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15 October 2000 - Montevideo Special

RRS James Clark Ross: Diary entry, October 15th 2000

Noon Position : 43 degrees 13 ' South. 56 degrees 31 ' West.
Distance travelled since Grimbsy: 7858 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ noon: 9.7 degrees Celsius
Sea temperature @ noon: 8.7 degrees Celsius

We arrived in Montevideo at 09:00 on 11 October 2000, to be greeted by beautiful sunshine, apparently this was the first good day they had had so far this Spring. After all the organisation of being cleared by customs, getting dock passes, and for Hamish to dole out all the local pesos, we were able to get ashore. After more than four weeks at sea it was wonderful just to be able to walk more than 100 metres in one direction! As it was midday most people headed for a bite to eat.

A typical Parrila at the Mercado del Puerto The Mercado del Puerto (Port Market), otherwise known as "The Meat Market" is located just outside the port gates and tends to be the most popular place to eat. The building was originally built by the British as a railway station but it was never used as such. Inside there are plenty of eateries, known as 'Parrillas', which are traditional stalls that prepare all kinds of meat by a charcoal or wood fire. After deciding which particular stall takes your fancy, or more commonly, after being bamboozled by one of the waiters, you sit, bar-style, watching the food being cooked on an open BBQ in front of you. The service is quick, the atmosphere is unique, and the choice is plentiful...... Although there is no hope if you are a vegetarian. There is literally no part of the animal that you cannot choose to try, it all depends on how brave you are feeling.

Montevideo is the capital and the only major city in Uruguay, which in itself is the smallest hispanic country in South America, located between Brazil, Argentina, the Atlantic and the River Plate, with a population of 3.2 million. Most of the country sits on an alluvial flood plain rising to a maximum height of just 600 metres offering gentle undulating land with not much in the way of forest until you arrive at the border with Brazil.

Plaza de Independencia - Jose Artigas mounted above his Mausoleum The indigenous aboriginal Charrua Indians deterred European settlers (or was it just the lack of gold and silver), and it wasn't until the latter part of the 17th Century that Portugal established itself in Uruguay. This move forced the Spanish to set up its own site, and the citadel of Montevideo was built. From then on Montevideo changed hands several times between the Spanish and Portugese until 1807, when the British decided to have a go. However, after unsuccessfully trying to hold onto Buenos Aires on the other side of the River Plate, the British pulled out. After this, the now national hero Jose Artigas, who successfully fought against the Spanish, was unable to prevent a Brazilian takeover. However, after being exiled to Paraguay, he inspired the "33 Orientales", who liberated the area in 1828 when independance in Uruguay was declared. Then of course the obligatory civil war followed, and it was not until 1903 that stabilisation was achieved. One of Uruguay's proudest achievements was the nationalisation of public services and setting up of its welfare state way back in 1911, offering, free medical care, state pensions, unemployment pay, and free compulsory education, predating the UK by many years. Since the 1960's the country's great prosperity has slowly slipped away, and it was not until 1984 that elections took place and the military relinquished control of the country.

After a few days in Montevideo, stocking up on fresh provisions such as vegetables and meat (remembering that this country, along with Argentina, produce some of the best beef in the world), and also saying goodbye to the Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) scientists, we set off for our next port of call, Stanley in the Falkland Islands. We left at 16:00 on Friday 13 October, luckily with no superstitious personnel on board. The ship certainly seemed very quiet after losing the AMT team, although there are still a few diehards who are staying on for longer.

After the excesses of Montevideo, i.e. gorging ourselves on mountains of meat, not to mention the odd glass of wine and/or beer, it was almost a relief to get back to sea. As the temperatures continue to drop, the wildlife continues to increase and we've had our first sitings of seals and penguins. The weather has remained remarkably kind and it's still possible to relax outside in the sun although winter woollies are now necessary.

Sunday brought us an unexpected surprise. Whilst enjoying a leisurely lunch there was a sudden noise as the British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter aircraft passed overhead. They will be arriving in the Falkland Islands later today after their long trip South. Each year they return to the UK for their annual refit.

Margaret J. Yelland and Robin W. Pascal (Southampton Oceanography Centre)

Schematic Diagram of Fluxes We have been on board RRS James Clark Ross since Grimsby and have spent the last month developing the "AutoFlux" system. This system measures mean meteorological data, such as air temperature and humidity,  air pressure, sea surface temperature and the wind speed and direction.  We also measure the exchanges (or "fluxes") of heat, moisture and momentum between the sea and the air.  It is these fluxes that physically link the atmosphere and the ocean. Most of the energy from the sun passes through the atmosphere and is absorbed by the ocean, which then becomes warmer than the air and heats the atmosphere from underneath (via the "heat fluxes"). Likewise,  winds near the surface of the ocean produce waves and surface currents (via the "momentum flux") which then transfer heat from one part of the ocean to another. In order to  forecast  the weather or the world's climate over periods of months or years, the "climate" of the oceans has to be understood. Only then can the behaviour of the atmosphere be predicted once the fluxes or exchanges of heat etc between the two are understood.

The foremast bird table and instruments Making measurements of these exchanges is more difficult than measuring the ordinary meteorological variables, and requires "fast-response" instruments that measure up to 20 times per second.  We have three different fast response instruments;  a sonic anemometer which measures the wind velocity and from which we get the momentum flux, a sonic temperature sensor which gives us the heat flux, and an infra-red sensor which provides the moisture flux. The last two instruments are prototypes and have been well tested during the cruise. All three are on the ship's foremast platform, along with two psychrometers for measuring mean air temperatures. On top of the foremast "bird table" are three sensors for measuring radiation from the sun and the sky temperature. We also have two instruments for measuring the temperature of the sea surface - one is called a "soap" and is trailed over the side of the ship, and the other (on loan from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) is fixed to the inside of the outer hull in the bowels of the ship.

Model of RRS James Clark Ross The image shows a computer model of RRS James Clark Ross. The model shows how the wind blowing over the ship is distorted by the ship itself. In front of the accommodation block the wind has been slowed down (shown by the blue area), and above the accommodation block it is speeded up (the red area). These distortions can introduce large errors into our measurements, even when the instruments are in a fairly well exposed place on the foremast. Using this sort of computer model allows us to correct the measurements for the effects of the distortion.

The Autoflux System Display The cruise has been very successful. All the prototype instruments have worked well, and we have developed the "AutoFlux" system to produce the fluxes in real time (rather than months or years after a cruise has finished). The results are displayed to the screen on the UNIX workstation that runs all the data acquisition and analysis software,  and are also sent back to Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) every hour via the ORBCOMM satellite communications system.

More information on the AutoFlux project and other aspects of our work can be found at www.soc.soton.ac.uk/JRD/MET. The SOC presence on the cruise was sponsored by John King (BAS), as part of his science program Antarctic climate processes, and builds on previous collaborations in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Wandering Albatross - we really did see them!
Wandering Albatross - we really did see them!

Weekly diary entries