Taking Inspiration from the North Atlantic: A Maiden Voyage

by Jason Salt

Participating in my first oceanographic expedition, I desired to better understand the inner workings of the ship and research taking place within. This cruise is an occupation of Extended Ellett Line, a hydrographic section from Scotland to Iceland over ~70 stations. In recent years, this line has also been surveyed nearly once annually also by a Sea glider. These autonomous vehicles profile the ocean in a saw tooth path by changing their density to move through the water column. Wings allow for pitching at different angles can generate lift which can also drive the glider forwards through the ocean. They can be fitted with a vast array of different sensors to measure parameters such as water column transport, chemical composition & ocean fluorescence. The interest of my PhD at SAMS (Scottish Association of Marine Science) lies in using the oxygen concentrations to make estimates of carbon fixing, which can have implications for carbon storage, cycling & also food chain structure and dynamics.

Over the past 2 weeks I have been involved in and observed just some of many the fascinating scientific equipment and techniques used on research vessel at sea. I feel privileged to have been able to assist with the processing of the data, deep sea “mud” slicing & water sampling of depths up to 2700m for later analysis of salinity, nutrient and oxygen concentrations! Alongside this, I have had the opportunity to experience working/living closely with a group of amazingly dedicated scientists, technicians & crew members on a day to day basis. Despite the team working 3 different watches over 24 hours, rarely has there been a dull moment. Daily activities have evolved over the course of the journey as we found creative ways to entertain ourselves. Endeavours have ranged from intense circuit training on the foredeck to playing an intriguing assortment of games in large groups and in the latter stages, solving trivial daily puzzles & anagrams put up in the main lab.

Although we are nearing the end of this adventure there is still plenty ahead to look forward to, of this including the recovery year’s Ellett Line Sea glider, deployment of a final MET office ARGO float & the glorious sight of Iceland in the closing days. It would be careless to not mention the substantial variety of wildlife that have graced us with their presence, including my personal voyage highlight of being surrounded by as many as 60-70 common dolphins as they circled fish shoals beneath the surface. I’ll value the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired from this expedition to invigorate my enthusiasm for studying the world’s oceans and the life within for countless years to come.

Photos by Jason Salt

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