Tests and the real thing

by Penny Holliday

I woke this morning feeling a little tired after my sleep was interrupted by a small patch of rough weather in the early hours, but also with a tremendous sense of excitement. Today is the day that we start the CTD work! At last we will have something solid to do after several days of preparation. This is the moment I have been leading up to for some time and I cant stop grinning at the thought of it.

We held a team meeting at 8.30am in the main lab – the master, the principal scientist, the senior tech, the science and deck bosuns, the mate and the chief engineer, all got together for a quick run-down of the day’s coming activities. These meetings will feature every day now, a chance for us to make sure everyone knows what the plan is and whether any issues have come up. The meeting was brief and to the point; we decided to do our test CTD at 9am in plenty of time to train everyone and be ready for the first real station 12 hours later.

It all went very smoothly. There was a small crowd of people watching the CTD go in the water, and craning their necks to see the live display of data coming to the screens as it descended through the ocean. When the CTD was back on deck there was an even bigger crowd of scientists eager to learn their parts. By the end of the practice run we had established the order in which things should be done, and the novices now know exactly how many times to rinse and fill their respective bottles cleanly and without compromising the samples. The physics team immediately discovered all the ways in which our computer programmes that deal with the data don’t work on this new ship…. but by lunchtime had fixed the bugs in preparation for the start of the real section this evening.

Excitement grew in the afternoon as we spotted the whites, blues and greys of the snowy and rocky Icelandic coast, not far from our first real CTD station position. We are close to Vestmannaeyjar, south of Iceland and it’s a beautiful evening with lovely views of these volcanic islands. A magical way to start the real work of the section.

The evening shift are taking samples from the CTD now, and the next station, only six miles away, will start in an hour or so – they have a busy night ahead of them. But I can see lots of happy faces around the bottles, so I guess I’m not the only one in a good mood tonight.

Photos by Penny Holliday


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