only took a day or two to get used to. It's also helping the productivity (well, that and the extremely intermittent internet connection means I can't get too distracted too easily!), which always helps ease the PhD Fear back a little bit!

Mud + Science = Fun times for all.

Anyway, aside from settling into our shifts and getting to know everyone else on the ship, we've been getting stuck into a lot of megacoring work, which basically involves sending a corer to the seabed armed with 8-10 plastic tubes, which will be forced into the seabed then mechanically sealed up and hauled all the way back up ready to be measured, cut into slices, preserved and stored. All in all, the whole cycle takes around 7 hours (5 hours to send the gear down and back up and about 2 hours to process) so there's plenty of time to escape off to do some work or watch a film in between cores (or bizarrely, learn how to play cribbage), which is nice because it's not the most exciting work! It's one of those team-effort type jobs though so it's a pretty good laugh at least.

Autosub on the back deck. 

Autosub (our AUV or 'Autonomous Underwater Vehicle') is still being prepared for it's first launch later this afternoon (Wednesday) so keep your fingers crossed that it all goes well! The plan for the next few days is to send it down to take a few test photographs on the seabed so we can make sure it's all working the way it's meant to, and then it will rise up to about 100m off the sea floor and conduct the first part of an acoustic mapping survey which will take about 6 days to complete. So there won't be any fishy photos to look at for a while yet I'm afraid!

A little mystery tern floating by on its own private polystyrene island. Click to enlarge.

In wildlife news, there hasn't been much in the way of bird life out here except for this little mystery tern which floated past the ship yesterday on a little polystyrene island. As usual, I've got very little idea what this is, but it doesn't look like any of the British species I've seen before. Anyone out there got any ideas?

Maybe a fin whale? A group of about 5-6 whales passed our ship yesterday but no-one could tell what species they were.

We also saw a lot of whales yesterday too, which was very exciting! They were pretty far away, but they were pretty big (one was probably >15m, though I'm horrible at estimates. Definitely bigger than a minke though) and we think they might have been fin whales. One day I'll buy an ID guide and be able to say for sure what all these things are that we find out here!