Mobilising our cruise in St Johns, Newfoundland

The physics team of five left Heathrow on Tuesday, bound for the busy port of St Johns, Newfoundland. Our excitement was building fast as the plane flew low over the sea into Newfoundland, passing bluey-white icebergs grounded on the shore, and taking us right over the red and white RRS James Clark Ross tied up at Pier 17 in the harbour. We had heard from our colleagues already onboard that the weather had been cold and wet, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a glorious spring day with blue skies, warm sunshine and daffodils nodding to us as we drove through town.

For novices and old lags alike, the moment of joining the ship can make you feel excited but also slightly anxious. But the smiles on the faces of the welcoming party that greeted us by the gangway dispelled any nervousness we had. We were shown to our cabins, given a short safety briefing, and a quick guided tour of the ship by Brian King, our Principal Scientist. I’ve been on this ship a couple of times before, so it didnt take me long to remember where everything is. It’s great to see again the many friends that I’ve made on the ship on past cruises.

The labs on the ship are bustling, busy spaces, with everyone setting up their analysers, unpacking boxes and trying to squeeze everything into their small allocation of bench space. There is a wide range of chemistry measurements that will be made on this cruise, and later in this blog we will do our best to explain what they are, and why we are making them. Many of the chemists have been onboard for a few days already, because it takes a long time to set up, test and tweak the complex machines that analyse the water samples.

The small physics team has very little equipment to prepare, but we are spending our mobilisation time setting up our computers, planning the station positions and the depths at which we will take water samples, and training young scientists who have never been to sea before. There is a lot to take in, including understanding the different kinds of instruments and data they generate. They are starting to learn how to do the data processing, which is the way in which we take raw numbers from instruments and turn them into data we can use to understand how the ocean works.

Meanwhile I have unpacked my suitcase and settled into my cabin. Some of the science team are in shared cabins, but I am lucky enough to have my own. There is a bunk, some storage space, a desk and chair, and a tiny private bathroom. It’s very comfortable and it doesnt take long for me to stash all my stuff securely away. It’s important to find a place for everything in a drawer or cupboard, because just as soon as we leave the calmness of the harbour and hit the rough open ocean, the movement of the ship will throw to the floor anything left unsecured on a desk or chair.

We have one more day of mobilisation left and we sail tomorrow afternoon (Friday). Most people seem to be ready, though there are a few last minute things to sort out. There is still time to get everything ready though; the first stop for sampling will be a day or so after we leave St Johns.

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