by Penny Holliday
It’s World Ocean Day today and we are supremely lucky to be spending it out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, making observations of this incredible place. And what a day it’s been, here on RRS Discovery. We’ve had glorious sunshine, calm seas, a massive coccolithophore (plankton) bloom, pilot whales (at last!), a glider deployment, and views of the oddest part of the UK: Rockall.
Let’s start with the phytoplankton bloom. I described yesterday how this was turning the sea milky turquoise, so that it looks completely different to the clear blue we often see here. This bloom is dominated by a kind of plankton called coccolithophores, and I can tell you that Steph Allen is officially the most happy person on the ship today. You can see the difference that the bloom makes to the ocean colour in the photos of Rockall taken today, and last year in July. Amazingly for microscopic creatures, the bloom is detectable from space! The false-colour image below, produced by our friends at NEODAAS in Plymouth, shows a patch of white, representing "our" bloom.
And yes, here we are at Rockall again. It looks rather different from last year, not just because of the colour of the water, but also because it’s covered in seabirds and their guano. Last year it was inhabited by Nick Hancock, this time by only gannets, fulmars and razorbills.
Karen sent her second glider, Laphroaig, on its way this morning too. Last time there was quite a crowd watching, but today I was the only spectator. Though to be fair, most of the other people on watch at the time were actually taking samples from the CTD at the time. The launch went without a hitch, and while we were waiting for a phone call from Estelle in SAMS to confirm all was well, we were treated to our best view so far of pilot whales. I’d heard that others had seen glimpses before today, but this little group came and inspected us for a few minutes before swimming off.
Photos by Penny Holliday