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14 October 2001 - All at Sea!

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Position at 1200: 28° 09'S, 43° 19'W
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 8836 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 22.1°C; Sea temperature: 21.7°C

All at Sea!

Since leaving Ascension Island we have been plodding our merry way Southwards. Well, southwest to be exact, towards South America and Montevideo, where we are due to arrive on Wednesday.

The weather will start to change rapidly once we put to sea again on Friday and head almost due south to Stanley and the Falkland Islands. With this in mind everyone onboard has been busy doing maintenance around the ship to ensure everything is in good order before the weather turns colder the nearer we get to Antarctica. It has not all been plain sailing this week as on Wednesday and Thursday the wind picked and gave us a bit of a lumpy ride. Once the ship even rolled more that fifteen degrees which after several weeks of flat calm seas was a bit of a shock, though it did allow us to find any items that had not been secured properly!

Some people may have heard reports from the Volvo Round the World Yacht Race over the last week and yesterday they were crossing our track about four hundred miles behind us near the island of Isle de la Trindade on their way to Cape Town.

Awful Weather!We are glad to report that the normal ardous weather conditions for this region have now returned as can be seen here. We have had to endure this "awful" weather this afternoon. Click on the image to get a better view.

The Science Bit in the middle

Lucy and her keepers. Click to enlarge.Our regular readers may have notice us mentioning two scientists who have been onboard since we left Grimsby, so we thought it was about time we let them fill us in on the details of their project. In addition to this it allows Alex Baker and Melanie Witt to prove to their other halves that they are actually working and not just enjoying a sunshine cruise....so it's over to Alex.

"Melanie and I have come aboard to collect aerosol and rain samples along the route to the Falkland Islands. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air and can be a mixture of soil dust, sea spray, soot particles, and traces of pollution from sources such as road traffic, industry or agriculture. We are interested in the impact of aerosol particles, and especially their trace metal content, once they fall onto the ocean surface. Iron is a particularly interesting case, as it is an essential component of many plankton enzyme systems but is in very short supply in the surface ocean. Lack of iron can sometimes stop plankton from growing although other nutrients are still plentiful in the water. Under those circumstances the iron contained in a dust-fall on the ocean might act as a fertilizer for the plankton. Other metals, such as lead, copper and zinc, sometimes have concentrations in aerosols that could be harmful to aquatic organisms.

So far the James Clark Ross has taken us away from polluted European air, and through the plume of dust blown off the Sahara desert. The Sahara is one the most intense dust sources in the world, and it's dust can be traced as far across the Atlantic Ocean as Barbados, Florida and Bermuda. (By coincidence, as I write, yachts of the Volvo Ocean Adventure are sailing through a huge plankton bloom, which is believed to be fertilized by dust from the Sahara. Southampton Oceanography Center should have more details).

Dust cloud over the Atlantic, February 2000.(Thanks to NASA) Dust cloud over the Atlantic, February 2000. (Thanks to NASA).

Now that we are crossing the South Atlantic we may be able detect traces of smoke from forest fires in South America or southern Africa. The final leg of our journey to Port Stanley may allow us to sample the very clean air blowing over the Southern Ocean. Because rain strips aerosol particles out of the air very efficiently we are keen to collect as many rain samples as possible as we go south. Unfortunately, so far there hasn't been enough rain to allow us to collect any useful samples (quite an achievement in a month!). We are still hoping for some good, long downpours on the rest of our journey. Whatever rain we can collect and our aerosol samples will be taken back to our base at the University of East Anglia for analysis."

And Finally.....

Jim & Sarah Cleaning windows. Click to enlarge.We thought we'd continue to introduce members of the ships company. Here we see Sarah Hortop being instructed in the delicate art of how Seamen do the window cleaning by Jim Baker. Sarah is the ship's Doctor for this season and will be looking after our medical needs right up to the ship's arrival back in the UK in June next year. So as you can see no one escapes when it comes to keeping the ship tidy....