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Sept 28 - Almost Down South

Date: Sunday 28th September 2003

Position noon: 0° 53.2'N  024°42.8'W 
Distance travelled since Immingham: 4458 NM
Air temperature: 27.3°C
Sea temperature: 26.3°C

Almost Down South - The Week In Brief

You can see from our position report above that we are presently still in the Northern hemisphere. If only just, as we have just over fifty miles to go before we bump over the line and become Southerners once more. All prolonged periods at sea seem to develop into their own little routines and this is no exception for scientific cruises.

Here on AMT13 we stop twice a day to allow the scientists to gather their precious sea water and squirrel it away in their laboratories. What magic is performed there before they emerge with all sorts of numbers and pretty graphs I'll have to leave others to explain. All the casual observer can see are the occasional moods swings as an experiment works well or doesn't and the long hours put in by everyone to help the project reach its goals.

Also this week, after two weeks at sea, we reached another milestone that appears on every cruise. That is you hear the phrase "when did they get onboard?" for the last time. This is generally heard from one of the ship's company who spends most of their time in the bowels of the ship doing their bit for science and has totally missed a scientist on another shift hiding away in the labs.

Science Bit In The Middle

Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT13)

Regular readers of the diary will be aware that the JCR conducted a scientific cruise all the way home to the UK, called AMT12, at the end of her last Antarctic season, but we'll do a brief resume for new recruits.

The AMT programme started back in 1995 with the desire of UK scientists to study the planktonic ecosystems and their variation across the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that the James Clark Ross makes this voyage southwards in September/October and northwards in May/June makes it an ideal platform for the purpose. There were 11 AMT cruises up until 2000, each sampling the sea water on our north/south migrations. This enabled the scientists to study the varieties of plankton resident in the various waters that combine to make up the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally they measured the bio-optical properties of the sea water, or explained another way how the colour changes with the amount of stuff growing in it. The reason for taking these optical measurements was to help calibrate a satellite system which is using the colour of the seas and oceans as a measure of how much life there is in them. The AMT programme was suspended in 2000, but reappeared earlier this year in a new and improved model to continue this important research.

The new round of six cruises will specialise on the structure and biogeochemical properties of planktonic ecosystems. To make best use of the time the cruises take slightly differing tracks to reinforce their work. AMT12 earlier this year concentrated on the North and South Atlantic gyres and so stayed further out into the centre of the ocean as can be seen if you check out the diary pages from the 18th May 2003 onwards, where you will also find very detailed accounts of some of the science being undertaken.

On this cruise (AMT13) we shall repeat the southern section of the last cruise through the southern gyre, but the first part i.e. northern section is a little different. If you click on the cruise track below you'll see a satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean showing the chlorophyll concentrations within it. The colour spectrum is used to indicate differing concentrations of chlorophyll in the seas from red indicating high levels right through to blue indicating low. On to this we have superimposed the route we are taking from the UK to the Falkland Islands.

The track for this cruise. Click to enlarge.The track for AMT13. Click to enlarge.

Hopefully on the map you'll have been able to make out the colour changes representing different concentrations of Chlorophyll in the ocean, in particular the red and yellow area where our track approaches Africa and the coast of Mauritania. This is know as an upwelling and it is this area that is of special interest to us on this cruise. An upwelling is an area of intense productivity for the ecosystems as cold water rises from the ocean depths, bringing with it vast quantities of nutrients. It is a localised area which can be passed through very quickly. The bridge even reported seeing a green line in the ocean as we approached our highest concentration the other day. To try and demonstrate the dramatic colour changes we've include the two pictures of the CTD sampling frame just below the sea surface. The one on the left is in the upwelling and the one on the right was just 24 hours later when we had left it. We hope the murkiness of the water is apparent.

CTD in the upwelling. Click to enlarge. CTD outside the upwelling. Click to enlarge.
CTD in the upwelling.
Click to enlarge.
CTD outside the upwelling.
Click to enlarge.

For those of you keen to find out more about the science AMT have their own website at www.amt-uk.org.

Pirates Ahoy!

There has been some talk of pirates over the last week as we approach the north-western coast of Africa. It is one of the areas of the world where pirates are still reported to operate, but thankfully much closer to the shore than we are ever likely to get.

However, with the need to take a twenty-four hour break from sampling whilst the ship moved out of the upwelling towards the gyre, all aboard were awarded a well-deserved night off from science and placed on pirate alert.

When the attack did come, we were all glad that the anti-pirate drills had been practised so thoroughly, and the crew were able to repel the marauding infidels. In fact, it is rumoured that they were heard calling the coastguard to be rescued from us!

Our resident reporter caught the following images of the invasion; pirate captain Tarran and his henchmen, evil "Doc" Wilson and scurvy Bernie Fuchs with "Mad-dog" Waldron, viciously defending the right hand bar stool. Leading the attack were the notorious pirate wenches Sandy Thomalla, Elena San Martin and Jenna Robinson, whose voice strikes terror into the crew to this day. The lower pictures show "Peg-leg" Tom Elliot and "Wee Gerry" Armour, whose pink coat belies his cut-throat nature.

Emma, Glen and Bernhard. Click to enlarge. Howard 'Cap'n Cup-Hook' Waldron. Click to enlarge.
Sandy, Elena & Jenna. Click to enlarge.
Ton 'Peg-Leg' Elliott. Click to enlarge. Wee Gerry. Click to enlarge.

The prize for the best dressed pirate was collected by Wee Gerry Armour. Despite comments from the Chief Engineer about the productivity of his department outside of working hours and sounds of 'suits you sir' coming from the engine room workshop, rumours of quilting parties being held down below are being strongly denied. The second prize was taken by Cap'n Glen Tarran for the best use of a blow up banana in an avian supporting role.

However, congratulations go to everyone for all their efforts with limited resources. The ship's work since has shown the benefit of having a little break.

Wildlife corner.

There has been an unexpected multitude of wildlife on and around the ship this week. It appears that an easterly wind from Africa and our proximity to the Mauritanian coast was all the excuse these visitors required to make the James Clark Ross home for a while. Though sadly I guess for some of the insects it will have been their last journey.

We often see birds at sea, some more often that others. However, the sight during one of the stations of an owl was quite unexpected and caused quite a stir during it's brief visit. It, obviously, is shown the picture below left and we must thank Malcolm Woodward for being the quickest on the draw with his camera. I haven't identified the species, but to give budding Twitchers out there an idea of scale the space in the ship's side where it is sitting is 140mm high.

Owl. Click to enlarge. Painted Lady Butterfly. Click to enlarge. An Ex-Locust. Click to enlarge.

The butterfly in the centre is believed to be a Painted Lady, but despite being the only one to land long enough to allow a photograph to be taken it refused to open it's wings until the camera had been put away, typical! However, no such problems have been experienced with some of the insects, such as the locust above right, which we have been able to photograph at our leisure.

Photo Gallery.

Here are a few images from around the ship this week. On the left we have Derek Lee (Steward), Marc Blaby (AB) and Jimmy Newall (Steward) enjoying a little sun before the snow arrives. Andy Hinds (centre) demonstrating what to do whilst waiting for your CTD to arrive and finally we have Andy Liddell (the Mate) trying to hide whilst cycling on the foredeck or is he practicing towing the cargo tender for those beach landings to come?.

Sun before the snow. Click to enlarge. Waiting for the CTD. Click to enlarge. Andy the 'Mate' towing the cargo tender!. Click to enlarge.

So Until Next week...

So with about 3500 miles remaining to Stanley and the Falkland Islands we shall leave you for another week and head off to observe the proceedings of Neptune's court.