by Eoghan Daly
I am an undergraduate in Earth and Ocean sciences at NUI Galway, Ireland. It has for a long time been a dream of mine to join an oceanographic survey on-board a research vessel and when the opportunity came up I took it with much excitement.
As it came closer to sailing time the excitement was met with anxiety. Would I be able for the work? Would I miss home? Had I packed everything I might need? Would I be seasick? Would I fit in? I knew there was only one other undergrad going, amongst a host of researchers, technicians and senior scientists, and I knew nobody.
As it turns out, my fears were unfounded. Apart from missing my family and the initial adjustment to life on the sea, there was nothing to worry about. Everyone I have met has been simply great. The crew are very friendly and helpful and the scientists are very supportive and freely impart their knowledge to the learners. The dynamic on-board is one of open friendliness and getting on with the important job of doing science (with some fun thrown in as well).
Adjusting to the work has not been easy, as working for the physics team involves lots of data processing using computer coding unfamiliar to me, as well as monitoring the ships systems and sampling the water. A sharp learning curve, yet invaluable as experience for a trainee oceanographer. A day here is worth at least a week in a lecture hall.
Some of the highlights of my trip so far have been seeing Iceland, Rockall and Pilot Whales and doing real science for the first time. Most interesting has been listening to the senior chemists, biologists and physical oceanographers debate some of the unexplained results they are finding in some areas of the Ellett Line. Ideas here get bounced around and agreed or disagreed on, while constantly seeking solutions to understanding the unknown. This is at the cutting edge of our knowledge on the North Atlantic Ocean system, and to see it in action is a real honour.
This trip has, so far, been a truly fascinating experience and has exceeded all my expectations. I am now happier and more determined to be involved in ocean science than ever before.
Photos by Eoghan Daly