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Feb 22 - Cooking in a storm

Date: 22nd February 2004

Noon Position: lat 57 11.0 S; long 39 00.0 W
Distance Travelled since Immingham: 18922 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 3.7°C
Sea temperature: 3.5°C

The News in brief.

This week finds us bobbing about in the Scotia Sea, a few hundred miles to the south-west of Bird Island. We arrived at our work area on Tuesday this week and since then we have been conducting a swath bathymetry survey of the ocean floor. We have also been dredging for rocks in areas of interest. This is explained further by Julia Sas and Dr Tiffany Barry in this week's 'science bit in the middle'.

Traditionally swath surveys are conducted in horrible weather, most of which catches us "on the beam" or from the side, causing us to roll uncomfortably day and night. The words "its for the sake of science" are uttered often through gritted teeth as all on board batten everything down for yet another lumpy day. So far this trip though, the weather has been fairly kind, with only one or two uncomfortable days. The scientific instruments have coped very well so far, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that our luck holds.

 Sailing by Julia Sas. Click to enlarge. The view we have had most of the week. Click to enlarge.

Of course, South Georgia seem to be getting the best of the weather, as the satellite image below shows.

 Dartcom image. Click to enlarge. Satellite image showing the sun shining on South Georgia (to the right of centre) while the rest of the Scotia Sea is obscured by thick cloud. Click to enlarge.

Being not required to help with the science this trip, I have made the most of the opportunity of being able to join the galley staff to get a feel for what life is like in the catering department, while at the same time spoiling the crew and scientists with a bit of home baking.

Science Bit in the Middle.

by Tiffany Barry and Julia Sas.

We set out from the Falklands on Sunday towards the northern end of the central Scotia Ridge (cruise JR77/ 78). The first objective for the week was to map the bathymetry of the seafloor, using SWATH (a term used for echo sounding a 'swath' of ground on the seabed). We're 'pinging' 191 little 'pingers' every 20 seconds. These send pulses out that bounce back from the seafloor to the ship, like an echo. The length of time it takes them to do this tells us the distance to the seafloor and maps the topography.

 Swath. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.

The swath bathymetry screen, continuously monitored (not necessarily by these two).

Using this, we've been able to image an area of the seafloor, 90 by 30 miles, by passing back and forth in a series of transects, each able to image a 'swath' about 10 miles wide. These are the first detailed images of this area, and have been used to identify suitable dredge sites in order to fulfil our second objective for the week, to collect some rocks.

 Swath map. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.

Map of the swath bathymetry survery area.

The purpose of dredging is to collect local samples of the ocean crust. These samples will later be used for geochemical analysis in order to help constrain the geological history of the central Scotia basin... more on this next week! One interesting problem of dredging in this area is that we are within a graveyard of 'drop-stones" (otherwise known as erratics). Drop-stones are rocks picked up by glaciers thousands of years ago and later dropped as the glacier slowly flowed to the ice shelf, broke up into icebergs and eventually melted here in the Scotia Sea.

Dredging by Julia Sas. Click to enlarge. Dredging by Julia Sas. Click to enlarge.

Dredging for rocks and the "catch". Click to enlarge.

All the rocks we've collected in the dredge bag have so far been black. This at first seemed a good thing because the rocks we want are supposed to be black. However, it soon became apparent that this blackness was due to a crust of manganese that coated the outer surface of many of the rocks. Only some of them were actually black inside. So, wielding some hefty hammers, we broke each rock open to check the colour inside. This soon became very noisy and tiring (big achy arms!); a new strategy was needed. We realized that the unwanted drop-stones were round having been transported along the bottom of glaciers for many years, whereas the rocks we were after should be angular. This rule of thumb worked very well and we could soon identify many of the ones we wanted. However, we still couldn't resist bashing a few open 'just to check'. After all, we are geologists!

 Julia, Tiffany and their rocks. Click to enlarge. Julia and Tiffany sort through the rocks. Click to enlarge.

A life in the day of the catering department.

The catering department's day starts at 6am, with preparations for breakfast which is served at 7.30. This is usually a hearty meal, with a huge range from yoghurt and fruit to a full fry-up. Every meal is served in one of three different places: the duty mess, the crew mess room and the officers and scientists saloon. This complicated arrangement is managed by a team of four stewards and two cooks, with the purser overseeing the whole department.

After breakfast there is a short break before the main work of the day starts. For the cooks this involves preparing lunch and dinner, and for the stewards, it's time to prepare the mess rooms and take care of the "house keeping": the linen, the laundry facilities, the food stores and the accommodation.

Lunch starts at 11.30, with the watch keepers and stewards eating earliest, followed by the engineers and duty scientists at midday. Finally, at 12.30, lunch is served upstairs in the officers and scientists saloon.

A quick clean down, an afternoon nap and the process begins again at 4pm. The evening meal is served in the duty mess and crew mess at 5.30pm, and upstairs in the officers and scientists saloon at 6.30pm. After dinner, the catering staff can relax, unless there are scientists working a night shift, when a midnight meal is served in the duty mess. This is often a favourite among crew and scientists, as it usually comes at a time when its cold and dark and they've been working hard for several hours.

The Team:

Richie Turner. Click to enlarge. Billy Hume. Click to enlarge.

Catering officer Richie Turner has a hard day supervising his department.

Chief Cook Billy Hume inspects the menu.

Will Hyslop. Click to enlarge. Riff Raff. Click to enlarge.

2nd cook Will Hyslop making his own pizzas.

Galley steward Riff Raff cooks Friday's fish dinner.

Pie lady. Click to enlarge. Lee Jones. Click to enlarge.

Which is bigger: the doctor or the cake?

2nd steward Lee Jones serving dinner in the officers' and scientists' saloon.

Nick. Click to enlarge. Shady. Click to enlarge.

Nick Greenwood waiting on the officers at dinner.

Michael Weirs (Shady) is the man behind the scenes in the officers saloon, making sure the food arrives from the galley and clearing away the empty plates.

The highlights of the week have included the constant repartee, singing, dancing and continuous jokes. I also managed to get first hand experience of what the galley is like in rough weather. The cooks take it in their stride, with over forty years of sea-faring experience between them. However, I was terrified of putting my hand out to steady me onto or into something hot. The galley is specially adapted to enable the cooks to keep working when it gets rough: pots and pans on the range are clipped to rails to stop them sliding, and all of the ovens have handles and guards to prevent people accidentally touching the heated areas. The cupboards and drawers have clasps to stop them opening and spilling their contents, and the shelves have rails.

These adaptations all help prevent things slipping and sliding, but of course its hard to stop the vegetables you are chopping or the plates onto which you are serving from moving. This is where experience and improvisation take over, and cloths are put to use under plates and chopping boards.

Both of our cooks can tell stories of storms where work has been more or less impossible, and the weather has been so bad that chairs have been thrown around the mess room. We have had it easy by comparison, although on the journey south we had a 36 degree roll which tipped the lunchtime soup and tab nabs onto the floor. We didn't go hungry, but lunch was a little delayed as more was frantically prepared.

A final thought until next week...

 Julia Sas. Click to enlarge. Julia, not quite the summer weather she was expecting! Click to enlarge.

Next week: ...life in the engine room...