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Mar 21 - Happy Mother's Day

Date: 21st March 2004

Noon Position: lat 53 37.0 S long 38 08.8 W
Distance Travelled since Immingham: 23629 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 3.7°C
Sea temperature: 4.1°C

The JCR this Week.

This week has been all about fish, and the JCR's new following, albatross- hundreds of them, all intent on pinching a few of our hard-earned catch. However, it didn't start off that way... it has been a few years since we have trawled on the JCR, and there were a few teething troubles. A few rocks were caught, a few (!) lines were tangled, but we are working on the special rules of the Southern Ocean. So we humbly thanked Neptune that our net was in one piece, straightened our hard hats, and tried again. Ever since, the dream team have been fishing night and day - more about them later.

We also had a St. Patrick's Day shocker - the discovery of an itinerant Irishman.......

But to start with, here are a few images of ship life as it has been this week:

Helpless, or is it hopeless? Click to enlarge. Jo Cox and her toy soldiers. Click to enlarge. View from the mast by Mike Gloistein. Click to enlarge.

Remedial lace-tying. Click to enlarge.

3rd mate Jo Cox playing toy soldiers.
Click to enlarge.

Toy ship? No, just the view from the top of the mast. Click to enlarge.

Science Cruise Stowaway Shocker!!!!

A BAS spokesman today confirmed reports that a non-scientific stowaway has been identified on the James Clark Ross. The JCR is currently on a science cruise in the South Atlantic to the west of South Georgia, pioneering pelagic trawling methods in the name of "world class science in an Antarctic context".

The stowaway has been named as Robert Smith, who it turns out is employed by BAS as a field assistant. Not much is known about his actual duties but it seems to involve long periods of time in a tent on dry land with few other people.

The ship's crew said," He seemed like everyone else at first, sitting around, drinking tea and wearing sandals.....". When approached by other scientists on board, he seemed to get by muttering "Myctophid..... transects...... CTD...." and either looking absent minded or purposefully driven. However, suspicion was aroused when it turned out Smith did not know one end of a bongo net from the other, and never wore socks with his sandals. On further investigation he did not even have a lap-top computer, bright orange oilskins or a Ph.D..

As a penance the guilty party has been made to conduct water sampling experiments at random times of the day, filtering large amounts of water for no apparent reason. In addition he has been made to stand on the "monkey island" (a nautical term for a high part of the ship where there are no actual monkeys) and look for seals with the ship surrounded by fog. The principle scientific officer, Martin Collins, has defended these actions claiming they are legitimate research and not designed purely to break Smith's spirit.

Rob Smith. Click to enlarge. Rob Smith polishes CDs as punishment. The light bulbs are next please Rob. Click to enlarge.

At the close of day, a deal has been brokered with the nearby BAS base at King Edward Point, who have agreed to grant Smith asylum in return for the use of his polar guiding skills. The staff there, some of whom have endured a whole year on the island, have yet to set foot outside the base for fear of breaking BAS travel regulations. It is still unknown when the transfer will take place.

Other punishment for the stowaway has been to limit his fresh fruit allowance to three pieces a day, no strawberries for breakfast, neither ice nor lemon in his pre-dinner gin and tonic and no cheese or port after dinner. Smith seems to be coming to terms with these penalties.

Science Bit In The Middle- Fishing, how hard can it be?

The answer is..... very. You might imagine the ocean is full of fish, but apparently not. In the world of science, however, a negative result is a result. So, we trawled and we didn't catch any fish, thus proving that.... the ocean isn't full of fish. Clever stuff.

However, the point of this cruise is to catch fish. So, one misty morning, war was declared - the JCR against the Southern Ocean. Tactics were discussed, our allies at Bird Island were consulted and a plan was hatched. The weapons in our armory were not to be sneezed at- Krill TV, satellite- tagged seals and hard-core Kate and her band of volunteers, standing out in all weathers on the monkey island counting the seals.

Krill TV is like a window under the water. The echo-sounders send out pings and the sound is reflected from whatever is in the water. Different types of fish and krill produce a different pattern of signal, and some of the work being done is matching the specific signals to the types of creature producing them.

Krill TV. Click to enlarge.
Krill TV. The fish "marks" are the pink blobs near the top of the left-hand and middle screens, and in the middle of the right-hand screen. Click to enlarge.

It occurred to scientists (and fishermen) many years ago that predators always manage to find the fish.... So, BAS have been tracking fur seals and macaroni penguins in this area. Electronic tags are attached to selected seals and penguins living on Bird Island, and these are tracked by satellite, producing a picture of where the animals have been to feed.

Using this data, and concentrating our efforts in the areas where "Kate's Counters" have seen most seals, the aim was to explore the areas where the densest populations of fish were likely to be, whilst watching krill TV for signs of life.

Once the fish have been located, we have a choice of a mere 7 nets on board, all of which have slightly different roles. The net most likely to catch big fish though is the pelagic trawl net. This net is like a commercial fishing net in all respects, except that is apparently quite small!

Trawl net by Johnnie Edmonston. Click to enlarge. Net deployed by Johnnie Edmonston. Click to enlarge. Net in water by Johnnie Edmonston. Click to enlarge.

The trawl net is prepared for deployment. Click to enlarge.

The stern drops down and the net is deployed. Click to enlarge.

The net in the water. Click to enlarge.

Net haul and followers. Click to enlarge. Hauling the net back in, with "a few" albatross in attendance. Click to enlarge.

The sheer numbers of albatross following us give away the fact that the net is bulging with fish, which is the cue for great excitement among the marine biologists. The fish are sorted, counted, weighed, sexed and measured. Liz White, who is working on the visual ecology of fish, takes them off to the makeshift darkroom, to look deeply into their eyes. Nadine Johnston wants to know what they have been eating and so examines their stomach contents, while Cathy Debier collects specimens of liver and muscle for analysis of vitamins, enzyme activity and toxins. And when they are all done, David Pond collects what fish are left over for experiments in calorimetry - to see how much nutritional value is contained in each fish.

Tapas anyone? Click to enlarge. Martin, Kate, Jose and Simeon sorting through fish in the lab. Click to enlarge.

Our esteemed leader by Peter Enderlein. Click to enlarge. No Liz I don't think that one has eyes. Click to enlarge. Cathy Debier by Peter Enderlein. Click to enlarge.

This man is in charge!!! Click to enlarge.

Liz and a star. Click to enlarge.

Cathy Debier taking her mind off the ship's motion. Click to enlarge.

A final thought ...

It is of course, Mothering Sunday today..... so, to all our mums, we send our love and best wishes......

And, the award for artistic merit goes to Johnnie E. Click to enlarge. Happy Mother's Day.

Many thanks to Rob Smith for his contribution and to Johnnie, Pete and Mike for their photographs.

Next week...... the bongo boys and the radio department.