Photography at sea; teamwork and capturing the moment

by Amanda Kowalski

One of my greatest joys in life is people watching, and fortunately my role on board requires me to do just that. As the cruise photographer I spend most of my time watching and waiting for the best moment to click the shutter button. At the beginning of nearly every job I feel a bit burdensome and uncomfortable, but everyone on this ship has made me feel particularly at home. Consequently, I’ve been happily, and sometimes clumsily, snapping away during most deck operations.

Though I find myself tripping on cables and occasionally hitting my hardhat-clad-head on various pieces of industrial equipment, I’m truly amazed at how gracefully the technicians on deck execute their jobs. They know the routine of each operation so well that they anticipate one another’s moves and effortlessly maneuver hundreds of pounds of gear. My two favorite technicians to photograph are Steve and John.

Steve and John are the two men who work at the edge of the fantail, guiding and sometimes pulling in the enormous buoys, chains, and fragile scientific sensors that comprise the moorings. The deck is noisy, but the two know one another’s moves so well that there seems to be little need for conversation. One moment they are using brute force to hoist in a chain of buoys that’s gotten stuck at the edge of the ship, and the next moment they are nimbly untangling a sensor from the line. Time and again I watch as John gently holds an microcat while Steve carefully unscrews the bolts that have anchored it to the line. Though there is a clear routine to the work, small surprises and dilemmas abound and the pair handles each one with care but without concern. If words are exchanged at all they usually seem to be in the form of a joke.

I had the good fortune of sitting down to dinner at the same time as Steve a few days ago. He told me that he has been at this for thirty years. That made me reflect on my job. Will I still be as committed to my work in thirty years? I think so, but I can only hope that I achieve the same level of ease and expertise as he and John clearly have.

Photos by Amanda Kowalski

Tiny cups, origami, & beautiful skies

by Anna Simpson

We have been doing lots of science things which all seem to be going well to me. This being my first research cruise, I have been observing and learning a lot about how oceanographic data is collected and processed. Mostly, I help take salinity and nutrient samples from the CTD cast and process the ADCP data. Part of what we are doing during this cruise, is deploying RAFOS floats which are instruments that sit at a certain depth in the ocean and float around with whatever current they are in. At a specific time interval, they record a signal out which is send out by sound source moorings and using three return signals, it can determine its location. In two years, they will come to the surface and transmit all the data that will tells us the path it took and therefore give us information about the deep currents. Ryan taught me how to program these floats to turn them on and make sure they’re working and ready to deploy.

In other news, yesterday we did the classic Styrofoam CTD cast where we first drew on Styrofoam cups and attached them to the CTD using our socks and sent them to 3000m. Now, we have nice shot glass size Styrofoam cups. While waiting for the CTD or getting to a station, sometimes the watch standers take up different activities besides working and data processing like reading and doing origami. Penny’s desk has started being filled with different critters.

Other things in the non-science realm of the cruise are the different games played after dinner including Scrabble, Wii Frisbee golf and 100 pin bowling, and trivial pursuit. Also, working out in the gym has been a daily activity for some of us. Running sometimes proves to be difficult since the ground is constantly moving underneath but I think my balance and coordination have improved somewhat.

The sky has been mostly cloudy and gray, but the sun has broken through a few days and the clouds have become more interesting than just blankets of gray. And when it is a bit more clear near the ends of the day, they reflect the sunlight in magnificent reds, tangerines, and golden colors. I have greatly appreciated these sunsets and sunrises though they have been few. Also, the views of the waves out of my cabin porthole are very nice.

Photos by Anna Simpson

On to recover an old friend

by Femke de Jong

August 2, morning:

Today we, the NIOZ team, get to recover the first mooring. This particular mooring is not really part of OSNAP, it was originally deployed in 2003 as part of the Long-term Ocean Circulation Observations or LOCO project. It has been here ever since, except for a day or two between recovery and redeployment every summer.

LOCO is located on the 3km isobath on the western side of the Irminger Sea, right underneath a meteorological feature called the Greenland Tip Jet. This enhanced barrier wind that extends over the ocean causes very strong cooling in this region in winter. It’s what causes the warmish, salty surface water to cool, increase in density, and mix with the waters below. With LOCO we have a twelve year record of that mixing and we can study how it relates to the wind forcing and general changes in the Irminger Basin. As I’m writing this we’re steaming to LOCO to recover the thirteenth year. We’re hoping this will be our lucky number. Roald and Yvo have prepared everything on deck and in the last couple of days I’ve tested all my processing scripts. We’re all ready to go.

August 4, update:

We arrived at the LOCO position at 16:00 and started the mooring recovery. Because of the long stretch of empty cable (2400 m for the profiler) it’s quite a boring recovery. Mostly some instruments to get out at the beginning and end. All was on deck around 19:30.

Roald and I have installed ourselves in the NIOZ container that was put on board before leg 1. We spend most of the rest of the day there reading out and re-programming the instruments. All of the instruments were still recording, so none of them ran out of batteries. That’s very comforting for us as this time they will go out for two years rather than one and it gives us some confidence that the estimates of how long they will run are correct. We stopped servicing at midnight to get some well-deserved rest.

Back to programming after breakfast. All the instruments had fresh batteries and programming around 10:30 so we started the mooring deployment. The anchor was dropped around 13:30. The final act consisted of a trilateration of the mooring position by ranging the distance to the anchor releases from several points around the mooring, which gives us the exact position of where we’ll find our friend in 2018. In the meantime we’ll let the instruments record some interesting things.

Photos by Femke de Jong

Lovely skies, sending Feili over the side, and whales at last

by Penny Holliday

Today’s blog is really all about the photos; we’ve had some lovely weather over the past couple of days and so working out on deck has been the place to be. We have also been continually scanning the horizon convinced that with these perfect conditions we surely must see some whales. This evening we were rewarded with the sight of several family groups of pilot whales nonchalantly cruising by while we did a deep CTD station.

And this afternoon, OSNAP postdoc Feili had a float named after him, which we hope will travel around the subpolar North Atlantic collecting temperature and salinity profiles every 10 days. The data from these Argo floats (‘Feili’ and many other similar ones in the region) will be making a huge contribution to the OSNAP goals by helping to give information about conditions between our mooring sites.

Photos by Penny Holliday

Glittering glaciers, giant anchor chain and Discoveries past

by Mia Taylor

Since reaching our first CTD station near the coast of Greenland in the early hours of Saturday morning, things have switched up a gear and work is well underway.

One of the first CTD stations was in close proximity to the southern tip of Greenland, many of us were contemplating waking up in hope of seeing Greenland’s cliffs but the ETA for reaching it was 2am, meaning that it would be dark at this time and unlikely. However, during the night the schedule shifted slightly and we reached the station closest to the coast around 5am, just as dawn was breaking. Despite lots of cloud and a grey hazy sky, the coastline was visible. We could see the flashing light from a lighthouse at Prince Christian Sound and to its left there appeared to be a glacier, further left again, a large iceberg. The glacier was intriguing, it was the brightest thing on the coastline yet with the poor visibility it was hard to understand visually; was it receding into the mountain or a layer of ice cloaking or jutting out of the cliff? No amount of squinting could clarify this for me. Most curious was that it was sparkling, as if it was covered with a gentle sprinkling of glitter.

Yesterday – Sunday – the moorings began; M1 and M2 were recovered, having been underwater and actively collecting data for the past year. This is the first time OSNAP have returned to the moorings since they were deployed so bringing them to the surface and retrieving their data was an exciting prospect, as was seeing their condition for the first time since spending a year beneath sea level. Recovering the moorings requires hauling them out of the ocean and removing and cataloguing the instruments. It’s heavy work and it’s cold out, plus due to the high pressure in the area the waves are rolling with more swell than the last couple of days, but the NMFS technicians who are organising the operation have the process efficiently choreographed and everything ran smoothly. Once all of the M1 and M2 2015-16 moorings were out of the water (all of which were fine, with the addition of some biology to a few buoys) a reconditioned set were ready to go back in. If you are not familiar with what these mooring’s are, let me try and explain: one mooring includes groupings of about four buoys incrementally attached along a long line of wire and between these groupings data collecting instruments are further attached. Many of these instruments look cylindrical and are made from a combination of metals to prevent corrosion. The wire is long – M1 was 2059m in length – at the end of the wire a heavy weight is attached, which is designed to sink to the seabed pulling the wire and the buoys down with it so the line and buoys float vertically upwards, securing the instruments for data collection at different depths. When it’s time for the mooring to return to the surface for data collection an acoustic release mechanism triggers the wire to detach from the weight and due to its buoyancy the mooring floats back up to the surface. M1, M2 and now M3 reached the surface intact and untangled making it easier for a technician to catch it and draw it back to the ship.

To successfully drag down the buoys the weight needs to be significant, for the redeployed M1 and M2 moorings a small part of a massive anchor chain had been chosen, to give an idea of its scale, each chain link is about the width of my forearm. It made a dramatic sight when held aloft by the winch and hanging between the gantries before it was dropped to its watery grave.

In the evening, having completed work at moorings M1 and M2 the ship headed back closer to Greenland for more CTD stations and the launching of a number of RAFOS floats. Sotiria and Ryan – who are on the 12am – 12pm watch – and the technicians spent the early hours consistently busy preparing the CTD, collecting water samples for salinity and nutrient analyses and recording details for the watch log. Although it is the middle of the night, it’s a nice time to be up and about. It’s more peaceful and the pitch black of the night sky against the bright lights of the ship sets an atmospheric scene. Even though it’s not possible to see the vast expanse of water around us at that time, you can definitely feel it. As dawn breaks (around 5am), wandering up the outside stairwells it seems there is always someone to run into who is starting their day.

Punctuating the work and giving structure to the day are mealtimes; the food is fantastic and includes more options than could possibly be eaten at one sitting. Should it be possible to lose sight of what day it is (I think it is possible), the meals offer each day a sense of identity; fish on Friday and today, Sunday, we had a roast dinner (with amazing spuds). The galley is indicative of how things seem to run on the Discovery as a whole; the standards are high and everyone is friendly. As a first-timer on a ship it’s crystal clear that everyone works very hard and that things run like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is doing different shifts so there is always someone awake and alert; it’s a 24hour ship in every respect. Options for downtime apart from socialising or having the sea rock you to sleep, include a session at the gym, playing cards or Wii, watching a video, or a number of other things, including perusing from library’s collection. One of its gems is ‘A century of Discovery’, charting some of the Discovery’s past voyages from the last few hundred years. Interesting fact: Captain Cooks ship, The HM Sloop Discovery, weighed 229 tons*, compare that to the 2012 RRS Discovery, which weighs around 6000 tons. The sense of history attached to the Discovery is inescapable here as photographs and prints of ships bearing the ‘Discovery’ name are hung on the walls of each deck, and show majestic looking ships alongside explorers, ice and penguins. It is a profound reminder of the ships heritage and that the vessel and its people are integral cogs in continuing its legacy of exploration and pioneering research, enabling new knowledge to inform our lives.

Other excitement on board today included Ian, the purser, opening the bond (the ship’s shop) where you can buy chocolate, sweets, cigarettes, clothing bearing the ‘Discovery’ logo and more, within minutes of opening there is queue. More exciting again (if possible), this morning we saw a group of pilot whales to the side of the ship. They didn’t hang around but hopefully they will be back.

* Ships employed in Arctic ice: Discoverys past, 1602 to 1876 by Ann Savours, Archives of Natural History, 2005, A century of Discovery, Volume 32 Part 2

Photos by Mia Taylor

Three days into science work on the cruise, and it’s all starting to feel quite familiar

by Penny Holliday

We’re coming to the end of the third full day of science work, and in that very short time the science team of DY054 has settled into a kind of a routine that goes like this: day work is recovering and re-deploying our moorings, and nights are spent doing CTDs and releasing floats.

I cant speak for everyone of course, but it does feel to me as though we’ve found our routine pretty quickly. The scientists that I’ve been training up have been extremely quick to learn what they need to do, and seem to be enjoying themselves so far! The excellent food that is produced by the galley team is a large part of that enjoyment and there is much discussion about how on earth to manage not to put on weight during the cruise. There seem to be three main camps: try to eat in moderation; exercise like a demon to work off those 3 cooked meals a day (plus pudding); or just accept it and plan to lose the weight later. I’m in the first group – let’s see how well that goes!

Another key factor working at sea is of course the weather – and so far it has been kind to us, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Three days into science work on the cruise, and it’s all starting to feel quite familiar

by Penny Holliday

We’re coming to the end of the third full day of science work, and in that very short time the science team of DY054 has settled into a kind of a routine that goes like this: day work is recovering and re-deploying our moorings, and nights are spent doing CTDs and releasing floats.

I cant speak for everyone of course, but it does feel to me as though we’ve found our routine pretty quickly. The scientists that I’ve been training up have been extremely quick to learn what they need to do, and seem to be enjoying themselves so far! The excellent food that is produced by the galley team is a large part of that enjoyment and there is much discussion about how on earth to manage not to put on weight during the cruise. There seem to be three main camps: try to eat in moderation; exercise like a demon to work off those 3 cooked meals a day (plus pudding); or just accept it and plan to lose the weight later. I’m in the first group – let’s see how well that goes!

Another key factor working at sea is of course the weather – and so far it has been kind to us, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Clear water, grey skies, and colour on deck

by Penny Holliday

The good news last night – as we steamed towards our westernmost point of the section, just off Cape Farewell, Greenland – was that the water was clear of ice and we could get as close to shore as we had planned to go. The bad news was that it was 3am and very dark outside! This seemed to limit our sightseeing opportunities at this spectacular piece of coastline, but happily those of us who stayed up were rewarded with a lovely view of Greenland and some icebergs as the morning light appeared. Needless to say my photograph doesn’t do it justice!

As day was breaking we headed back out into deeper water to find the first of the OSNAP moorings that we plan to recover during this cruise. The conditions were clear and calm and not too cold, though the sky was grey and flat. However the day was brightened by the colours on deck: yellow, red, and orange of the mooring buoyancy spheres and people in their warm high vis coats and hard hats.

The photos show the sequence of a mooring recovery operation – an acoustic signal is sent to a device at the base of the mooring, telling it to release the large weight at the seafloor, allowing the whole string of instruments to float to the surface. The ship is positioned along side the mooring, which is now streamed out along the surface of the water, and the top of the wire hooked with a grapple. Cranes and deck winches slowly reel the wire in, while each instrument is removed as they come in, and taken into a lab for the data to be downloaded.

We successfully recovered two moorings today, giving us a whole year of precious measurements of the deep North Atlantic currents – tomorrow we lay a new set of instruments in their place.

Photos by Penny Holliday

Before the game starts

by Feili Li

It has been two days since we left Reykjavik and we are heading southwestward to the Irminger Sea, east of Greenland. It will take about another day before we reach the location of the first CTD station near the Greenland side. So before we get there, let me explain several things: who we are, why we are in the cold subpolar area, and what we are doing before getting to the working site.

We are a group of enthusiastic hard-working researchers coming from seven institutions and four countries on a research cruise aboard RRS Discovery. Here the word “researcher” is preferable to “scientist” because we have an artist Mia and a photographer Amanda onboard – we are all doing research, just in diverse disciplines. (If you are as interested in their work on the cruise as I am, stay tuned to our blog!) Below are some nice photos of us.

One of the main goals of this research cruise is to retrieve data (sea water temperature, salinity, and current velocity) from the moored array as part of OSNAP, which has been sitting in the Irminger basin for another full year. After the data retrieval, moorings will be redeployed and will be staying in the water for the next two years. Processing of the data will begin shortly after they have been collected, although it may take several months to finish the processing and quality control of all these data. With the data, we are one step further towards the first result about the overturning circulation in the subpolar North Atlantic. It will provide unprecedented opportunities for understanding how water masses formed at high latitudes are tied to large scale Atlantic circulation that relates to climate change and variability.

Before getting to the site, we are generally free. I feel like I have moved my office from Durham in North Carolina to the ship. Except for training on CTD watch, I have been basically working on my laptop in a lab with a nice ocean view. The boundary between work and life disappears: eat, tea, work, eat, tea, work, eat, eat, eat … Yes, the boundary between the times you are eating and the times you are not eating also disappears. But, soon, this will be substituted with days filled with lifting, walking, taking water samples, and that is when the real game starts.

Photos by Neill Mackay

Photos DY054.pdf

The next stage of the OSNAP 2016 fieldwork

by Penny Holliday

RRS Discovery cruise today left Reykjavik on what surely must be the most beautiful day of the year so far. Sailing into glaring sunshine over blue sparkly water brings a optimistic lift to the heart of this Principal Scientist – it almost makes you think that we won’t need all of those extra days we have scheduled in case of delays due to bad weather… But the bad weather will probably come at some point, so I wont yet get too carried away with talking about calm conditions.

Most of us have spent a few days in Reykjavik, getting excited by seeing four research vessels in port at the same time (surely quite unusual?), gasping at the price of shopping, and admiring this stylish city in all it’s crazy-weather glory. But now we are glad to be getting going and getting on with the task ahead of us.

This cruise DY054 is the second UK OSNAP mooring refurbishment cruise of 2016. We’ll be retrieving some moorings and instruments that have been collecting deep ocean data for the past year, and sending a new lot of instruments back to replace them. We’ll also be releasing some ocean-exploring robots – floats that will spend two years following the coldest and deepest water so we can trace the many ribbons of currents that make up the southward-flowing circulation.

Photos by Penny Holliday