The UK OSNAP 2015 ship-based fieldwork season starts this week

This post marks the re-activation of the UK OSNAP at sea blog after a long down-time between the field work of 2014 and the start of a new season of cruises in 2015. The last time I wrote was at the end of a North Atlantic cruise on the RRS James Clark Ross in the summer of 2014. Now I am typing this in the main lab of a different ship – the RRS Discovery – docked outside the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

Over the course of today and tomorrow we will load our scientific equipment onto the ship, secure it all to the lab benches, and settle ourselves into our cabins which will be our homes for the next 3 weeks at sea. It’s a fairly nerve-wracking time, during which we work hard to coax our equipment and computers to work in their new ship-based environment, try to remember how we do all those familiar but “rusty” at-sea tasks, get used to being on an unfamiliar ship, and meet new colleagues and old friends. There is a level of excitement and anticipation too – this is the start of a new adventure that will bring its own challenges and rewards.

Just like the 2014 cruise described in previous posts here, this cruise (which is called DY031) will be based around days and nights filled with CTD stations. The CTD is our main instrument that is lowered on a cable from the ship to the seafloor, measuring temperature, salinity, pressure and oxygen as it goes. Later on in this blog we will explain why we want these data and the water samples that we collect with them.

Cruise DY031 is part of a programme called the Extended Ellett Line (http://prj.noc.ac.uk/ExtendedEllettLine) that has been making CTD surveys between Scotland and Iceland for 40 years, with the purpose of measuring how the ocean changes over time. There are very few places in the ocean where such repeated records of high quality data exists over several decades, and this makes our programme very special and valuable for marine and climate science. The location of the OSNAP line follows part of the Extended Ellett Line (or “EEL” for short) because of this long history of measurements and analysis, and we carried out the 2014 survey of the EEL on cruise JR302 described earlier in this blog. For more background on OSNAP see our website at http://www.ukosnap.org and earlier posts here.

Our Principal Scientist on the 2014 cruise was Brian King, and I supported him in organising and leading the cruise. For cruise DY031 I am Principal Scientist and this is the first time I have had the role alone on a cruise. This brings extra responsibility which I am finding brings some extra anxiety, but Brian tells me it will bring me extra satisfaction too. I will of course be relying on the team of people that make up the ship’s staff and scientific party of DY031, and I am looking forward to working with them all. If you continue to read this blog you will be hearing from some of them as they describe their work, interests and life at sea on DY031.

We sail from Southampton on Thursday, all being well. Personally I cant wait to get started now. My boxes are on board and partly unpacked and my mind is here on the ship too. The moment the ship leaves the quayside we will all relax a little and work on getting into our regular routines; that can be a quietly reflective moment and I’m looking forward to it.

by Penny Holliday, Principal Scientist

Photos (by Penny Holliday): RRS Discovery tied up at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton at the start of DY031.

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