During our research we are aboard research vessels. This year I was aboard the British ship the James Clark Ross. This is a world class research vessel that has berths for more than 20 scientists and laboratory spaces to conduct all manner of research. The heart of the research operations on this ship is the UIC. The underway instrumentation and control room. This is the nerve center of the science where all data streams are visualized so that decisions regarding the science program can be made. From this room, winches and deck gear can be operated allowing the sampling to be monitored. On the deck, scientists will deploy a variety of gear over the stern of the ship with the help of an excellent deck crew, all under the careful watch of the Bridge.
In general, aboard research vessels work is conducted 24 hrs a day so that people are always on shifts. Aboard the James Clark Ross this year I worked from 4 AM to 4 PM which took some adjustment! My work this cruise consisted of running acoustic data collection for krill, sampling the water properties using an instrument called the CTD, that measures temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll-s and the clarity of the water. Additionally water samples were collected for other collaborators that’ were conducting other studies in conjunction this cruise. My colleagues on the night watch also sampled krill, mesopelagic fish and conducted studies on krill swarms to better understand the acoustic properties of krill in swarms. The collection of samples was limited to night-time to minimize avoidance of animals to the net, and to capture animals that vertically migrate into the upper water column at night.
One of the best parts of being on a cruise is the food, especially when the cooks are great. I was fortunate on the James Clark Ross as all the meals were wonderful. And the one perk of getting up at 4 am is that I was able to eat all three meals, breakfast lunch and dinner. The mealtimes are also important times to exchange information with the officers and other scientists so are valuable from the scientific perspective. On this cruise I was berthed in a small but comfortable to person room. And, because we didn’t have a large number of scientists, there was no other person in the bunk. This was helpful in providing a private space away from everyone, necessary when you are all on the same 100m boat!
Life at sea is regimented, and is very repetitive. The close proximity to others provides an opportunity to interact closely with people and see the world in a very unique and special way. The two best days at sea are often the day you leave port and begin the journey, and the day you return to port and can share the experiences with others.