Sailing into the sunset

by Penny Holliday

So, after many months of planning, training, purchasing and organising, we have at last left the National Oceanography Centre behind us, and are making our way through sunny skies and calm seas along the south coast of England. Our first day at sea has been a pretty good introduction to this cruise because the weather is calm, and we know that we have a couple of days steaming before we even do our first test CTD station (have a look at our blog post from 8 June 2014 to find out more about CTD stations and what they are).

Our CTD section runs between Iceland and Scotland (the dots on the map below) and I have decided to start the work at the northern end of the line. It will take us until Tuesday to get to that point, and we will do one or two practice stations along the way. The test stations will help remind us “old hands” how we do things, test our equipment, and give us a chance to train new staff and students. Just now we are steaming westward along the south coast and will soon turn north to travel up through the Irish Sea. The test stations will be done later on when we leave the shelf seas and head out into the deep ocean.

During the course of this first day, those of us who have just joined the ship have received quite a bit of safety training. Before we even sailed we were given a comprehensive safety briefing from Ian (the Purser), and later in the afternoon there was a muster and lifeboat drill. Now we all know where to muster in the event of an emergency alarm, where to find our lifejackets, and how to put them on and climb into the lifeboats. All of this takes place just outside my cabin and office which means I might have a very short journey if there is an emergency!

After lunch I called our first science meeting where we talked about our programme of work and the different kinds of instruments we will be using over the course of the cruise. It’s important for us to understand what each other hope to get out of these 3 weeks, and to make sure that everyone’s needs are met when it comes to taking water samples from the bottles around the CTD package. We have been working out the shifts (or watches) that we will do, and making sure there are enough people to cover all our activities through the day and night. We now have a pretty good idea of our watches, and I’m happy because we have an excellent team of people who will work well together.

The sun is setting as I write this, and the view from my office is glorious. I’m still getting a thrill from saying “my office”, which is a privilege reserved for the principal scientist and not one I’ve had before. Its great to write the blog sitting in a large comfy chair next to a corner sofa, rather than a simple small desk in the corner of a cabin. It’ll be back to a normal scientist’s cabin next time I’m at sea so I’m going to make the most of this for now!

Images by Penny Holliday:

Map of planned stations during DY031.
Being waved off from NOC by a small group of friends and colleagues. Sunset over the English Channel on day one.

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