Home Sweet Home

by Clare Johnson

Sorry for not writing for a few days. I got back home yesterday but am still feeling very tired and a little woozy – unfortunately I’ve always had problems with land-sickness when getting off a ship – the equivalent of sea-sickness as your body re-adjusts to being on a none-moving environment again!

We managed to finish the last couple of mooring recoveries and deployments before some forecast bad weather forced us to head for Iceland where we docked. It was a very successful trip with 12 out of 13 moorings being brought up from the deep, serviced and re-deployed to make measurements for the next year. Unfortunately it looks as if the thirteenth mooring is lost. This mooring was in fairly shallow water within a known fishing area. We had used a special trawl-proof frame to minimise the risk of the mooring being damaged by trawling, but it looks as if this wasn’t sufficient. Although we are disappointed, all marine scientists know that if you put things in the inhospitable ocean for a year there is a chance that it won’t come back… However, sometimes ‘lost’ instruments wash up on a remote beach or are found by a fisherman years later so you never know!

The last few days of a trip are always hectic: any remaining data has to be processed, checked and have calibrations applied. Instruments and computers need to be packed away and lab spaces emptied and cleaned. Additionally every trip has to produce a ‘cruise report’. This is a document which details everything a person who later uses the data may need to know. During the last few days the ship is full of scientists typing away – we all know from experience that it is much harder to finish this report once you leave this ship and the pressures of everyday work and life creep back in.

As you get closer to land a sort of excitement begins to fill the ship, particularly for crew members who have been at sea for 6 weeks and are due leave. The ladder for the pilot to come aboard and the docking ropes were ready when Iceland was still a small blob on the horizon! However, no-one is allowed to leave the ship until it has been cleared by customs and immigration. Once given the all clear though we were free to stretch our legs, sample the local beer or ice creams (a big thing in Iceland) and eat anything we had been craving which was salad for quite a few people! The next two days however involved a massive re-arrangement of the ship. Nearly all the equipment was unloaded via a crane and placed on the dockside. Some of this was packed into a container for shipping home to the US whilst other bits were packed into a separate container to be placed in the ships hold out of the way. Simultaneously all the instruments for the next leg of the cruise were unpacked out of a container and placed in accessible areas of the ship. Finally, with the ship re-packed, the scientists and crew who were leaving ashore, and the new scientists and crew on board, the Pelagia set sail for her next trip: servicing more moorings between Iceland and the southern tip of Greenland.

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Pic 1: an instrument that measures current speed and direction in a trawl-proof frame waiting for deployment on board Pelagia.

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Pic 2: one of the landmark buildings in Reykjavik (Icelands capital) near the docks.

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