Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

15 Jun - Pay, pack and go!

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 49.25.9° N, 04.47.5° W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 44,706.5 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 16.4°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 15.7°C
Weather: Good, NE, 3, 1022.6

Pay, pack and go

After serving 10 months in the South Atlantic at her Majesty's pleasure the JCR is nearing home at last.

As I sit on Sunday writing this we are making our way up the Channel to the south of Plymouth and I am very excited.  This week has seen the end of AMT 12, we have done a small swath survey for a day, we are seeing more and more ships but also rubbish in the water.  Large objects seen on the horizon are not the icebergs we are used to, but container ships, coasters or tankers.  The water is changing colour with the sediment and one can almost smell land!  The voyage home has gone in a flash for most of us but we'll still be happy to get off.

Passing through the channel, all conversation ceased as mobile phones appeared and people spent frantic minutes trying to get a signal.  'What network are you on?'  'Have you got roaming?' was all that was heard on deck and reminded me of how tranquil the big A is.  The Straits of Dover came and went on a blissful day, perfect for Channel Swimming, but none were out and about.  The white cliffs of Dover were spotted through the haze as we headed up towards Grimsby.

The end of cruise dinner was a belter on Saturday night.  By all accounts AMT 12 has been very successful and has collected vast quantities of data but has left the scientists pretty exhausted.

AMT 12 Team - Click to enlarge JCR Officers - Click to enlarge

The current plan for the JCR is refit in Portsmouth over the next few weeks to be ready for the start of next Antarctic season, leaving the UK at the beginning of September.

Circuit Training

Over the last 6 months, circuit training sessions have been happening for 3 nights a week.  Instigated by Richard Turner, they have been held in various locations over the ship but recently due to the fine weather they have been outside on the aft deck.  Bouncing along to the music in the fresh air, it's a great way to keep fit and if you get too tired, just lie back and watch the stars.  Thanks to all those who participated.

Circuit training - Click to enlarge  Circuit training - Click to enlarge  Circuit training - Click to enlarge
Circuit training - Click to enlarge  Circuit training - Click to enlarge

AMT 12 - Ocean Colour

Why is the sea the blue?

A trick question.  It isn't all of the time.  During the last few weeks the sea has taken many colours.  Green, blue, grey, white, brown.  The colour of the sea is determined by two things:

1    Pure water is blue because it reflects blue light and so without anything else in the sea would be deep blue colour.

2    The sea has lots of other things either dissolved or floating in it that affect the colour.  Plankton has pigments such as chlorophyl that absorb blue light but reflect green (like leaves on a tree) and turn the water, green.  During Autumn the leaves on the trees turn brown and plankton can turn the same colour depending on the season and type of plankton.  Sediments, such as those that wash out to sea from rivers turn the water mud coloured, brown.

Therefore water can change colour due to many things.  At times the water around the ship has been incredibly clear because there is very little plankton in it, so the natural colour of the water is seen.  Some times it has been murky due to thick blooms of plankton and sediments.

Ocean colour is useful as it tells us what is in the water.  Satellites can measure the colour of the water from space and so easily record the colour of entire oceans quickly.  The satellites are very accurate but to interpret exactly what the data they collect means, then measurements need to be made from ships and compared to the satellite data.  Models can then be made that turn the data in something that we can interpret.  Using a 'rocket' that is lowered 50m below the ship, light levels can be checked.  They essentially record the reflectance of the water and other optical properties.  This information can then be used to make optical models of the water.  NB the term 'rocket' is a misnomer as there is no propulsion system other than gravity!

The 'Rocket' - Click to enlarge

To determine why the water has the reflectance measured by the 'rocket', a CTD is lower through the water that can measure the absorbency and scattering of light in the water.  This data will be used in working out what properties of the water cause changes in reflectance and can then help with satellite interpretation.  A variety of images can be seen below.  Firstly on the left is the amount of chlorophyll in the water.  The blue areas represents low chlorophyll and yellow (around the UK) is lots.  Second is the water temperature in the Atlantic and it is easy to see the red water in the tropics (hot) compared to the (cold) water the poles.  Next is a picture of the CTD with optical equipment on, ready for deployment by Gerald and Chris.  The next satellite image is a measurement of the sea surface height and gives clues to water movements.  For example the areas of red and blue in the North Atlantic are the eddies caused by the gulf stream.  If you click on 'Harry Potter' you can see a video clip of the chlorophyll in the water as it changes over a year.  These are just some examples of satellite imagery and the data it can provide.

Satellite image - Click to enlarge  Satellite image - Click to enlarge  CTD ready for deployment - Click to enlarge
Satellite image - Click to enlarge  Click to view video clip

Optics can also be used to estimate the biological production in the water.  Using a fast repetition rate fluorometer (FRRF) it is possible to investigate the health and production of plankton.  Models will then be made to predict the production in the water and this can be correlated with other data such as the carbon sink or oceanic gases.  Since no light means no production, the optics are very important to understanding and investigating the biological and physical systems in the seas.

Acute Channelitis

Clinical Features
Channelitis is a severe but usually short lasting psychiatric syndrome with several phases.

Tropical Phase
The early signs are mild agitation and cheerfulness usually observed around the time of crossing the equator.  This is stage is difficult to distinguish from normal behaviour but soon passes and the patient moves into an incubation of several weeks.  During this period significant psycho-social readjustment is taking place within the brain.  Novel concepts such as a girlfriend, trees, money, shops and family, infect and hijack susceptible neurological tissue leading to a state of confusion and reduced cerebral activity.  The patient may been seen lying on deck, staring vacantly into space at this stage and it may be misdiagnosed as cabin-fever.  After an incubation of 10-15 days the next phase is entered.

The Doc with Channelitis? Click to enlarge

Expressive Phase
Usually seen in the area of sea between England and France, but may develop as early as the Bay of Biscay.  The usual symptoms are a general state of gross agitation, a fixation with packing and hyper manic tendency to stare out of any window.  Patients are often noted to repeatedly mutter the words 'Grimsby' and 'home' whilst maintaining a constant fixation on the ships progress.  'Ramsden's sign' can be precipitated by telling the inflicted that there has been a week long swath cruise added to the itinerary.  A positive response is characterized by frenzied interrogation of the captain followed by threatening to 'jump over the side and swim for it'.  The symptoms can develop into extreme excitement, palpitations and the patient seeks comfort by compulsive examination of charts and staring out over the bow.  Delusions are common at this stage hallucinations of land or even the smell of land may be reported.  The psychiatric state of the patient rapidly degrades with complete rejection of responsibilities, random hugging of the crew and total insomnia until a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion is reached somewhere in the Straits of Dover.  The patient can perform no useful tasks at this stage and should be nursed outside, in sight of land with traditional psychotropic medications.

Normally obvious from a simple clinical history but assessing the psychotic response elicited by repeatedly telling the patient stories of running out of fuel, medical emergencies or other delays confirms the diagnosis.  However this is now considered cruel in current medical practice but in some areas this mean trick is still accepted.

There is usually an outbreak in May and June each year but it is usually seen in small isolated pockets such as the Ernest Shackleton or James Clark Ross.  Classically the doctor onboard will usually develop the most severe symptoms but a general low level reaction is seen in most of the crew.

If the patient survives the acute attack then a full functional recovery can be expected.  Mental scarring is usually small but the patient could never be described as normal again (if he ever was in the first place).

The only known cure is suspension over water on a short metal walkway.  One end is connected to a large floating metal object whilst the other must be touching a firm non-floating structure.  Relief is almost instantaneous.  No other cures are known.

And it's goodbye from him......

Personally, it is the end of a fantastic 285 days onboard the James Clark Ross.  It has been a privilege to have sailed with her for so long and I have had a superb adventure.  Highlights have been opening up Signy, walking on the sea ice near Pine Island, Christmas day swimming at Port Lockroy, Stromness whaling station, crossing the line, Sealion and Saunders Island and skiing at Rothera but there are so many more.............I feel it has gone in a flash but looking back at the diaries I realized quite how much I have managed to do in that time.

I must thank everyone in Derriford involved with the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, particularly Iain Grant, Pete Marquis and Chris Andrews who were kind enough to give me this job and huge amounts of support during my time away.  It is all much appreciated.  Both Captain Elliott and Burgan have been extremely welcoming and a pleasure to work with both personally and professionally.  All the lads on the crews have been like a family to me, absolutely brilliant and I shall miss them all terribly when I finally get off.  The scientists, FIDs, postmen and cadets have taught me loads and just about kept me sane over the last 10 months.  My family has been fantastic and are unceasing in their support of me for which I am eternally grateful.  Most of all I would like to thank Claire for standing by me despite the thousands of miles between us, for all the heartache I cause and for being the reason I am so excited about getting home.

Sadly this will be my last diary offering.  I hope it has been interesting during the last year and has inspired people to go to Antarctica and see it for themselves.  Thanks to Dave Wattam at BAS, all the contributors, photographers and especially Johnny, Pete, Doug and Jeremy for all the computer help.  Once back in old Blighty, I start work back in the big smoke trying to resurrect my Plastic Surgery career and sort out all my photographs!  I hope I leave the crew of the JCR as healthy (but maybe a little younger looking! - Ed) as when I joined in September.  I wish next years doctor the best of luck and will follow both her and the JCR's adventures with great interest.

Alex Ramsden
Ship's Doctor

Alex Ramsden, JCR Doctor 2002-2003 - Click to enlarge

Thank-yous this week: to everyone who has helped to make it such a memorable year.

And, from all of us on this fine vessel, very many thanks to Alex for the superb efforts you have made throughout this Voyage [12], both as our resident Doctor, and in writing and compiling such a continually interesting diary for the web. It is a pleasure to have had you on board, and we wish you - and yours - all the very Best for your future. MJSB.